report findings | 

Ireland was 'cold and harsh' to women who stayed in mother and baby homes

Report will outline cruelty that residents endured, including nuns' taunting women during childbirth

People gather to protest at the site of the former Tuam home, where a mass grave of around 800 babies was uncovered (Niall Carson/PA)

Philip Ryan and Senan Molony

IRELAND was a "cold and harsh" environment for the majority of women and children who stayed in mother and baby homes, a Commission of Investigation has found.

The shocking report to be published today finds women residing in these institutions suffered serious discrimination.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation found women who gave birth outside of marriage were subjected to particularly harsh treatment.

It finds 56,000 women were sent to these institutions after 1922, all the way up to 1998 when the last home was finally closed. Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to issue a State apology to the victims and a redress scheme is also being planned.

The report will be published this afternoon but survivors and their families will have online access this morning.

The report sets out in stark detail the plight of mothers and children who passed through homes.

Cabinet will discuss the 4,000-page report this morning before it is formally published at around 3pm.

Details of the report, which were published in the Sunday Independent, showed 9,000 children died in 18 different mother and baby homes after the foundation of the State.

In total, 57,000 children were born in these institutions and one in seven died, a rate that was far above the infant mortality rate at the time.

The commission was unable to establish how many children died or where they were buried in the case of some mother and baby homes due to a lack of records.

The report contains first-hand accounts of nuns taunting women in childbirth, saying they enjoyed themselves nine months previously.

Counselling is being offered to survivors to coincide with the publication of the report due to the harrowing nature of its findings.

The report is expected to provide ground-breaking new information on the experience of women and children who lived in homes like Tuam, Bessborough in Cork, St Patrick's Pelletstown on the Navan Road in Dublin, and many others.

The five-year investigation was sparked by the discovery of a mass grave at a home in Tuam Galway which was revealed through the work of historian Catherine Corless.

Yesterday, Ms Corless suggested delaying the publication of the report so survivors could discuss its contents with the Government. Separately, Labour Party leader Alan Kelly called on the Taoiseach to postpone his State apology to allow people affected by the report read it first.

"We have seen many State apologies centre around injustices to women of Ireland in the last decade, many of these were after the victims were given the time and space needed to digest reports and recommendations made on behalf of the State," the Labour leader said.

"The report into the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes should be no different."

Meanwhile, former Tánaiste Joan Burton, who was marked for export to the USA as a baby before adopted in Ireland, called for the report to be sent straight to An Garda Síochána.

"Given the scale of deaths being mentioned of children in mother and baby homes there may be a need to refer these deaths to the gardaí for further examination," she said.

"I would have to ask: Are there full details of the 9,000 deaths and death certificates for them?

"And were they issued to the next of kin, particularly birth mothers and their families - or was there a failure to register deaths and to make arrangements for a proper burial?"

Ms Burton added that the Taoiseach's apology must be accompanied by a summary of the events and context, to "give people an opportunity to understand exactly what the Taoiseach is apologising for".

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