12Jan Tues 12 Jan 2021: Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is published.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was established by the Irish Government in February 2015 to provide a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in Mother and Baby Homes during the period 1922 to 1998. It submitted its final report to the Minister on 30 October 2020.

The Final Report was published today.

This is a link to each element of the Report:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/d4b3d-final-report-of-the-commission-of-investigation-into-mother-and-baby-homes/?referrer=http://www.gov.ie/report/#executive-summary

The Report deals with issues which many may find distressing. If you are affected by the issues raised in the Report, contact details for support are available. Click on the link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/12da8-counselling-supports-for-former-residents-of-mother-and-baby-homes/

20 Responses

  1. Paddy Ferry

    I am so pleased this has been posted on this site and thanks to the ACP for doing so.

    I listened on my car radio as I drove home from work in Edinburgh this evening to the BBC Radio 4 Six o’clock news. This was the second top news item, topped only by Covid.

    I was impressed by Micheál Martin’s words. I remembered the words of Enda Kenny when the extent of this scandal first became clear which I have kept.

    Enda said: “As a society in the so-called ‘good old days’, we did not just hide away the dead bodies of tiny human beings, we dug deep and deeper still to bury our compassion, our mercy and our humanity itself.”

    Despite Pope John Paul trying to tell us that we were the most Catholic country in the world, Mannix Flynn was nearer the mark with his title “A Land without God.”

  2. Joe O'Leary

    I read Ch. 28 on Cork County Home (where I worked summers as a seminarian in its later guise as St Finbarr’s Hospital, under the direction of saintly and feisty Sr Finian). The problems of handling huge numbers of children and vulnerable women in an impoverished country are apparent. The conditions of the Home at the time were discussed in numerous inspections and reports and it’s not clear what new light this re-examination after almost a century is supposed to shed.

    Inspectors of workhouses during the Famine denounced the dirt, and this seems to have been an endemic issue in Irish institutions.

    What of conditions today?

  3. Sean O’Conaill

    Why was sexual shame so dominant in that era – with the issue of justice (especially to unfortunate young women and the children they were bearing) buried out of sight?

    That the dominant moralists were male must surely be salient. So must the so called ‘sexual revolution’ in bringing us to a realisation of the injustice of that hyper-puritanism. There was a lack of balance, and so an absence of compassion. The compulsion to be seen as virtuous stilled the heart.

    Can a definite link be traced between the pulpit of those times and the suffering delineated in this report? If Jesus was supposed to be on the cross to restore the honour denied to the Father by breaches of the sixth commandment alone, was our operative theology of atonement at the root of this disaster – disabling us from seeing Jesus as in solidarity instead with those thrust out of sight into places of hidden neglect?

    We should look at this squarely, but will we? What happened after the 2009 Ryan report suggests that the hand-wringing may again fall short of a truly transformative repentance – for here again if the longstanding moratorium on honest, open discussion is maintained, so will be the culture of denial.

  4. Paddy Ferry

    “……and it’s not clear what new light this re-examination after almost a century is supposed to shed.”

    Joe, I am left speechless that you could have written those words.

    What really puzzles me is how these women, whom you would have to assume entered religious life because of a genuine vocation to do good, live by Gospel values, spread the Good News and all of that, could then turn into such monsters.

    And, now Joe, I am quite prepared to have you get back at me immediately enraged that I have impugned the reputation of these good women.

  5. Soline Humbert

    I have hesitated to comment on a subject filled with so much pain for so many.
    I will just share this personal experience.

    In the early 90’s (Mary Robinson was president) I heard at Mass in Stillorgan, Co. Dublin a homily I have never been able to forget, so profoundly shocked I was. It was all about”the terrible sin of the woman who conceives out of wedlock”, and on and on it went, merciless words of condemnation. A verbal stoning which he must have delivered dozens of times before. No words of compassion or urging support for a girl, woman in her most vulnerable state. No love for her and her baby.

    I would have expected him to say: stand by your daughter, grand-daughter, sister, friend. Boys, men, assume your responsibilities as fathers. I remember looking at other people in the packed church, thinking: there must be girls, women in that situation now, or who have been, or they must know somebody. How do they feel? Most people had their head down.

    And it was definitely not the message I wanted our two young sons sitting between my husband and me to hear, all in the name of Jesus. After the Mass, still in shock, I went to the sacristy to speak with the priest. In my naivety I expected a queue of people would also be there to complain. There wasn’t. To me, everything about that merciless, misogynistic homily was wrong.

    I didn’t know where to start, but I settled for the obvious:
    ”You didn’t mention the boy/man once. It takes two to make a child.”
    Answer:”Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. Thank you,I will mention it at this evening’s Mass.”

    So now tonight it was going to be about the terrible sin of the woman and man who conceive out of wedlock…I wondered whether that priest, twice my age, had ever heard of the Good News. I left in despair.

    In that same church a little bit later I heard a homily by the young curate on the evil of contraception and the grave sin of married people, and then the Parish priest chastised those of us in the congregation who dared to believe Fr Michael Cleary had fathered a child…

  6. Eddie Finnegan

    This valuable and full report, over 40 chapters and almost three thousand pages, is going to take up quite a bit of my time. I may finish it just before a less meaty report on the North’s Mother & Baby Homes appears in the next week or so. Yet four of my more predictable colleagues are in there like flint, though only Joe seems to have taken the trouble to er home in on one chapter. These comments could have been made a week or ten weeks or ten years ago. Why do expensive and conscientious investigative commissioners bother to compile such reports if we are just going to shoot from the hip before we’ve read them?

  7. Joe O'Leary

    Paddy, I referred only to the one chapter I have read. You should read it too, and tell me why you think it is a valuable contribution that sheds new light on life in that particular institution.

    Eddie, I’m not shooting from the hip, just registering a sense of flatness about that chapter, which reads as a rehash of past public reports, and wondering what the value of it is. Meanwhile Catherine Connolly has lambasted the entire report as a shoddy piece of work: ‘Quietly, almost apologetically, she tore the report apart. “Inconsistent, shocking, poorly written, disturbing… I find the whole thing absolutely repulsive, to tell the truth.”’ (Irish Times today)

    Sean, there is lots of reflection on the sexual and affective starvation of hyperpuritanical Ireland. But I don’t think that’s an issue that government reports are much good at understanding. We have a host of great Irish writers who shed much light on this. It’s not something we can understand by simply consulting our memories, because memory is quite a fragile instrument and we either read back our present notions into the past or accept memory’s drastic simplifications.

  8. Liamy Mac Nally

    For the record..

    Catherine Connolly speaking on the Report:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0hC_8gwb9I

    Text of her speech (scroll down the page). It follows the full text of An Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s apology on behalf of the state:
    https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2021-01-13/10/

  9. Joe O'Leary

    “Overall, the Commission concludes that Ireland was a cold and harsh environment for the majority of its residents during the earlier half of the period under investigation.” (Taoiseach)

    I’m not sure how that can be measured. Kavanagh’s “Great Hunger” may reflect the deepest state of Irish rural bachelors, but another perception could see them as living quite happily, and perhaps more so than today. Corporal punishment in schools is “cold and harsh” to modern eyes but was mostly taken for granted as unremarkable at the time. Anything religious is now portrayed as “cold and harsh,” but the devotions of Irish Catholicism brought much spiritual joy and a sense of belonging.

  10. Kevin Walters

    “Without vision, the people perish”.

    I have been reading my own past posts and that of others made over the last five years on this site in relation to the mother and baby home scandal. We all appear to be aware of the injustices that accrued in the past but I for one do not need to read the report and all the sin it contains within it because I can find the reality of that sin within my own heart. We all know that when Sin is confronted honestly it transforms the heart.

    The question I ask myself is how can the Church (all of us) proceed in our fallen nature and ensure that sinful situations are confront in the present moment.

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

    So, we need to ‘be’ true to His teachings before we can ‘give’/’convey’/manifest the Christian message in Unity of Purpose. As presently we Christians the self-proclaimed lovers of God are manifestly divided before mankind and each other.

    Why?

    I believe that trust in the singularity of the first Commandment has been broken.

    ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ Conclusion: “You shall have ‘no other God (Idol) before me.”
    (An idol is anything or anyone who takes the place of God in our lives. It is anything — an object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, sport, or person — that is your primary concern, or that to any degree decreases your trust and loyalty to God.)

    Reenforced at the Transfiguration when Peter said, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying,

    “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’” Leading to “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son”.

    We trust in the authority of the Son. We ask in His Name ‘only’ for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    So, the vision is to put an end to the war within our divided (broken) hearts and capture once again the singularity of the First Commandment.

    Our Lord Himself in this present time has given His Church ‘a ‘vision’ of hope’ to embrace humility via the True Divine Mercy Image that is one of Broken Man which from my uneducated understanding has the potential to draw the Church into a new dawn, while ‘giving’ the manifestation of a truly humble church/people before God and ‘all whom we meet’, in the world.

    It has been put to me “why is the crucifix image of the broken man insufficient in your view?

    The Cross upon which hangs the body of our Lord and Saviour is more than sufficient for the redemption of mankind when we look upon Him honestly as we then see the reality of what we have done to Him. While these words draw us into ‘His Reality’ as he looks upon our brokenness’…

    “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

    So, in the true Divine Mercy image, an image of our brokenness we see a reflection of ourselves before Him (His reality of how He actually sees us). Which should have the effect of drawing ourselves even closer to Him in humility as all simple hearts know that when looked upon honestly this flawed/broken image is a self-reflection, immediate and self-evident of Sr Faustina’s heart before God, as it corresponds with the internal reality of ‘all’ of us. See link

    https://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2020/11/full-text-of-the-mccarrick-report-published-today-in-rome/#comment-99319

    So, our brokenness/dividedness can be seen and known by everyone (all of mankind) but the reality of the reason for that brokenness is not being acknowledged honestly as the elite and many others within the church cling to an image of Worldly Goodness hoping that it will eventually deflect the ongoing reality of the present situation without having to confront the failings within the leadership of the Church and the dividedness of all our hearts.

    While the true divine Mercy Image is hidden from view, for if the elite were to show it and acknowledge (display) it, they would have to face the reality of their own hubris/blindness before mankind in not showing/accepting it in the first place. This for some/many would induce humility creating a mindset to confront Clericalism and many ongoing problems within the church.

    Then when the Truth is embraced honestly, it will induce humility within the heart. A Truthful heart will never cover its tracks (past) or hide from its shortcomings, and in doing so, confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability/weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart (Church) to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own self/ego, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other.

    It is the action of Truth that sets mankind free but this can only be achieved when In Unity of Purpose we bend our knee.

    kevin Your brother
    In Christ

  11. Pádraig McCarthy

    It will take time to process and assess the 1865 pages of the Report on Mother and Baby Homes. The Executive Summary is 76 pages. We will not have an understanding of the subject if we confine our view to what was done in Ireland. There may be a danger that we lose sight of the far wider picture. It’s not just Ireland that addressed the question of non-marital pregnancy and birth.

    The Report is not presented in a user-friendly format. The Table of Contents does not give page numbers; each of the 62 chapters begins pagination again at page 1. The Report helpfully numbers the paragraphs, except where another document is reproduced in full. But the alphabetical index at the end refers to the paragraph number, so to find the item listed can be difficult. It would have been so easy to present the Report in a more user-friendly layout.

    Other countries addressed the matter of non-marital births. In the first half of the 20th century it was approached from the viewpoint that such situations were a danger to society and was often dealt with on a eugenics basis, considering unmarried mothers as feeble-minded and contributing to the multiplication of the people unfit for society. 32 of the then 48 States of the US had laws for mandatory sterilisation. In the case of Carrie Buck in 1927, the US Supreme Court upheld a Virginia law authorising her sterilisation. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Ms Buck was not an imbecile. She had been raped.

    While we may think of Nazi Germany in relation to such matters in Europe, other European countries with similar legislation included Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Switzerland, Iceland, Austria, and Belgium. Thankfully Ireland avoided such measures. The Report (9.45) comments on this: the Commission “has no reason to believe that it was ever practiced in Ireland not least because the concept was at variance with the teachings of the Catholic church.”

    On infant mortality, Robert Karen wrote in 1994, “in 1915, that infants admitted to ten asylums in the eastern United States had mortality rates of from 31.7 percent to 75 percent by the end of their second year.” In many countries perinatal mortality rate is higher for single mothers. Our Perinatal Statistic Report form HSE for 2017 shows a mortality rate of 4.6 for a married mother and 6.0 for a single mother. Infant mortality among the Travelling people here today is far higher than the national average. We have many such current issues to address .

    Other countries also have a history of forced removal of children. UK sent poor and orphaned children to Australia, Canada and elsewhere. In February 2010 UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a formal apology to the families of children who were taken, as did Kevin Rudd in Australia in 2009.

    The fact that other countries acted with similar or even greater harshness does not, of course, imply that we are without fault. It is disturbing, however, to see reporting in Ireland, and media reports abroad on the Mother and Baby Homes Report, present the story as if Ireland is uniquely out of line with the “civilised” standards we expect today.

    ACP had a discussion on the subject when the Tuam story broke in 2014: https://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2014/06/tuam-babies
    When the Commission was set up, I sent in a submission. It’s not specifically about Tuam, about which I do not have personal knowledge, but about the context. It has sections on:
    Mother and Baby Homes
    How authorities viewed the matter
    Infant mortality and non-marital children
    Unmarked burials
    Adoption and forced removal of children
    It is available at https://www.academia.edu/36446659/MOTHER_AND_BABY_HOMES_INVESTIGATION_Some_Notes_on_Social_History

  12. Brian Cosgrove

    The final report on the Mother and Baby Homes: a dilemma for ordinary Catholics

    That final report was even worse than we had feared. Others will testify as to the details of the horrific victimisation involved; but in general terms we can say that victims were victims because those in authority had the power to make them so — a generalisation which points to the whole psychology of power. But the more important generalisation concerns the additional fact that those in power in the homes were celibate, and had little or no experience either of sexual relationship or of maternal feeling (though this is not to deny that many celibate nuns are capable of maternal affection). That in turn should lead to an incisive investigation of the Church’s entire ethos regarding sexuality.

    One has only to look at the catalogue of recent violations of sexual morality in the Church itself, beginning with irregular sexual liaisons between priest and housekeeper, bishop and mistress. Little did the laity realise that intolerable sexual behaviour of a much more perverse kind was to emerge, worldwide, in the form of paedophilia (followed by the even more offensive ecclesiastical cover-ups). Truly has the patience of the laity been repeatedly tested to the limit: most recently, to shift the focus, by the spectacle of the Archbishop of New York openly backing Donald Trump.

    We come, then, to the dilemma flagged earlier. Many Catholics will face a painful conflict: to remain loyal and orthodox, or rather feel obliged, if not to denounce and abandon a Church so deeply flawed, then at least to dissociate themselves from any public endorsement of that Church. All will experience the dilemma differently. My own problem concerns the fact that for a number of years I have been a Reader at masses in my local church. If I continue in that role, am I guilty of publicly – and hypocritically — endorsing a Church on many levels so morally repugnant? There are no easy answers to this kind of self-division, which, I believe, many Catholics are certain to experience.

  13. John Anthony Waters

    While this report is distressing, it should not be forgotten that many of the good people of Ireland dealt with unmarried mothers in a truly christian way. In the 1940s when I was young there were within one mile of my home two unmarried mothers, each from a different family and each of these unmarried mothers brought two children into the world. In each case the parents of the unmarried women raised those children as if they were brothers or sisters of their mother. This to me was as great a manifestation of Christian charity as I am ever likely to encounter and these were ordinary working class people. I am also aware of a similar occurrence in another county where there was only one baby involved.

  14. Pádraig McCarthy

    What I have not yet heard of in the Report is any account of anyone who is appreciative of their experience in a Mother and Baby Home. Yes, there are some! It is understandable that those with valid complaints would give their testimony, but that is not the full story.

    It seems to be presumed in the Report also that the fathers of the children to be born just abandoned the mother. While it is likely true in many cases, it is also likely true that there were cases where they would have wanted to stay with the mother and support the child, but were prevented from doing so.

    It is worth keeping in mind paragraph 18 of the Executive Summary about the contrast between quality of care in the Mother and Baby Homes and that given in the County Homes under local authorities:
    “Mother and baby homes were greatly superior to the county homes where, until the 1960s, many unmarried mothers and their children were resident. Conditions in the county homes were generally very poor; this, of course, was also true for the other residents who were mainly older people and people with disabilities. The women in county homes have been largely forgotten. They included women on a second or subsequent pregnancy and women from the poorest families. County homes admitted women with special needs, mental health problems, venereal disease or a criminal conviction, who would be rejected by a number of mother and baby homes. They also accommodated children who had special needs, including the children of married families. The accommodation and care given to these children in county homes was grossly inadequate; some of the descriptions are extremely distressing.”

  15. Liamy Mac Nally

    Joe Little did a report for the NCR. Link below:
    https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/irish-report-religious-run-homes-significantly-reduced-childrens-survival

  16. Paddy Ferry

    This is the link to a piece in the America Magazine.

    “We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy”.

    Now, who can we ultimately blame for that —-St.Augustine?

    https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2021/01/12/ireland-report-catholic-church-unwed-mothers-babies-239699?fbclid=IwAR142F8Ttu1ngra7z4_gBB0JN7J-cHqBKL04ZqydAZL7lVJogkdVZwlos0w

  17. Eddie Finnegan

    No, Paddy@16, I wouldn’t blame it all on my patron Augustine (my confirmation name – he died on my birthday). I’d blame his Ma, Monica, a real Irish married mother, if you ever met one. ’twas she had the vocation. But Micheál Martin may be more profound than even he, or his speech writer, realises: “What has been described in this report wasn’t imposed upon us by any foreign power. We did this to ourselves, as a society.” I think that lets the foreigner from Thagaste, Carthage, Milan and Hippo off the hook. So maybe that excuses Monica too.

  18. Paddy Ferry

    I came across this this morning, link below, on the RTÉ site. And I then went back to Liamy @ 8 sharing with us the link to what Catherine Connolly said in the Dáil debate.

    I hope everyone who has expressed views here on the report has used Liamy’s link and spent the slightly more than 12 minutes watching and listening to her speak. What an excellent and powerful contribution she made, sometime speaking directly to An Taoiseach.

    She mentioned the forced repatriation of some of the girls and how the word inhumane was only used once in the report and in relation to forced repatriation. On the Channel 4, 7.00 news the night the report was released one of the women — can we call them victims? — then a young girl, Terri Harrison, I think is her name, told of escaping to England when she became pregnant but being followed by a priest and two nuns and forced back to Ireland.

    Catherine Connolly spoke without notes and with great insight and sincerity and obviously a very well informed women. We need more TDs like Catherine.

    Towards the end she even mentioned the importance of “primary attachment” which originally became evident through the work and research of John Bowlby, the great English psychiatrist and father of attachment theory. Bowlby came to understand the importance of primary attachment in babies and young children and the consequences of its fracture in the subsequent mental health issues of children separated from their mothers, primarily, during the Second World War.

    If any of you who have expressed views on the Report and have not watched Liamy’s link @ 8, then can I ask you to please do so.

    Also, can I say an excellent statement from the ACP on the Report.

    https://www.rte.ie/news/mother-and-baby-homes/2021/0114/1189702-catherine-connolly-m-b/

  19. Kevin Walters

    Thank you, Paddy @18, for directing us to the links given by Liamy @ 8. I had followed the second link but not the first which I now agree with you was well worth listening to the excellent heartfelt, insightful commentary given by Catherine Connolly. While I would add that from my own experience many of the links given/chosen by Liamy also reflect insightfulness to the given subject matter in hand and are well worth following.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  20. Liamy Mac Nally

    Article from the Irish Examiner – 18 Jan 2021:

    The Government’s efforts to assist the children of priests have been questioned after the newly published mother and baby homes report revealed almost a dozen incidents where members of the clergy were or could have been the father of a child.

    https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40208891.html?type=amp


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