MICHAEL D Higgins has acknowledged that the “State and Church bear a heavy responsibility” for failing tens of thousands of young women and children who ended up in mother-and-baby homes across Ireland.
The President of Ireland was responding to the publication of a report detailing the emotional abuse and extremely high infant mortality rate found at these homes for women and girls who fell pregnant outside of marriage.
Residents at these homes were required to work, give birth and raise their children for adoption. Many children were adopted by parents in America. In some instances, infant children were used in medical testing.
The report uncovered an “appalling level of infant mortality” with around 9,000 children dying in the 18 institutions investigated.
Ireland’s Mother-and-baby homes first opened in 1922 with the last closing in 1998.
The new report chronicles the "stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture" rampant in Ireland at the time.
Its findings have been welcomed by President Higgins, who described the experiences faced by the women and children who resided in these homes as a "violation of fundamental rights".
Higgins, who welcomed the report, said: "The Commission of Investigation's report reminds us of how far short Ireland fell of fulfilling the promise of our Republic, and of how, the violation of fundamental rights of our fellow citizens was condoned over an extended period of time."
"My thoughts must be, as they have been so often before, of the mothers and of the infants who died; of those children who survived and who continue to carry the trauma of their early lives."
The President of Ireland believes the report warrants “appropriate attention” beyond simply the executive summary, with the document detailing several personal statements that capture the distressing human stories behind the horrifying numbers.
"Those statements are such powerful revelations of a society, church, a state and their institutions that contradict the traits of any real republic built on equal rights of citizens, care, true freedom, solidarity and compassion," he said.
"Publication of this report is not a conclusion, but an indication of the further work that is required to bring to light a fuller understanding of what occurred, and why, and the need to vindicate the rights of those women and children who resided in these homes."
President Higgins now believes it is essential to move forward "without delay" to the next phase of the investigation.
"It is the state that is charged with safeguarding the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens, and it is the state that must bear primary responsibility for failing to provide appropriate supports for these tens of thousands of young women and their children.
"Our focus now, as a state and as a community, must be to urgently meet the needs of, and address the concerns of the survivors and their families, as they have experienced and expressed them, and do whatever is necessary to support them."