'We sincerely apologise': Religious orders react to mother and baby homes report

ireland
A statue of Mary in a grotto at the Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, which was a mother and baby home operated by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary from 1930 to 1970. Photo: PA.
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Muireann Duffy

Religious orders have welcomed the publication of the final report from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes by the Government earlier today.

The Daughters of Charity, who provided the staffing for Pelletstown/St Patrick's mother and baby home on the Navan Road in Dublin, commended the "detailed and important report", saying it gives "a clear picture of the attitude and reaction of Irish society to many women who became pregnant out of wedlock".

"Many of our sisters dedicated their lives to supporting these women, who arrived at the service in which the sisters were employed to have their babies in secret, with little or no support from family and wider society," a statement from the Daughters of Charity reads.

"We so wish and deeply regret that we could not have done more to ease the burden and suffering carried by these women, mostly alone, as they dealt with both a major crisis in their lives and totally unjustifiable rejection.

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"Today, as this important report is published, our thoughts are for the thousands of women and children who suffered without justification or purpose in an Ireland that thankfully has changed forever," the statement adds.

Shunned

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who were "invited by the local authorities" to establish mother and baby homes in Cork, Roscrea and Castlepollard, said their thoughts today are "mainly with the thousands of women who were taken, sent or driven by societal and family pressure to have their babies in secret".

"Irish society demanded that many unmarried women would have their babies in secret. Some religious communities provided a service in response to these societal norms and demands, driven by the secrecy and shame which surrounded pregnancy out of wedlock.

It is a matter of great sorrow to us that babies died while under our care.

"We especially want to recognise and accept today that so many women who were shunned and shamed by society did not find the support and level of care they needed and deserved at such a dreadful and painful time in their lives," a statement from the order read.

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The order welcomed the announcement that Taoiseach Micheál Martin would be issuing a State apology to the survivors of mother and baby homes in the Dáil tomorrow, adding: "For our part, we want to sincerely apologise to those who did not get the care and support they needed and deserved.

"It is a matter of great sorrow to us that babies died while under our care. We sincerely regret that so many babies died particularly in regard to Bessborough in the 1940s. We also want to recognise the dreadful suffering and loss experienced by mothers.

"The burial of infants and children who died while in care has understandably become a matter of immense controversy. We are distressed and saddened that it is so difficult to prove with legal certainty where many of these infants were buried especially with regard to Bessborough.

"We did everything possible including the engagement of a professional historian to assist us in our dealings with the Commission on this vitally important matter."

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