Last year, a commission of inquiry was established into the Tuam mother and baby home following the outstanding work of historian Catherine Corless, who has been instrumental in uncovering and revealing a very dark period of and dark side to our history. As the Taoiseach knows, the commission's investigators have uncovered a significant number of infant and toddler remains. We now know that up to 796 infants and toddlers lost their lives in this home and were buried in unmarked and unknown graves. There is an enormous sense of shame that such a phenomenon was allowed to happen in this country, with such appalling treatment of women and of children. The State, the church and, indeed, wider society remain culpable for the extraordinary cruelty visited upon many young women and, obviously, upon infants and children, who were considered to be lesser people within society.
In many ways, the ongoing work of the commission must also inform the current and future treatment of children. As I said, it reveals an appalling attitude in regard to women, to the stigma that was associated with becoming pregnant outside of marriage and to the treatment of children. It is also revealing in the context of the phenomenon of institutionalisation and the dangers of institutionalisation as a means of addressing issues. We had it in our mental health institutions for decades and in the industrial schools and, as is now clear, in the mother and baby homes.
Will the Taoiseach confirm that he intends to issue a formal State apology on behalf of all of us and on behalf of the State to all of those affected by such practices? Does the Taoiseach agree that there is a need for a dignified commemorative memorial so that these children can be remembered with dignity? Will the Taoiseach confirm that there is a need for the widening of the scope of the inquiry to cover mother and baby homes across the country? Above all, there is a need for lessons to be learned from this in terms of how we deal with children.
As we speak, 2,500 children are homeless or living in hotels. We know that there is a chronic lack of social workers to deal with children at risk in our society. We know that there is a chronic lack of therapists - be it speech and language therapists, physiotherapists or occupational therapists - right across the country, as well as a lack of psychologists. Most Deputies are frustrated by the long waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, for young children who need access to mental health facilities now. In the midst of all of the outrage and genuine shock and shame, there needs to develop a resolve on behalf of Government and this Oireachtas to, once and for all, comprehensively address the shortcomings and gaps in services for children in this country by comprehensively investing in such services. That is the only way to deal with the list of current shortages I have outlined. Does the Taoiseach agree with that?