Irish Prime Minister issues state apology following report on ‘traumatic’ homes for mother and child TBEN Radio

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When describing her experience with an Irish mother and baby, Anne Harris feels privileged over what others have gone through.

“I almost feel guilty for coming down so lightly, to be completely honest,” she said. The flowIt’s Matt Galloway.

Anne Harris is a survivor of the Irish Mother and Baby Houses. (Submitted by Anne Harris)

Harris was 19 when she was placed in a mother and baby home in August 1970. The institution was just one of 18 homes run by the Irish Catholic Church for unmarried pregnant women.

There Harris gave birth and was separated from her first child, who was taken away by an adoption society.

Although she only spent two months at the facility – girls from families who had enough money to pay for their stay were allowed to leave immediately after the baby was born – Harris describes the experience as incredibly cruel and traumatic.

“I did what I was told, which is that you have to put this behind you and you made this wonderful sacrifice and you gave your child great opportunities that he wouldn’t have had with you, ”she said. “It was the story given to us.”

Harris said she believes she needs to keep her experience at the mother and baby home a secret.

In Ireland institutions weren’t discussed and overseas Harris worried that people “think I’m a horrible person, because I gave him up for adoption and they won’t understand.”

High infant mortality rates

Harris would eventually find her son 25 years later – she said it took six years harassing the adoption society to allow them to leave a letter for her son.

But the other mothers weren’t so lucky.

According to a report by the Irish Commission of Inquiry, released on Tuesday, 9,000 children died in institutions, which ran from the 1920s to the 1990s. The survey also found that infant mortality rates in homes were nearly double the overall national rate.

WATCH | Survivors of Irish mother and baby homes react to report:

A disturbing report on the Irish Mother and Baby Homes, where single mothers were sent to give birth and forced to give up their babies for adoption, says that with other indignities 9,000 babies have died in the care of the 18 homes. The Irish Catholic Church, which ran the homes, has apologized and the Prime Minister is also expected to apologize this week. 2:05

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, says the report confirms what survivors have been saying about treatment and abuse for years.

“You talk about forced labor, physical and emotional abuse of children, adoptions without consent,” he said. “You also talk about a situation where victims of rape and sexual assault, including underage girls, were hiding in these institutions and there was no intervention.

“Rather than being given the support they needed because of the crimes committed against them, they were punished as victims of those crimes and further brutalized.”

O’Gorman said the trauma also extended to babies born in institutions. Considering the death rate, he said mother and baby homes were “the most dangerous places for unborn babies in this country at that time.”

‘Never your shame’

Speaking a day after the report was released, Ireland Taoiseach or Prime Minister Micheál Martin apologized to the women and children in mothers and babies’ homes for “deep and generational harm”.

“The state has let you down,” he said. “Each of you deserved so much better.”

Harris says the blame lies with Church, State, and Society, all of which are intertwined.

“They shaped people’s attitudes. The company was extremely critical, ”she said, and many were afraid to step out of line.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, said mother and baby homes were “the most dangerous places for the birth of babies in this country at that time”. (Chris Wodskou)

O’Gorman said some survivors were still concerned that the trauma they suffered from their stay at home would one day resurface and that women shouldn’t have to live with that shame.

“What we have to say to these women is’ it was never your shame, you shouldn’t have been forced to wear it that long”, and now we have to fix it, “he said. he declares.

With the problem now officially recognized by the government, O’Gorman said there was a lot to be addressed in the next steps.

“The government must live up to its commitment that victims and survivors can access their personal files and data,” he said.

“It must put in place a comprehensive and appropriate redress and redress system and process … and all aspects of this particular investigation must be transparent and must be made public.”

For Harris, who has since written a book about his experience, the hope is that the report will trigger legislation that would help provide information and trace birth parents and children.

“You have a lot of women whose babies have died and they don’t know where they are buried, and I think it’s terrible and cruel and needs to be taken care of now, not in 10 years,” a- she declared.


Written by Mouhamad Rachini. Produced by Lindsay Rempel and Ines Colabrese.

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