Pressure is growing on Northern Ireland to launch an investigation into the scale of abuse in its Mother and Baby Homes as the Taoiseach makes an apology on behalf of the Irish state to the survivors of the institutions in the south.
The devolved administration in Belfast will receive a preliminary report at the end of this month which will recommend whether a full investigation should be commissioned into the dozen or so Mother and Baby Homes run by Catholic religious orders in the province over much of the last century.
These homes saw unmarried mothers including rape victims institutionalised and separated from their babies, 9,000 of which are estimated to have died between 1920 and 1998.
Amnesty International and Birth Mothers for Justice, a campaign group, have called on the government to set up a full inquiry to investigate whether crimes were perpetrated in homes in Northern Ireland.
Several Northern Irish women who were committed to these institutions have told how they were the victims of physical and emotional abuse.
There have also been allegations that babies were illegally given up for adoption. In the Irish parliament on Wednesday, Michael Martin, the Taoiseach, said it was time for all arms of the Irish state to “confront the dark and shameful reality” which is detailed in the report published yesterday and “we must acknowledge it as part of our national history.”
“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. As the commission says plainly – they should not have been there.”
Mr Martin added: “I apologise for the shame and stigma which they were subjected to and which, for some, remains a burden to this day.”
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes unveiled harrowing accounts of physical and emotional abuse inflicted on roughly 56,000 unmarried mothers and 57,000 children who passed through 18 institutions.
Thousands of children were illegally given up for adoption against the wishes of their mothers.
“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.
“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 very lengthy period.”
The Taoiseach said that the report gives survivors what they have been denied for so long, “their voice, their individuality, their right to be acknowledged.”
He added that 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.
Victims of Northern Irish baby home scandal demand investigation after Taoiseach apology The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ The Telegraph.