Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes: Statements

It is the duty of a republic to be willing to hold itself to account, to be willing to confront hard truths and to accept parts of our history which are deeply uncomfortable. This detailed and highly painful report is a moment for us as a society to recognise a profound failure of empathy, understanding and basic humanity over a lengthy period. Its production has been possible because of the depth of courage shown by all those who shared their personal experiences with the commission. The report gives survivors what they have been denied for so long, namely, their voice, their individuality and their right to be acknowledged.

Before going into detail about the report, it is important to say that it would not have been possible without the steady determination of the former residents and their advocates and researchers, who campaigned with them. I particularly want to acknowledge the critical part played by Catherine Corless, whose work at the Tuam mother and baby home site led directly to the establishment of the commission. On behalf of the Government, I thank the three commissioners, namely, the chair, Judge Yvonne Murphy, Professor Mary Daly and Dr. William Duncan, as well as their team.

Their report reveals the dominant role of the churches and their moral code and lays bare the failures of the State. They have produced the definitive account of how this country responded to the particular needs of single women and their children at a time when they most needed support and protection. This should have been forthcoming from the fathers of their children, their family and friends, their community, their churches and their State but so often, it was not. The often painful and distressing testimony of many survivors is presented in detail in the report of the confidential committee prepared by the commission.

Reading the commission’s findings and the report of the confidential committee, the most striking thing is the shame felt by women who became pregnant outside of marriage and the stigma that was so cruelly attached to their children. Testimonies from the women speak of the pressure to make sure that no one in their locality would find out about their pregnancy. One woman speaks of not being allowed to return to school after becoming pregnant because it would bring shame on the school. Extracts from witness accounts shine a light on the attitudes that women encountered such as, “I was being treated like I was a second class citizen" or "Society had an obsession with hiding everything”. “Nobody will want you now!”, said the mother of a witness who was 14 years old when it was discovered that she was pregnant. “Get her put away!”, were the words of a father of a 19-year old when told of her pregnancy.

In the earlier decades covered by the report, witness testimony describes how a dearth of sex education often left young women confused and unaware of how and why they had even become pregnant. Some of these pregnancies were as a result of rape and incest. Children born outside of marriage were stigmatised and treated as outcasts in school and wider society. Some children who were subsequently boarded out experienced heartbreaking exploitation, neglect and abuse within the families and communities in which they were placed. This was unforgivable. The sense of abandonment felt by many of these children is palpable in the witness accounts. The circumstances of their birth, the arrangements for their early care, the stigma they experienced and the continuing lack of birth information is a terrible burden in their lives. Many mothers, children and fathers left these shores to escape this unfair judgement and life-long prejudice and because they thought it was the only way to protect their families’ reputations. While many have built good lives for themselves, many did not overcome the impact which these formative experiences had on their lives and they may have suffered and struggled with many serious personal problems.

One of the clearest messages of the testimonies in this report is how this treatment of women and children is something which was the direct result of how the State, and how we as a society, acted. The report presents us with profound questions. We embraced a perverse religious morality and control, judgementalism and moral certainty, but we shunned our daughters. We honoured piety but failed to show even basic kindness to those who needed it most. We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy, and young mothers and their sons and daughters were forced to pay a terrible price for that dysfunction. To confront the dark and shameful reality which is detailed in this report, we must acknowledge it as a part of our national history. For the women and children who were treated so cruelly, we must do what we can, to show our deep remorse, understanding and support.

Therefore, on behalf of the Government, the State and its citizens, I apologise for the profound generational wrong visited upon Irish mothers and their children who ended up in a mother and baby home or a county home. As the Commission says plainly, "they should not have been there." I apologise for the shame and stigma which they were subjected to and which, for some, remains a burden to this day. In apologising, I want to emphasise that each of you were in an institution because of the wrongs of others. Each of you is blameless. Each of you did nothing wrong and has nothing to be ashamed of. Each of you deserved so much better. The lack of respect for your fundamental dignity and rights as mothers and children who spent time in these institutions is humbly acknowledged and deeply regretted. The Irish State, as the main funding authority for the majority of these institutions, had the ultimate ability to exert control over these institutions, in addition to its duty of care to protect citizens with a robust regulatory and inspection regime. This authority was not exerted and the State's duty of care was not upheld. The State failed you - the mothers and children in these homes.

The report brings a considerable amount of previously unknown information into the public domain. It has exposed the truth, once hidden, to reveal significant failures of the State, the churches and of society. Women were admitted to mother and baby homes and county homes because no supports were forthcoming from any other quarter. They were forced to leave home and seek a place where they could stay without having to pay. Many were destitute. In the personal testimonies of how many women ended up in these institutions, the priest, the doctor and the nun loom large. The sense of oppression, even at this distance, is overwhelming. Mothers, terrified by the consequences of their pregnancy becoming known to their family and neighbours, entered mother and baby homes to protect their secret and the pressure to maintain this secret added insult to injury and was a large part of the mother's trauma.

Conditions in the homes varied. Before the 1960s, living conditions in many private Irish households were generally poor. In the congregated settings of mother and baby homes poor sanitary conditions had much more serious consequences for disease and infection control. County homes, as well as Kilrush and Tuam, are identified as having appalling conditions. Conditions in other mother and baby homes were better and improved over time. Many of the women suffered emotional abuse and were often subject to denigration and derogatory remarks from the religious, with little kindness shown, especially when giving birth. The overall picture is of a hard, cold and uncaring environment.

One of the most disquieting features of the report is that up until 1960 mother and baby homes appear to have significantly reduced the prospects of survival of children. The death rate among infants in mother and baby homes was almost twice that of the national average for children born outside of marriage. A total of approximately 9,000 children died in the institutions under investigation - approximately 15% of all the children who were in their care. It is deeply distressing to note that the very high mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time and were recorded in official publications. However, there is little or no evidence of State intervention in response to these chilling statistics and deaths. In fact, a number of reports actually identifying the problems were not acted on.

It will be a disappointment that the report does not answer all the deeply personal questions on the burial arrangements for many of the children who died in these institutions – in many cases the burial location remains unknown and uncertain. There are no records for a number of the large institutions where significant numbers of infants are known to have died, including Tuam, Bessborough, Castlepollard and Sean Ross. While this is difficult, options for dignified remembrance and memorialisation will be implemented where this is not already the case.

While women may not have been strictly legally forced to enter these homes, the fact is that most, especially those who did not have the support of their family or independent financial means, had no alternative.

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. It was especially cold and harsh for women. All women suffered serious discrimination. Women who gave birth outside marriage were subject to particularly harsh treatment.

Emerging from the survivor stories are the horrific accounts of rape, either perpetrated within families or by someone within a woman's community. This led ultimately to entry into a mother and baby home where the woman bore a social stigma but there was no accountability for the men responsible, and the agencies of the State showed little or no interest in addressing these crimes.

The Commission acknowledges the additional impact which a lack of knowledge and understanding had on the treatment and outcomes of mothers and children with different racial and cultural heritage, those who faced mental health challenges, or those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Such discriminatory attitudes exacerbated the shame and stigma felt by some of our most vulnerable citizens, especially where opportunities for non-institutional placement of children were restricted by an unjust belief that they were unsuitable for placement with families.

While context is essential to our proper understanding of this chapter of our history, it does not lessen what happened or diminish the responsibility of churches and State for the failures laid bare in what we have learned. For much of the period covered by the Commission, women as a group, and regardless of age or class, were systematically discriminated against in relation to employment, family law and social welfare, solely because of their gender.

Children were similarly unequal, and none more so than those who were cruelly labelled "illegitimate". I share deeply the Commission's unequivocal view that the existence of the status of "illegitimacy" until 1987 in this country "was an egregious breach of human rights." This was a huge injustice and blighted the lives of many.

It is a sad truth that the history of humankind, even up to today, has largely been defined by a failure to acknowledge and vindicate the rights and status of women and the labelling of those who failed to conform to social norms. We cannot account for what happened elsewhere, but we can and must do so for what happened in our country. An apology on its own is not enough. We, collectively in this House, will be judged by our actions. Actions always speak louder than words.

The Government accepts and will respond to all of the recommendations made by the commission, and this response will centre on four pillars of recognition, remembrance, records and restorative recognition. Recognition begins with this apology and will be followed by commitments to national and local memorialisation and commemoration. The views and wishes of former residents will be paramount and all commemoration will be led by them.

A broad suite of memorialisation, educational and research commitments will support national reflection and enduring remembrance. Future generations will learn of mother and baby homes and of the experiences of former residents, particularly as told through their own words.

With regard to records, the Government is committed to introducing information and tracing legislation as a priority. Access to one's own identity is a basic right. We will also be advancing a range of related actions to support access to personal information and to ensure appropriate and sensitive archiving of institutional records.

On restorative recognition, similar to the Magdalenes, an enhanced medical card will be given to former residents of mother and baby homes and county homes. This will be in addition to counselling, which is immediately available to all former residents, and patient liaison support services, which will be available to all former residents. The Government will also design a scheme of restorative recognition for former residents and an interdepartmental group will report back it on this matter as soon as possible. All of these commitments will be advanced in a survivor-centred manner with ongoing communication and engagement as plans are developed and implemented.

As a nation, it is important to understand and accept the failings of our past. This is important but not sufficient. We must also learn from those failings. We have adopted national and international laws which oblige us to pursue a different, more humane and rights-based approach. There is in place, as well as being further developed, a wide range of social services completely absent for much of our history.

Under the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, we have a Department dedicated to children, to equality and to working across Government and society to promote and uphold the rights of all people. The Citizens' Assembly is examining further measures to address structural inequalities relating to gender. It is looking in particular at how we can support and respond to the needs of those with caring responsibilities. Through our laws and policies, our systems, structures and services, our actions and our words, we must always seek to create a more just society, grounded in respect, diversity, tolerance and equality. Continued investment in education, especially for those on the margins and the most vulnerable, is the surest way of making sure that we do not repeat the past.

Similarly, we must learn the lesson that institutionalisation creates power structures and abuses of power. This must never again be an option for our country. Throughout this report, former residents spoke of a feeling of shame for the situation in which they found themselves. The shame was not theirs. It was ours. It was our shame that we did not show them the respect and compassion which we as a country owed them. It remains our shame. I reassure survivors, their families and the country that the Government is determined to act on all the recommendations of the report, as well as to deliver the legislative change necessary to at least start to heal the wounds that endure.

We have gone significantly over time but given the seriousness of the subject I have allowed that. Are copies of all the Ministers' speeches available for Deputies?

I will organise that now.

This report is the story of a buried past, uncovering buried lives and a buried truth. In some respects, it confirms what was long suspected. In others, it reveals a more nuanced and more challenging narrative. The commission of investigation has spent many years finding the truth in order that we can now begin to provide some measure of healing and reconciliation, and, above all, make restitution.

As a country, we owe a debt to Judge Yvonne Murphy, Dr. William Duncan, Professor Mary Daly and their expert team. Above all, we owe a debt to the survivors who provided testimony and to the work of people who brought the issue of mother and baby institutions to the fore. A special mention must be made of Catherine Corless, whose painstaking scholarship and humble compassion lit the candle which allowed us to reopen and read this dark chapter of our history.

As Tánaiste, as a former Taoiseach, as the leader of my party, which was in government for some of the relevant period, as a member of the Government which established this commission, as a citizen and as a man, I offer my apology to the children who were hidden away at birth, discarded in death or, in life, treated as a commodity or as second-class citizens, as well as to the mothers for whom there was no other option but to enter a mother and baby institution and give up their child. They may have consented but it was not free and informal consent in the way we understand that concept today. We apologise and we ask for their forgiveness.

This report shames Irish society entirely. Women pregnant outside of marriage, some very young, some the victims of rape, were not supported by their families, communities or by fathers of their children. They turned to the church and State for refuge. While they got a refuge, it was a cold and often cruel one. Church and State ran these homes together, operating hand in glove, equally culpable, doing so with the full knowledge, acquiesce and even support of wider society. Church and State reinforced social prejudice and judgment when they should have tried to change them. It must not be forgotten that illegitimacy was not a social prejudice but the law of the land, a law passed in the House in 1931 by our forebears. As was often the case in those days, it was a law very much guided by the Catholic social teaching of the day.

For too many years Ireland was a cold house for children born outside of marriage. This report exposes the chilling consequences of such a mindset. Too many children were seen as a stain on society. The truth, however, is that it was our society that was deeply stained. As the report shows, this was a stifling, oppressive and deeply misogynistic culture. It was a cold house for most of its people for most of its existence.

It is shocking to read that more than 9,000 babies died in these institutions - I dare not call them homes. In some ways, it is more shocking that this is not a revelation. The statistics were known at the time. It was known that children in mother and baby institutions were more likely to die in infancy than other children, including other children born outside of marriage. There was no public outcry, no Cabinet memos for the first 50 years, no Dáil debates or motions, few media inquiries or interest. These were second-class citizens, lesser mortals, to be treated as such, perhaps for their whole lives, solely due to the circumstances of their conception and birth. It was a conspiracy of shame and silence and cruelty.

I particularly feel for the children who were boarded out. This was not fostering as we know it today. While there were exceptions, children boarded out were not raised as one of the family. Boys were used as unpaid farm labour and girls as carers or house servants. Their interests were not put first or second. Their education unimportant. This was profoundly wrong and they continue to suffer for it today.

The survivors of the mother and baby institutions, alongside the survivors of industrial schools, constitute Ireland's stolen generation. As a society and as a State, we stole from them the lives they should have had, raised by their mothers in their own communities, known to their fathers, brought up to believe they were as good as anyone else and could grow up to be anyone they wanted to be. It is late in the day but now is our opportunity to make restitution on behalf of the generations who preceded us. The means by which we do so should be guided by the men and women who survived these institutions. They should be given time to read and reflect on the report. They should inform us as to the next steps.

The commission, in its recommendations, points the way. As the Taoiseach said, this should include a formal State apology, appropriate memorialisation, better access to health services, counselling and housing, as well as access to records and information about themselves, including birth certificates and medical records, financial reparations, a repository to archive all of the documents relating to residential institutions to ensure further study can be conducted and assistance with advocacy. We should not forget the survivors now living overseas and in Northern Ireland where inquiries are less advanced.

This report teaches us that when good people believe bad things about others, then terrible actions can be rationalised away. There are lessons here for us as a society and a State. A meaningful response has to go beyond denouncing the horrors of the past from the safety of the present. People want to know their own truth, to find the part of themselves that for too long was forbidden or kept secret. We must facilitate that.

The commission was an excavation into our past. It succeeded in uncovering part of our collective history and heritage. What we now know is compelling and crying out for resolution.

As a Government, we will do what we can to provide it.

Today is a day of atonement, when we express our horror and sorrow at the story of Ireland told in this report, and when we promise to do right by those who suffered. In doing so, we should not lose sight of the hopeful story that is also told in the commission’s report. It tells the story of a country that has changed and progressed and that is far from perfect but has got kinder, better and more compassionate, more loving and less judgmental, and less misogynistic as the years passed. The flatlets and houses of the 1980s and 1990s were very different to the mother and baby institutions of the 1950s and 1960s and the county homes and workhouses that preceded them.

The commission tells a story of enormous change. This is a story of social progress as the years and decades moved on: legal adoption in the 1950s; sex education in our schools, social welfare payments for lone parents, which gave them real options from the mid-1970s; the introduction of free healthcare for pregnant women and newborns; changing attitudes to sexual morality and personal freedom; a less deferential view of the church and a more questioning attitude to the State, legalised contraception; the Status of Children Act abolished the concept of illegitimacy from our law; the right to divorce and remarry; the slow but steady dismantling of the architecture of patriarchy on which our State was formed; huge improvements in maternity care and neonatal care, leading to a situation whereby death in pregnancy or in the early years of life is now exceptionally rare in this country; the children’s rights amendment to our Constitution; new laws and new attitudes to consent and domestic violence; Children First and we had the introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse; and the ongoing decongregation of our residential institutions for people with disabilities or mental illness in favour of community living, often facing objections.

We should not be afraid or embarrassed to reflect on how much we have changed as a society and as a State, and how far we have come. Doing so does not belittle in any way the maltreatment and experiences of women and children in the mother and baby institutions; rather, it reinforces how awful they truly were. The fact that today’s standards are better is not an excuse for the poor standards of the past, nor should we think that today our standards are good enough for the future. Decades hence, people may look back on this time and point to our failings too and have to apologise for them.

As we read this report, both hopeful and shameful, it should spur us on now to do better in the years to come, not just for the women and children who survived the mother and baby institutions but also for the women and children of today and of the future. Today we understand a little better the tears that were shed over many decades by those who were judged so harshly and by those who had their human rights dishonoured. We cannot change the past but we can rededicate ourselves to giving people their truth, recognising the hurt and damage that was caused, saying sorry, making amends and seeking forgiveness.

The publication of the report into the mother and baby homes marks another moment of truth for our State and for our people. Its publication is an occasion to acknowledge the profound wrong visited upon the Irish women and their children who were placed in these institutions and too often left with only grief as a companion. It is an occasion to acknowledge, as the Government, the role the State played in this and to apologise for that, and to acknowledge the neglect, the hurt caused, and, in many cases, the terrible toll this has taken on so many of our citizens across decades. It is an occasion to acknowledge also the strength of those who suffered in the institutions and how for generations they endured, and still endure, the awful weight of their experiences within those walls. It is an occasion to acknowledge that it is their refusal to be silent or to be silenced, their campaigning and their commitment to the truth that has brought us to this day.

With the publication of this report, we are affirming their stories and their truth. We are ensuring that their testimonies are heard, acknowledged and understood. We are affirming clearly, and in the strongest possible terms, that they were wronged and that they wronged nobody. Today is a chance to ask for forgiveness for the failings of the Irish State, failings that were repeated over decades and that had the most horrendous consequences for our most vulnerable citizens.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the commission of investigation, its chair Judge Yvonne Murphy, and the commissioners, Professor Mary Daly and Dr. William Duncan, and their staff. I particularly like to thank all those who, often at great personal difficulty, gave their evidence or their personal accounts to the commission.

The report paints a portrait of a stifling, oppressive and deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland prior to the 1970s, which was ruthlessly reinforced by prevailing attitudes within the church and State. This directly and repeatedly led to women being deprived of choice and agency in their own affairs through coercion, shame and family obligation. Among the starkest declarations by the commission are those concerning the tragic fates of many of the children born in the institutions. The disturbing fact established by the commission is that for children born of mothers who entered these institutions prior to 1960 "the homes did not save the lives of 'illegitimate' children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival". The commission affirms that "infant mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time" but the institutions of the State turned a blind eye to them.

In the report, the State was often defined by its absence. Most damningly, during the periods of appallingly high infant mortality within these institutions, the report notes that "There is no evidence that unmarried mothers were ever discussed at Cabinet during the first 50 years after independence".

The report demonstrates that for much of the period it covers the response of State, church and society was one of gross neglect. The report exposes the social, political, and institutional structures that created, colluded in and condoned such a system. These structures, and the attitudes that were fostered by them, generated a fiercely conservative society. This permitted the State to maintain the status of illegitimacy as a status that consigned children so designated to both moral and legal isolation up until 1987, something that the commission describes as an egregious breach of human rights. Where there were concerns brought to Government, those in power acted only to stifle them.

Alice Litster was an inspector for the Department of Local Government from 1927 to 1957. The commission's report states that Ms Litster tried valiantly to have conditions in the institutions improved. It was Ms Litster who wrote the first criticism of mother and baby homes by a civil servant, criticisms that were subsequently watered down by departmental officials. It is from her reports on the institutions that much of the commission's information about them in the decades after independence is drawn. She highlighted the high number of children being sent for adoption in the US. The report makes clear that acts of responsibility from those in power were notable for their rarity, particularly in the early days of the State. As such, Ms. Litster's efforts over many years to shine a light on the failings of these institutions should be recognised and commended.

The report contains a number of important recommendations and I am committed to ensuring that the Government's response to these will mark a profound transformation not only in the State's engagement with survivors but also in its supports for them. The relationship of trust between the State and mothers and adoptees has been broken. In bringing forward this series of actions, the Government seeks to start the process of rebuilding this relationship. The Cabinet has adopted a whole-of-government response to the commission's report. This contains 22 actions based on eight themes. These themes acknowledge the breadth of the issues that the commission has raised and that mothers and adoptees have spoken about to me and colleagues. The process of this response begins with the State apology made by the Taoiseach in the House today. Central to the response is access to personal information. Legislation on information and tracing is being advanced this year, centred on a person's right to information about themselves and founded on GDPR principles.

The Department is working to put in place mechanisms whereby survivors and adoptees can seek personal information via GDPR when the commission transfers to my Department at the end of February. Our response contains a package of health supports, including a form of enhanced medical card for anyone who spent more than six months in one of these institutions, and counselling services. Legislation to allow for the dignified exhumation of the site in Tuam and providing for DNA identification will be brought for pre-legislative scrutiny soon.

We recommit to establishing a national memorial and record centre related to institutional trauma, engaging with survivors regarding its location and to requiring that Departments and State bodies prioritise ensuring that relevant original files are made publicly accessible. The Government has made a commitment to introduce a restorative recognition scheme to provide financial recognition. The details of this scheme will now be worked on by an interdepartmental group which will bring forward proposals for Government by the end of April.

I know that these actions, either alone or combined, cannot undo the immense hurt that has been done to mothers and adoptees nor can they fully recompense for the impact of the State's failings on individuals. They represent the State seeking to start the process of rebuilding a relationship with those that it has so badly let down. It is essential that the religious congregations, charitable organisations and Catholic and Church of Ireland primates also begin the work of rebuilding trust, both in terms of apologies to mothers and adoptees but also in terms of concrete measures like contributing to the restorative recognition fund and making institutional papers available. I have written to them and sought meetings with them in this respect.

The events described in the report took place over a wide span of time. Some occurred decades ago, others happened very much within living memory. Irrespective of when the events happened, the trauma they have caused is very much alive. They form a scar for so many of our citizens in Ireland today. Equally, the events form a scar for many who were sent abroad to be adopted or who themselves fled our country following the manner in which they had been treated. I know that this diaspora, abroad through no choice of their own, are listening closely today. To all those who carry that trauma, this report will bring conflicting emotions. They have waited a long time - too long - for this recognition. I understand that there exists very little trust between the State and those who were so grievously wronged. It was the State that shattered that trust by failing to live up to its most fundamental duties of protection.

The publication of this report does not end this story. My hope is that it will mark the first step in a new relationship where we will reject the policy of denial as the State's response to grievance, where the State will engage with empathy, humility and generosity with those who were wronged and where we will strive to rebuild the trust so grievously shattered.

Tá mo chuid smaointe inniu leo siúd a chaith am i dtithe na máthar agus na leanaí. Inniu, cuimhnímid orthu go léir. Is córas drochíde agus díghrádaithe a bhí ann. Tá an Taoiseach tar éis leithscéal a ghabháil ar son an Stát, ach tá na chéad chéimeanna eile ríthábhachtach.

Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions for the survivors of mother and baby homes. After five years, the report of the commission was finally published and it was a very long process from which many survivors and their advocates felt excluded and ignored. Still, there was slight hope that publication of the report would bring truth and real accountability but for many those hopes were dashed. Sadly, many survivors are upset, deflated and angry by some of what they have read in the report. The assertion that there were no forced adoptions, that there exists little evidence of physical abuse and the overarching attempt to shift responsibility from the State and churches has left survivors shocked and some outraged. They are equally furious that, still, barriers to accessing basic documentation, including birth certificates, are placed in their way by the State. This circling of the wagons only adds to their trauma and exacerbates the failures of the State.

The purpose and the power of testimony is that it is given to be believed but many survivors feel that they were not heard and they were not believed. They know that they were coerced and forced to give up their children. They know that they were physically and mentally abused and whatever they read, they know that the State and churches are responsible for the violation of their most basic human rights.

It is plainly untrue to suggest that the whole of Irish society is responsible. That is a distortion of history. The truth is that these crimes were perpetuated by a reactionary Catholic church and a confessional State. Those in power outsourced their responsibility to the religious orders, the churches and to Protestant churches also as we know from the accounts of survivors from places like Bethany Home. This was done by the powerful to those who were vulnerable so any idea that we did this to ourselves is deeply insulting to victims and survivors and it is, frankly, a cop-out.

We know that the death rate of children born in these institutions was multiple of the infant mortality rate in Ireland at that time. Nine thousand children died in the 18 institutions covered by the report and as horrific as this is, it is but a glimpse of the true horror that would have been uncovered had the investigation received a wider remit to capture the vast network of institutions involved in the adoption system, all on the watch and with the connivance of and funded by the Irish State and successive Governments.

It is crucially important that provision is made for the excavation of sites at former homes throughout the State. Many women and families know that their children and relatives are buried on the grounds but they cannot pinpoint exactly where so these mothers must be afforded the human dignity of reclaiming the remains of their children to ensure they can also claim ownership of their individual stories and experiences.

Now is the time for State and church as perpetrators of these abuses to issue formal apologies and take responsibility for the horrific violations. I suggest that a good and perhaps an appropriate point for the current Administration to start is to afford the respect and dignity due to single parent families who as we know to this day remain marginalised and poor and are often regarded as the low-hanging fruit when the budgets get tight and the so-called tough decisions have to be made.

There has to be full redress and compensation and the rights of survivors and adopted people to access their own information must be realised. The importance of that cannot be overstated.

We would not have reached this point if it was not for the dedicated and selfless actions of countless people, survivors and advocates. Niall Meehan's work in uncovering the deaths and the mortality rate at the Bethany Home was landmark but it is to Catherine Corless that perhaps we owe the greatest debt. She uncovered the remains of 800 babies in a mass unmarked grave in Tuam.

The lived experiences documented within the report amount to a devastating catalogue of heartbreak, misery and the violation of basic human rights so I want to acknowledge the Taoiseach's apology to victims and survivors today on behalf of the State. It is something that they have waited a long time to hear but it is not true to say that what was witnessed was simply a failure of empathy and compassion in Irish society, although God knows that is true.

More profoundly, it was an abuse of power. It was the ultimate abuse of authority. It was brutality inflicted on women and girls, and on the poor in particular.

The value of any sincere apology is always found in the actions that follow. In this, victims and survivor are crystal clear that they want meaningful action and they want to be involved in formulating the State's approach. A good starting point would be to address the fact that the work of the commission covers just 18 institutions, whereas the Clann Project submitted a list of at least 182 institutions, individuals and agencies involved in adoption, informal adoption and other forms of forced family separation. The apology today must be understood to extend to the women and children who went through all of these institutions, including county homes, children who were boarded out, often in circumstances of indentured servitude, and those who were illegally adopted. So far, successive Governments have refused to progress the detailed recommendations of the Mother and Baby Home Collaborative Forum. These, alongside the recommendations of the Clann Project, must be advanced. The Taoiseach must also deliver on his commitment to create the national archive of institutional, adoption and other care-related records while ensuring the proper implementation of EU GDPR rights by all controllers of institutional, adoption and other care-related records.

In addition to its moral obligation to survivors, the State has numerous human rights duties under international law, including access to social services and redress. This means a redress scheme that can be accessed without unnecessary red tape and that the age profile of survivors and families be taken into account. Victims have rightly pointed out that any complicated process would only serve to delay and re-traumatise them. Everything that happens now must be about acknowledging the full extent of the wrongdoing without qualification. A real duty of care from the Government is expected now more than ever. With this in mind, the deliberate leaking of parts of the report was a disgraceful attempt to manage this story. There is a very serious case to be answered in this regard.

The legacy of mother and baby homes is one of shameful crimes perpetrated against women and children by the State, the churches and other institutions. Women were abused and forced to work without pay. Children died of malnutrition, untreated illness and neglect. Some were used as guinea pigs in drug and vaccine trials. It is wrong to use the word "home" in respect of these institutions. A home is somewhere where one is safe, loved and belongs. These institutions were immoral prisons. There was no love, kindness or care. Our job is to ensure that the survivors now feel from us that love, dignity, and the protection of a real home. Modern Ireland must step up to the mark in providing what the Ireland of the past stole from them: the truth and justice, and the full protection and rigour of the law.

I want to conclude with the words of a good friend of mine, Joan McDermott, who was imprisoned in Bessborough for eight months. She was made to cut the grass of the grounds with scissors. Joan gave birth to a baby boy whose name is David. He was taken from her without her consent or her knowledge. She did not see him again for five long decades. She said:

When I saw my son for the first time in 50 years, he made the most profound statement. He asked me "mam, how old am I really?" He did not know how old he was. He had no birth certificate. He had never been abroad. He has a birth cert now. You and I take these things for granted.

For Joan, for David, for the tens of thousands of women robbed of their futures, for the children robbed of their childhoods, for those who died behind those high walls and iron gates and who were buried in unmarked graves, and for those who made it out and survived to tell the harrowing tale, let today, though imperfect and unfinished, be the start of the final length of the long road to justice. This is not over.

Today, as we speak about the mother and baby institutions and the report that was published yesterday, I pay tribute to and commend all of the women and children, many of whom are now adults, who heroically came forward to share their stories. They fought with courage and determination and did not give up. In recent years I have had the privilege of getting to know many people who are survivors of mother and baby homes, including women who had their babies stolen from them and children born into the homes who were denied a relationship with their birth mother. Through many conversations, one common message always comes through, that nobody within the State was willing to listen to them when they were forced into these institutions, and since then, they have been failed by the State on many occasions, including by this Government. Real, meaningful consultation is something that survivors, their families and their representative groups have continuously sought.

When speaking about this matter, I am cognisant that we need to allow survivors and their families the time to read the report in detail and to reflect on its contents. We need to make sure to listen to their voices. We also remember the many women and children who lost their lives in these institutions. I have been contacted by a number of survivors who have not been able to access the report. They are not technologically savvy. They felt they were going to get copies of it in the post. I urge that this be followed up on because I feel it is the least they deserve.

Mother and baby homes were not homes, they were detention centres. A home is somewhere where one should feel safe, loved and protected, not a place where one is tortured, imprisoned and forced to give birth in the most appalling conditions, often without medical support or even basic pain relief. These walls hid torture, deprivation and humiliation on a colossal scale. Human rights did not exist in these centres. As a mother, daughter, sister and Irish citizen, I cannot countenance this cruelty. The cries of children and tortured mothers were ignored and trivialised by cruel nuns and others who were involved in these institutions, who ran the institutions as if they were prisons.

While both yesterday and today are historic points, the journey to truth and equality is not over. Time and again, we have failed survivors and their families, most recently in October last year, when they were appallingly treated by this Government as they attempted to rush through ill thought-out legislation. This caused significant anger and upset for survivors. When will we learn that survivors need to be listened to? They do not need our sympathy. They need and deserve our action. We must set out a path to genuine consultation and the Government must make good on its commitment to repair the damage done to the relationship. I sincerely hope that the Government's commitment to redress is not simply lip service and that real engagement is entered into with all survivors and adoptive rights groups. Survivors need assurances that their rights will be vindicated, especially their right to unconditional access to birth certificates. Their families need a clear statutory right to their own care or adoption file and to records concerning a family member who died in care or when adopted.

It is my fervent wish that the courage shown by survivors in coming forward is met by action from the Government, as the State has failed them. The State did not listen, did not care and it turned a blind eye. Now the State must accept responsibility and come good for survivors. Please let the consultation be meaningful and genuine. Please ensure that people get a copy of the report and that their voices are heard.

Before I start my contribution, I want to put on the record of the Dáil that I, along with many others, think that the leaking of this report caused an awful lot of hurt and distress and should not have happened. I would like the Government - and indeed all governments - to think about this. It is not the first time that this has happened. The Scally report into the CervicalCheck programme was also leaked. Both of these reports dealt with sensitive issues predominantly relating to women. These reports should not have been leaked. It has caused undue hurt.

I wrote to the Taoiseach to stating that I would have preferred the Government to consult with all of the survivors' groups, the families and the victims, regarding when this apology would be made and the contents of it. The Government has made its decision and this is an important day. However, I would have thought that would have been the best way to deal with the apology.

The report of the mother and baby homes investigation tells the tale of an Ireland that we have left behind, yet it is not in our distant past. Reading the report, one would think that it details events of a long time ago, but it does not. The last mother and baby home shut its doors in 1998, which was 23 years ago. I am sure that there are young people in their 20s who are watching this debate, who will find it hard to get their heads around the fact that they were born into an Ireland that still cruelly locked women away behind the high walls of such institutions. Although diminished, in 1998 there were still some perceptions in society regarding unmarried and single mothers remained that in some way there was something to be ashamed of. It may seem as though 1998 is like a long way from the Ireland of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, that was so inherently anti-women in its culture and laws, but it is not that long ago at all. Each and every one of us knows many people who have been adversely affected by the shameful actions of our State, institutions, and politicians. All of us who serve in public life should apologise for our predecessors, and for the fact that the Legitimacy Act was passed by the Dáil in 1931. That it was the law of the land is horrendous. All of the political entities that served in governments should apologise for allowing this to happen. When this State was founded and within the first few years of its inception, there were warnings about the mortality rate in these homes and institutions. Nothing was done, a blind eye was turned, and it continued for another 60 years. Politically, we are all at fault. The State is at fault; we are at fault; institutions are at fault. The women, children and their families share no blame at all. The institutions and the Catholic Church have an awful lot to answer for. We must continue to look at the relationship between the State and religious institutions.

Over the coming days we will hear much about the women who were forced into these homes, but not much about the men involved. These women who ended up in the mother and baby homes did not end up there on their own. Many were raped and some were the victims of incest. Some of the babies were very much wanted and were born out of wedlock to couples who were very much in love, but our society at the time did not approve of this love. Many women were put into these institutions to uphold the reputation of men of a more privileged class and to hide their societal embarrassment. Our society went along with this and it is our collective shame.

We all remember as clear as day the finding of remains at a former mother and baby home in Tuam following the tireless work of Catherine Corless, who is a hero to this nation. The publication of this report is another step in the uncomfortable process of confronting the hidden shame of our nation. It must be noted that the report only concerns 14 institutions and homes. The Clann Project is correct that we must go much deeper. The hidden lives of women who were subjected to devastating neglect and abuse were shamed for their so-called "sins". For too long, people were determined to keep these stories hidden, but now that these stories are out there, they will hopefully bring some solace.

The Labour Party has long believed that it would be wrong to suggest that the publication of this report will be part of a healing process, because it has come too late for many of the women and children involved. There was no chance at life for the children who needlessly died in infancy, like Anne, the young baby who died in 1968 in Séan Ross Abbey, Roscrea, very close to where I am from. She was the daughter of a friend of mine. For others who left the homes and died before the State embarked on this process, there has been no acknowledgement of their suffering to date. We cannot bring them back. Nonetheless, I hope this report will serve to belatedly put some of the truth on the record. We are past the capacity to put all of it on the record, but we must to everything that we can.

More than 1,000 survivors bravely gave their testimonies to the commission. It has not been an easy process for them but their determination to open society's eyes to what happened behind the high walls of these institutions deserves a serious amount of gratitude from us all. Careful consideration and reflection must be given to this 3,000-page report and 57,000 children passed through the 14 homes featured in the report. Some survivors groups, including the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors, have expressed disappointment with what they see as the incompleteness of the report, which does not engage with the more expansive issue of State-sponsored, forced or coerced separation of mothers and babies. The Labour Party joins the call of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties for a separate investigation to examine the entire system of secret adoption and family separation, to add to our knowledge about this shameful history and to build on the findings made in today's report about the 14 mother and baby homes under investigation. We should also talk openly about the children who were sold into slavery as domestic servants and farm labourers, because that is what happened - they were sold into slavery.

Following the passage of the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter Act 2020, the Labour Party called for increased supports for survivors and adopted people. Once sufficient time has been given to considering the contents of this report, we must return to that critical matter without delay.

Writing about her experience in a mother and baby home and life after it in the Irish Independent this week, my colleague, and former Tánaiste, Joan Burton said that robust adoption tracing legislation must be a key priority. She said:

As a politician it has been my privilege and responsibility to be a campaigner for key social changes in Ireland — divorce, marriage equality, and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. But the right of adopted people to their own information has never been conceded. It is amazing that this legacy remains in an era of so much progressive change. I do hope that the commission will address this astonishing omission.

This issue needs to be dealt with. Joan Burton is a former Tánaiste and her backstory is incredible.

We also need to ensure that all archives relating to social services provided by the religious institutions are nationalised. That is a very important point. They provided a service in lieu of the State. We need to nationalise all of their archives in order that everything can be preserved. In regard to redress, we cannot undo what happened before. We need to ensure, this time around, that the religious institutions make their contribution to redress for the families and women affected. Once they agree to that, or when they are made to agree, if they do not make their contribution, we will pass legislation - I will draft it myself - to enable us to take their assets and ensure they make that contribution. We cannot go through what happened in this country before in terms of the institutions not making their contribution.

This week is just another part of a much-needed conversation on a dark part of our nation's history. I am sure it will not be the last time we discuss issues like this. The survivors need time to grapple with the recommendations. They need a huge amount of time. Some of them have not had the capacity or the will to look at the recommendations yet. Those who have shone a light on the darkness that is associated with this period in our history, such as Catherine Corless and others, all need time to look at this report.

The Deputy's time is up.

I pay particular tribute to Ms Corless, Joan Burton, my friends, Rosie and Mags McKinney, for sharing their story - I know they are not happy but I will work with them - people like Gerry, whose aunt bought him out of Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, my neighbour, Theresa Collins, and everybody else who has worked tirelessly to get to this stage. Today, we are at the beginning of a journey into our past in dealing with this issue. We have opened many doors and we need to open many more in regard to this issue.

We are way over time.

Most of all, we need to provide supports for these women and their families into the future. It is through those supports and showing some love for them that we can truly, as a collective, say we are sorry.

The publication of the report into the mother and baby homes marks a hugely important point in our country's history and the path towards justice for all our citizens. While the women and children in the homes and institutions have never had any doubt about the abuses and horrors that took place behind their doors, this report now brings together many of their stories and lived experiences and lays them bare for us all to see. The injustices and horrors that were forced on women by the hands of the State and the church, hands that should have been there to help, support and take care of them, are a stark reminder of our dark side. The report was harrowing to read, but for that to be one's actual life experience, for that to have been one's introduction to motherhood, a period that should be joyful, must have been devastating.

I would like to acknowledge the bravery of the survivors, their children and survivor groups and, in particular, the tireless work of Catherine Corless and Philomena Lee. These were women who never stopped fighting for their own children and the children of others. Their strength shines through the pages of the report. I would also like to remember those who did not survive to see today, including the babies, women and families who are not around to hear this debate, discussion and apology. I say to them that I am sorry.

In his response to the report yesterday, the Taoiseach stated:

The regime described in the report was not imposed on us by any foreign power. We did this to ourselves, as a society.

This is a sentiment and theme, unfortunately, that runs through the commission report. The report talks about how institutions provided refuge when the families of women did not. A refuge is somewhere of safety. It states that there is no evidence that the women were forced to enter mother and baby homes by the church or State authorities. It says that women were admitted to mother and baby homes and county homes because they failed to secure the support of their family and the father of their child. I would like to point out that nearly 12% of the women who went through the doors of those homes were children. They were raped. To expect that they would be the ones to ensure they were looked after by their families is not acceptable.

The report, in several instances, and the Taoiseach, in many of his comments yesterday, fail to acknowledge fully that the fundamental responsibility of protection of its citizens lies with the State and that the culture of a society is moulded and shaped by the most powerful institutions of the State, namely, the government and the church. A State and church which operated hand in glove to implement a State policy of shame, blame and misogyny was one that facilitated and oversaw the horrific treatment of women and children in these homes. There can be absolutely no doubt that the State's policy was one of shame. The State established, funded and regulated these institutions and it outsourced its responsibility to religious organisations. The buck stops with the State, and the State needs to own that responsibility.

I welcome many of the points that have been made here today. However, until the Government's first reaction to an instance like this is not to say, "Well, we were all complicit", then we really have much more work to do. This report represents only a step in the long journey that these women and their families are taking. The survivors need time to digest and take on board the report and its recommendations and that may take weeks. I ask the Government, please, to listen to what the survivors are saying and to be led by their needs and their voices. They have clearly outlined the next steps towards a restorative justice process. It starts with legislating for full and unfettered access to their records. Proper implementation of EU GDPR rights will be required. I maintain that very little legislative change is needed to cover the GDPR requirements. The GDPR applies as standard. Every single person in this country has rights to their own information and that needs to be part of the Government's response in this matter. It must not spend another year looking at what new legislation we need to implement. The legislation is in place; the Government just needs to apply it.

The church needs to release its records on survivors and to co-operate in full. Survivors must be provided with a comprehensive redress and reparation scheme that meets their needs entirely. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and the past redress schemes, many of which caused further trauma to survivors. The re-traumatisation of survivors must stop now. Putting survivors front and centre of the process will be crucial to its success and to providing the security and certainty many survivors need at this time. These are the things we can do. We cannot go back and change what happened to the survivors and their families. We can only give them our most heartfelt apology, try to repair the trust, provide them with access to justice and support them as they continue on their path to healing. That must be the aim of the Government.

It is within our power to ensure that other vulnerable women and children do not experience such incredible disadvantage, discrimination and State-sponsored human rights abuses in today's Ireland. Women and children in this country still suffer because of the policies of the State. A total of 90,000 children live in consistent poverty in Ireland today. Some 4,000 children are homeless. More than 7,000 people live in direct provision. The latter has been described by many as the Magdalen laundries of contemporary Ireland. I want to make it absolutely clear that society does not condone the actions of this and previous Governments when it comes to the handling of these issues. Society wants the Government to fix them. It is within our power to make sure that whoever is Taoiseach in 20 years' time does not have to stand, as the Taoiseach is standing today, and apologise for the actions of his or her Government. The Taoiseach should use this moment to create a better way.

I also call on the Taoiseach to recognise the State’s failings, past and present and to listen to the survivors, to their asks and their needs. He needs to recognise what needs to improve and to commit to doing so without delay and to make those changes. Otherwise his apology today may amount to just another apology on top of one apology after another. I ask him to make it matter. Women and children deserve better and as one survivor, Sheila O’Byrne, put it yesterday, it is time to right the wrongs.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle. Today’s apology is welcome. It is decades overdue and comes after decades of silence, shame and misogynistic control and abuse perpetrated and facilitated by State authorities, the church and Government after Government.

Ireland’s history of using shame and fear to control women and their bodies is truly horrifying in its scale and impact. In 2018, I began knocking on doors for the abortion rights referendum in Cork South-West. I did not know what to expect or what kind of reception we would get. In every town and village, came story after story. Women, often in their 70s and 80s would stand outside and tell us about the girls and women who disappeared from their lives, such as their best friend from school, their cousin or their aunt who were abandoned, shamed and left at the mercy of the State and the church.

On those same nights, we would knock on another door to hear: “But if this comes in, what’s to stop the young ones" and "What’ll stop them from sleeping around every weekend and getting an abortion every Monday?” It is still here and has not left us. This is the fear of girls and women and this desire to control their lives and their bodies. The “we” narrative around this report needs to be addressed. Yes, society played a part, but this abuse was clearly facilitated and carried out by a powerful State and a powerful religious order which tolerated no opposition. This was a country that virtually outlawed sex outside marriage. This was public policy. There was no sex education, a ban on contraception, no access to abortion and virtual immunity for rapists.

Pregnancies were inevitable and when they happened, the girls and women were left with nowhere else to go except these institutions. In these, the worst forms of abuse and neglect were systematically carried out. The scale of infant deaths is incomprehensible; it borders on mass murder. Not only was the State aware of this, but it continued to fund and manage the homes and the religious orders profited from this horrendous cruelty and systemic abuse. That an organisation which facilitated the worst kinds of human rights violations imaginable still has any hand, act or part in our schools and hospitals is deeply disturbing.

Then, the Government Departments and church officials denied these realities, further abused survivors and opposed any chance of justice until the discovery of almost 600 babies buried in a septic tank in Tuam forced the Government to establish the commission.

There are no words for this cascade of misogyny, abuse and criminality perpetuated against women and their children. The last thing the survivors need is inadequate apologies from more men in positions of power. They deserve justice, genuine contrition from church and State and complete and unreserved redress. The shame used to control and incarcerate women and children for the so-called crime of getting pregnant was endemic in our society and was misplaced. It is time we re-direct the shame to where it belongs. Shame on the people who committed these horrendous crimes, on the religious orders which oversaw it and on successive Governments for facilitating and condoning it.

If we are to respond genuinely to this report, we must ensure survivors are given redress, that justice is vigorously pursued and that the people and organisations who committed these crimes are pursued and prosecuted. Shame on us all if we settle for anything less.

I thank Deputy Cairns. We move to the Solidarity-People Before Profit. Deputies Bríd Smith, Paul Murphy and Barry are sharing time.

I start by saluting the survivors, the women and their families who have put up with years of very deep pain. I also start by echoing the hurt and anger that they feel at this report. No doubt they will also feel some anger and hurt at the apology that they heard here today. I certainly do.

One could say that the report and its contents were to be expected. When the then Minister and current Senator McDowell introduced the original Act to set up commissions, it was very much about being a cheaper, easier, less justiciable version of tribunals and offered a way out of looking at these issues without risking criminal or legal implications. This report, therefore, cannot deliver real answers or address the scale of the crimes or offer any actual solutions. I find the built-in weakness of it shocking. It is shocking not in the facts and the testimonies, many of which were known or people had spoken about, but the constant refrain and single-minded determination to lay the core responsibility, from the State and religious institutions, on to society, fathers, families and on everyone. As Fionn Davenport, himself an adoptee, has said, if one makes everyone responsible then no one is responsible. That is just what the Taoiseach has done here today, as has the Tánaiste. They make us all responsible where, then, nobody is responsible. It is not true to say that we are all responsible and that the chief blame lies with fathers and families.

There was no vote on the attitude that society would have to unmarried mothers or to children born out of wedlock. The ethos and the social mores that the report takes as a natural given, as some sort of fixed entity, was hard worked for, planned and argued for by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and even the Labour Party at times, which were not innocent bystanders but enthusiastic enforcers of these mores. The Catholic and religious institutions fought for the attitudes and vigorously defended the rules and regulations that went with them. The church and State battered, beat and forced those mores on women and society in a deliberate, premeditated and political programme. It was known and was opposed.

The registrar general reported to this House in 1924 that the rate of death among illegitimate children was way higher than that of Northern Ireland, England and Wales. It is also stated in the record of this House in 1936 in a report from the Department of the then Minister for Local Government and Public Health, Seán T. O'Kelly of Fianna Fáil, in response to a similar report that: "Doubtless the great proportion of deaths in these cases is due to congenital debility, congenital malformation and other ante-natal causes traceable to the conditions associated with the unfortunate lot of the unmarried mother." The abuse and high mortality rates among these children was highlighted and opposed in this House. An Independent Deputy, Dr. Robert Rowlette, in response to Deputy Seán T. O'Kelly said: "I do not know of any evidence that will prove that there is greater general congenital debility or malformation in the illegitimate child than in the legitimate child." He went on to say: "It is a disgrace to a civilised country, and to a Christian country like this, that three-and-a-half times more illegitimates are condemned to death in the first year of their existence than legitimate children".

The idea that children had rights was part of a democratic programme articulated in the 1916 Proclamation and adopted by this State when we signed up to the Declaration of the Rights of the Child of the League of Nations in 1924. The problem here was not that society condoned it but that the political class and the church enforced it. That needs to be acknowledged first and foremost.

The most shocking and offensive matter in this report is, however, that there is no evidence of those abuses, of profit-making from adoptions, or of the coercion of women into signing adoption forms, other than the testimony of those women themselves. That is not dealt with as evidence other than the bones of over 9,000 dead babies' bodies.

I will finish by saying that a number of things have to happen. We have to treat immediately those graveyards around those homes as crime scenes. No more developments or alterations should happen to them and they should be blocked off as crime scenes because somewhere in the future we need to get to the bottom of this criminal matter. They are crime scenes and need to be treated as such. The process of redress also needs to start, not by offering these people enhanced medical cards, but by telling these institutions which have built their wealth on the bones of dead babies, that their assets will be effectively frozen unless they agree to deliver a decent redress that is an absolute benefit to both those women and to society in general.

This report is inadequate, should be rejected in its entirety and the apology of the Taoiseach is utterly inadequate.

This was the Ireland that was presided over by the men whose pictures hang on the walls of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste. It was the Ireland of Eamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, Jack Lynch and Charlie Haughey, and the Ireland of W. T. Cosgrave, John A. Costello, Liam Cosgrave, Garret FitzGerald and John Bruton. "What upset me is Micheál Martin blaming us - society," states Galway historian Catherine Corless. She is right to be upset. The Government's spin machine is emphasising the responsibility of the culture and the society. The spin machine is de-emphasising the responsibility of the church and the State, but who moulded the culture? Who moulded the society? The mother and baby homes were the product of a backward, reactionary, conservative society presided over by the State, the Civil War parties and the church. No amount of spinning can, or will, hide that fact. Today, in 2021, church and State still remain to be separated. One way to honour the survivors would be to completely separate church and State in this country now.

In 1943, 75% of all babies born at the Bessborough mother and baby home in Cork, or admitted to that place, died. Where are their bodies buried? More than 900 babies died at Bessborough. That number does not include the babies who were stillborn. Where are their bodies buried? Is there a danger that some of these babies will be buried now, in the 21st century, beneath apartment blocks? Recently, a planning application was submitted to Cork City Council to build 246 apartments at Bessborough. The developers have not engaged properly with survivors, adoptees and local residents, who say the burial sites must be fully identified before any building can even be considered. The survivors regard the developers' actions as adding insult to injury, all in the name of profit. This development must not be allowed to proceed.

I want to use my short time to amplify the voices of survivors of these hellish church–State institutions. Repeatedly in the report, their voices are denigrated. Despite harrowing survivor testimonies of abuse, the report states there was "very little evidence of physical abuse" of women, and it downplays the physical abuse of children. On forced adoptions, it essentially states the many woman who have testified that their children were forcibly taken from them are lying. It states:

Some of this cohort of women are of the opinion that their consent was not full, free and informed. However, ... there is no evidence that this was their view at the time of the adoption.

Contrast this with what the Irish First Mothers group says:

The massive abuse they suffered was the forced removal of their child. The Commission is blind to the most grievous injury which was the reason for the inquiry in the first place.

This most grievous injury has been entirely excluded from the very limited consideration of redress for survivors, only some of whom are to be compensated at all and then only for abuse and forced labour, not forced adoption. The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors states "up to 15,000 people may have been illegally adopted by rogue adoption agencies who were allowed free reign back in the day and now have been given a free pass to escape their criminal behaviour". The Government and commission have essentially thrown them under a bus and walked away. They are correct that the commission's report whitewashes foreign and illegal adoptions, which should be the subject of a separate inquiry. Why did this happen? It was not because of some collective pathology on the part of society as a whole, as the establishment parties who oversaw it at the time would have us believe; it was because the ruling class in this country - the church, the State's officials, the establishment parties and their wealthy supporters — wanted to minimise their financial responsibility for what they saw as a surplus population of impoverished women and children. That is why they did not care about the thousands of deaths and the shockingly high mortality rates. Their only real concern then and now has been to limit the financial cost. Church and State might be forced to apologise but they still do not want to pay. We must ensure that this time, they do not get away with it. As Claire McGettrick of the Clann Project has said:

In 2013, once the Magdalene apology came, nobody (apart from ... [a few]) was interested in what an insult the McAleese Report was to the women's lived experiences. This time feels different - this time we have a movement.

Finally, the assets of the religious orders responsible should be seized. They should be used to compensate survivors for all the harm that they suffered. The church and State must be fully separated, and institutions such as the Bon Secours, which have devastated so many lives, should no longer have any role in healthcare or the education of children.

I am sharing time with Deputy Canney.

Today is a day that will be recorded in the history of our country. Today we lay bare a chapter that is already soaked in the tears of many of our citizens. Today is the day that we publicly acknowledge the shame and suffering inflicted on countless women and their children. Today should have come a long time ago.

Last October, I voted for legislation that preserved and protected the database of information and allowed it to be transferred to the control of the Minister. It also enabled publication. Without publication, this day would still be a distant hope for many people. We had no right to deny them their truth. I welcome the fact that the Government is committed to passing legislation to give easy access to information and tracing records. I welcome the commitment to establish a redress scheme. I firmly believe that all religious orders involved should join the State and church in a public apology.

The report has confirmed to us what many people already knew. It is distressing and difficult to read this catalogue of neglect. A written account creates a mental image for those who read it. It can tell us the truth about what happened during this shameful era. It can give us a glimpse into the tormented minds of those who suffered. We fervently hope it can help to heal the broken hearts of those who still carry the pain.

The Ireland of the mother and baby era was a different place to the Ireland of today. These were the times when men ruled and the role of a woman was to cater for their needs. This applied across the class divide. Disgrace and shame knew no class. The church ruled with an iron fist. A devoutly Catholic people lived by its teachings. To go against those teachings, particularly by becoming pregnant outside wedlock, was the ultimate shame. Innocence, naïveté, incest, abuse and rape were the cause of many of these girls becoming pregnant. The finger of blame did not point towards the man, but the fist of the church slammed the women. Even in homes where a daughter was loved and a family tried to protect her, the church stepped in and insisted that she be taken from her family. More commonly, rather than face the disgrace, families took their daughters to be looked after by the nuns until after the babies were born. Looking after a sick relative in England was a typical excuse for a girl suddenly vanishing. We can never fully understand what it was really like. I refer to the anguish of the family, many of whom had no idea that in hiding their shame they were walking their traumatised daughters into the hands of people who would leave them with a lifetime of sadness and emptiness. Church-run institutions funded by the Irish State would inflict months, years and, indeed, lifetimes of tragedy on these young girls. One can only imagine the terrifying confusion each of these young women felt on waking up in a place where she was scorned or referred to as fallen woman, a sinner. Such was their innocence that many did not even understand how they had become pregnant. The thought of childbirth was a mysterious terror. They were not allowed to mix with each other. Friendships were forbidden by the nuns although shared suffering drew the girls together. At night, these frightened girls lay in bed. The screams rang out along the corridor as one of them went through childbirth without a hint of mercy or even a kindly word, yet those were not the screams that haunted these women for the rest of their lives; rather, it was the unnatural, heart-rending cries of a mother who discovered that her baby was gone, gone without any warning, gone without a mother's kiss goodbye.

One of the mother and baby homes, Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, was located in my constituency, Tipperary. From the day it opened in 1930, approximately 6,000 girls and women, passed through its doors.

In its opening year, 60 of the 120 babies born there died. Approximately 800 mothers and babies died between 1930 and 1950. The report highlights the glaring absence of official records. I visited Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home after it closed. I instinctively made the sign of the cross. It is a formidable building and it struck me that it wore its sadness on its sleeve. It was cold, eerie and soulless. Its walls hold hidden stories of appalling mental abuse and neglect. While meandering through the building, it is possible to sense the pain, the grief and the sorrow of innocent victims. One is enveloped by the stark truth of a system that condemned women to be enslaved in a nightmare.

Thankfully, the present generation of politicians have faced up to the sins of the past and are prepared to acknowledge in a meaningful way the suffering endured by so many. Much work remains to be done to meet the justified expectations of those grievously wronged. The doors of these homes of shame are closed forever. The anguish of craving the comfort of a listening voice is gone. The call to have their voices heard has been answered. The hurt and injustice has been recognised and we look to a future of hope and healing.

I welcome the State apology by the Taoiseach. I also welcome the words of the Tánaiste and the Minister. These apologies have come today, but they are long overdue. I also welcome the announcement of an apology by the Sisters of Bon Secours earlier, particularly regarding the mother and baby home in my home town of Tuam. I also welcome the apology made today by the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary.

I have not yet read the full report because it is impossible to read a report like this without taking bits of it at a time. It is so horrific. I am aware, however, of some of the harrowing accounts because I know some of the people now living in our community who were babies in that home. What they have told us has always been the truth, but it is only now that it is beginning to seep in that it really is the horrible truth. I acknowledge as well the great efforts made by former Deputy and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, in her work during the previous Government. Her name has not been mentioned here today at all.

I acknowledge the work, commitment and determination of historian and local person, Catherine Corless, for her work in exposing the facts about the Tuam mother and baby home, as it was called, and in driving this process forward to this day where we now have this report from the commission. I also want to pay my respects to the residents of the mother and baby home in Tuam, as well to the neighbours living around that site who over the years have maintained it and the grave as a sacred place and a place of worship.

Today is the day for saying we are sorry, but it is also the day where we give political leadership. Individually, we must give leadership and there are several things we must do to ensure today does not pass as just a day of talking. We must pass legislation regarding access to records and that must be done immediately. We also need the creation of a national archive of institutional, adoption and other care-related records. We need the creation of a crime investigation unit and a human rights-compliant coroner's inquest. A redress scheme must be put in place; it must be simple and give direct benefit and restitution to those who suffered so much over such a long time. It cannot be something which will be dragged out and full of paperwork and bureaucracy. These people need help and they need it now. We must also ensure that each former resident of a home receives a medical card for life. I welcome what the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister have said in that regard earlier.

The partial leaking of the report last weekend was a grotesque injustice to the people who suffered so much. For somebody to try to curry favour with certain elements of the national media at the expense of the residents of these homes is despicable. We may have an investigation regarding what happened, but we also need to see action and accountability. I was talking to P.J., one of my constituents, this morning. He is a former resident and survivor of the home in Tuam. He made his witness statement to the commission but when sought records from Tusla, they could not find them. Somehow the records showed up in December, after the commission report had been concluded. P.J. asked me to ask the Minister to find out from the commission whether it had his records and, if it had, why he was not told.

We are starting today on a journey of reparation. We are all on the same road. I do not believe that any politician or anybody should be divisive on this issue. We have much work to do and we must do it fast. We must rebuild trust and help these people. I welcome the fact that the Minister brought in counselling services in advance of the publication of the report. However, most people involved with the webinar held yesterday were dissatisfied that they could not ask questions. They have many questions and they need answers. Without a shadow of a doubt, we cannot push them aside any longer.

I finish by stating that if we allow the direct provision system to continue operating in the way it is, we will end up with another commission of inquiry in 20 or 30 years' time and we will again be saying that this was how things were. We must ensure that we learn not only about the past but also that we prepare for the future and to get things right today.

I call Deputy Mattie McGrath, who is sharing time.

I am sharing time with Deputies Michael Collins and Michael Healy-Rae.

This report proves that history is a living thing, and unless we face it honestly, peace and the beginning of reconciliation will continue to evade us. I also welcome the apologies made by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister. I listened to their speeches. I also acknowledge today's apologies by the Sisters of Bon Secours and the Archbishop of Tuam and the apology yesterday from the Archbishop of Dublin. It is right well that they may apologise. I am shocked and disgusted, as are many of the survivors and their families and the supporters who stood with them in recent years to get to the truth and to get some semblance of justice.

The scurrilous and scandalous leaking of this report at the weekend to a Sunday newspaper was despicable and disgraceful. When a previous report was leaked when he was in opposition, the Taoiseach was furious. I hope he will demonstrate the same fury now in rooting out the evil person who maliciously leaked this report to the media before any of the victims could see it. It is shocking. We have too much of that going on today, with spin doctors all over the place scurrying around for bits of information and not minding how sensitive, hurtful or wrong that information is. Those are highly paid positions and the people responsible should be rooted out.

The pages of this report cry out with pain and anguish. They tell us of the treatment of women and children that no one here would accept for one minute, not one second, if it was one of our children, a daughter, or any relation. Not for one second would we accept that treatment and nor should we. However, we must accept, painfully, that compassion was often absent in the one place where it was needed most, namely the family, as well as in many of the mother and baby homes. Some good people worked in those homes, but, shamefully, many people working there lacked compassion. That was especially the case in institutions where Christianity was most needed, and that was truly lamentable and shocking. This is not to say that all families treated their daughters, children or grandchildren with such coldness and lack of compassion; they did not. The vast majority of people and families in the period covered by this report were hard-working and decent family people trying to eke out a living and educate their children.

This was post independence and post World Wars. They were very harsh times with little mechanisation or anything else on farmlands or in the country. The balanced nature of the report makes that clear.

I thank all the people who worked on the report. It is such a detailed document. I have not read it all and it would be wrong to say I had. I have only read bits of it. It is a huge job of work and has been eagerly awaited by the victims. I hope they get some solace from it, that we go forward in a properly chartered roadmap and that we have redress and reconciliation.

As I said, the vast majority of people at the time did their best. The report bears that out. However, it remains true to say that something like a conspiracy of silence existed in our communities and our nation when it came to the issues involved. That is very evident. It was a silence that produced endless grief and pain. Courage was present but so too was a willingness to look the other way. We must accept that. Blind eyes were turned all over the place. Apologies, however important they are, feel inadequate, yet they must be made.

This report is also marked by an awareness of complexity and the inability to portray one single group as the villain of the piece. The inaction of the State, the conditions in the county homes and the role the county councils and courts played in the entire sorry saga are also highlighted, and rightly so. There was fault and, in many cases, grievous fault. How can we remedy this pain? How can we bring healing and restitution to all involved? These will be important questions for us to consider. Every life is precious, every life counts and every life deserves the greatest opportunity to flourish. This did not happen for so many and for so long. We must do better or history will judge us as harshly as it has judged our predecessors, and rightly so.

It appears to be the consensus among survivors that they needed time and space to digest the findings of the report before any apology should have been given. The leaking of this report has completely undermined survivors. It was a cruel and deeply cynical move. One way or another, the report was leaked. How did it happen? Who leaked it? Who was given a copy? Surely the State could have at least done this part right but sadly the survivors have been let down yet again.

The Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, when in opposition was furious when the Scally report on the cervical cancer scandal was leaked to the media by the previous Government in 2018. He said at the time that people were fed up with spin and game playing and demanded to know who was behind the leak. Fast forward to 2021. A new highly sensitive report is produced. Micheál Martin is now Taoiseach and Head of Government and we have another leak. Many feel the report was leaked in an attempt to distract from the shambolic handling by the Government of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a cynical attempt, they feel, to control the media agenda in the lead-up to the resumption of the Dáil after the Christmas break. If so, this was disgraceful and shameful.

The 3,000-page report is the culmination of a five-year investigation, which was prompted by the discovery of a mass grave of babies and children in Tuam, County Galway. It is estimated that 9,000 children died in 18 institutions between 1922 and 1998, when the last such home closed. The infant mortality rate is said to have been double the national rate, underlining the impact of neglect, malnutrition and disease. Campaigner and human rights lawyer, Dr. Maeve O'Rourke, pointed out that nothing to date had given individuals access to their own files. This has all been an exercise in talking to the public in general terms. There are still no statutory rights and, in practice, people's rights to their own information and their family's files are being denied. We have a situation of enforced disappearance, one of the most serious violations of international law, where someone is institutionalised with the involvement of the State, following which their fate and whereabouts are not disclosed by the State to their family. That needs to be remedied by the Government. This is the type of apology these people need, rather than words that can easily be forgotten. It is time to sit up in this country, to be sincere in our apology, to take stock of the suffering of these people and to take action on the ground that the victims will know is meaningful and measured and will go in some way to ease their suffering.

I am glad to get two minutes to talk about this sorrowful saga, which has gone on for many years in our State. First, I ask, like others, who leaked the report. Was it strategy by the Government? How did it happen? Who leaked it and who was given copies of it? I welcome the State and other bodies saying they are sorry but I believe the law of the land should be applied wherever it can be in any cases that need to be remedied or sorted out. To go back only a few years, we saw how willing was the State to get involved in County Kerry with the Kerry babies case. We know what wrongs happened there, yet the Garda was used to the maximum there. The murder squad and the highest people in that force were down there at that time.

It amazes me that this saga continued until 1998. I did not know that. The Government Members voted a few weeks ago to hide and stash away details of people for 30 years. They got it in the neck, however, from people around the country and were sorry a couple of days later. Now they are trying to remedy themselves. It is a fundamental right of any person to know who he or she is, where he or she came from, who his or her parents were or as much knowledge as can be obtained. People are entitled to know that and it should not be hidden away from them anywhere.

What happened was wrong. Pregnant girls were forced into mother and baby homes and even into county homes and boys and girls were forced to go out to work as hard as they could for wealthy farmers. That was wrong and on top of that, they were not treated like human beings. Many of them were fed in the yard or the dairy or their dinner was handed out the window to them. That was wrong and I resent and reject those people who did those bad things to other people because human life is precious. Everyone has the same right to live and should be treated equally. Clearly, these people in our past were not so treated. If there are any people still wandering around from 1998 or back to 1988 that have done wrong, they should be apprehended and brought to task for it.

This document I have to hand is what the report looks like. I hold it up to show survivors because they do not have it. It is the executive summary with the recommendations and one or two other things. Not a single survivor has it. I have it since yesterday, when it was put in the pigeonholes of Deputies.

I am not sure whether the media colluded with the Government or whether it was pure ignorance on their part but in every bulletin, they said the report would be made available to survivors prior to us getting it. That has not happened. I see two female Ministers of State are present here today and I would love them to address this point. No report was ever given to the survivors. They were invited to a webinar, where they were told the Government's version and then they were invited to download 3,000 pages.

The Government has had the report since October. Members were told there was urgency to the legislation that went through the Dáil and the Government forced the legislation through. That report has sat with it since then. The three wise men running the country - in a worse moment I might refer to the three unwise men - decided to hold on to that report, to still not give it to the survivors and to stand up here today with sweet words and tell us they are apologising.

I welcome the Taoiseach's apology but I will place it in perspective. I will deal with 21 years very quickly. In 1999, we had an apology from Bertie Ahern for the treatment of 15,000 to 20,000 children in industrial schools, reformatory schools and what were called orphanages.

I am only picking some of the reports across those 21 years. That apology was followed by the Ferns report in 2005 and the Ryan report in 2009, which found that sexual abuse was endemic in industrial and reformatory schools for boys. Girls and boys suffered emotional abuse on a great scale. In 2009, we had the Murphy report; in 2011, we had the Cloyne report; and in 2013, we had the Magdalen report of an interdepartmental committee, following by a review under Mr. Justice Quirke and the establishment of an ex gratia scheme, which was subsequently found by the Ombudsman to have been maladministered. We then set up Caranua. It was appalling to name it that and call it a "new friend" when it was really the old enemy in disguise. This was followed in 2017 by a technical report on the Tuam site, since which nothing has happened.

I wish to pay tribute to a number of people. Mr. Mike Milotte published a book in 1997, entitled Banished Babies: The Secret History of Ireland's Baby Export Business, which was republished in 2012. RTÉ ran documentaries by Ms Mary Raftery, Ms Patricia Burke Brogan and Mr. Cónall Ó Fátharta.

Leading to this report was Ms Catherine Corless's discovery through painstaking work paid for by herself that there were 798 bodies. What was the response from the Sisters of Bon Secours at the time through Ms Terry Prone, the organisation's PRO? It was that not a single bone would be found and that not a single child would be found. There was a longer press release from the organisation.

This report comes almost six years since the commission was established by a Fine Gael-Labour Government in February 2015. We have waited and there have been seven interim reports, most of which were published belatedly. The sixth interim report, which dealt with the database, was not published until yesterday. I thank the Government for publishing it, but the Taoiseach has given no explanation for it not being published at the time. It refers to a document relating to Bessborough that was not included in it.

I look at this report and struggle for words, but I owe it to the survivors to find words. The Government has heaped abuse on abuse through the manner in which this subject has been addressed. It might change its approach from today with its full apology, which I welcome, and quick action in terms of a compensation scheme and proper supports. I doubt it will, but I will work with and support it in that. Forgive me for my lack of trust, but it is based on personal, family and professional experience and having taken the trouble to read each of the reports that I referred to and more besides. My trust is stretched, and if I am just a Deputy, how does the Government think the survivors who were sitting in on the webinar yesterday were left feeling when the Government's language and the language of the media told them that they had the report when they did not? The language of the patriarch and the three unwise men continues to tell women what is good for them and, indeed, the men who spent time in these homes.

Regarding this report, I will pay tribute to the survivors who came forward. Deputy Kelly mentioned a figure of more than 1,000. It has been difficult for us all to come to terms with this report quickly, but there were not 1,000. Rather, just over 500 came forward to the confidential committee and told their stories. My experience is that people who spent time in institutions rarely talk about it. A lifetime might go by and they will not talk about it. There are intergenerational consequences. When the 500 came forward to tell their stories, they did so in trust.

The story jumps off the pages - the role of the church, the priest and the county council. Indeed, the Tuam home distinguishes itself by being one of the worst in the country, and although the county council was not actively involved, the home was under its control. It was also under the control of the county manager, who took an active role. There was even a policy there whereby if the woman got pregnant a second time, she was destined for the Magdalen laundry, not the mother and baby home. Can the Taoiseach imagine that? Listen to what I am saying about the county manager being actively involved.

The women tell a story in this report of rape and sexual assault. Nearly 12% of the women in the homes were under 18 years of age. Some were as young as 12. However, the commission found that there was no evidence that they were forced by the church or the State. It is incomprehensible to draw that conclusion or the many other conclusions I have great difficulty with based on the testimonies of the women when they told their stories. The priest jumps off the page. Solicitors jump off the page. GPs who phoned the doctors and priests jump off the page. Some of the sexual abuse was carried out by family members, including cousins and uncles, and priests. All of that is set out in this report, but according to the commission's conclusions, there was no evidence of compulsion. Either we believe the women or we do not. If we do not, then we are adding to their hurt and their fear that they would not be believed. I will use my few minutes in this debate to say that I absolutely believe the survivors who have come forward despite these difficult memories. The commission tells us that there was no evidence of compulsion or forced adoption. All of the evidence given confirms there was.

I would like the Taoiseach to have dealt with this issue in a more nuanced manner in his contribution. I do not expect him to have read all of the report - none of us could have in the time allowed - but the inconsistencies in it are nothing short of shocking. The writing is unprofessional and amateurish in parts and there are inconsistencies in how people are referred to. Sometimes they are called "people", sometimes they are called "witnesses", sometimes they are called "other witnesses", sometimes they are called "a woman", sometimes they are called "a survivor". There is no consistency. If something bad was said, the narrative sought to balance it by finishing on a positive note. I find the whole narrative repulsive. What I do not find repulsive are the stories of the women, which I have read and with which I was familiar.

The spin continues as regards the way this report was undertaken. That spin came from the then Taoiseach in 2017, which the current Taoiseach is continuing with today. The then Taoiseach stated that the nuns and priests did not come in the middle of the night and take our children. They did on some occasions, but not often because what happened was far more subtle and controlled than that. The powers that be were the church, with politicians playing a subservient role. I will use the county council in Galway as an example because it jumps off the pages. It held its meetings in the home. The absence of records and the appalling mortality rate were known at the time, but the Taoiseach is saying now that we are all responsible. I am not responsible. My family is not responsible. The people I know are not responsible. Those least responsible were those put into the homes. The Taoiseach should not stand here today and expect me to listen to him with patience when he tells us that society did that. It was done by a society composed of the powerful against the powerless. As with the old distinction between public and private medicine, if someone had the money to pay and came from a middle class family, she was treated differently. She paid her way and did not spend as long in the home.

In Tuam, children stayed until they were seven years of age if they were girls and five or six if they were boys. Among many other gaps, what is absent in the report is a failure to acknowledge the importance of bonding and the implications for human interaction of those bonds being broken. There is a dismissal of how children were taken from mothers and an acceptance that adoption was much better. There are statements to that effect in the report - that children were better off being adopted than staying in mother and baby homes.

I could go on. We are being shown more leniency today, but I will not dwell and take it. I have enough said for today. I find the report's narrative disturbing. I accept the Taoiseach's apology. I would like to see it being accompanied by meaningful action, including swift redress, and learning from the debacle of the Magdalen redress scheme and Caranua.

Stop making distinctions between children who were accompanied by their mothers and children who were not. Let us accept that this was an inhuman unacceptable system. The one occasion on which the word "inhuman" is used in this report, strangely enough, is with regard to England, which took mothers and their children if they were lucky and have them. The only time the word "inhuman" is used is in connection with the Catholic charities in England that sent the mothers back to Ireland. Imagine, they were repatriated. Does the Taoiseach know what that means? Generally, it means returned. In this instance it means that they were forced to return to Ireland. The word "inhuman" is used simply on that occasion and at no other point in the report.

I hope this is the start of a truly meaningful debate and action where language means something and the Government actually listens to the people on the ground and never, ever repeats a webinar or the leaking of a report so it can control the narrative. It is simply disgraceful.

I thank Deputy Connolly. That concludes statements on the report of the commission of investigation into mother and baby homes for today. I understand it is intended to return to the matter in the near future.