Speaking in the Dail today, the Taoiseach said it is the duty of a republic “to hold itself to account, to be willing to confront hard truths and accept parts of our history which are deepy uncomfortable.”
Mothers “did nothing wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of,” Mr Martin told TDs in the National Convention Centre.
The treatment of women and children is something which was the direct result of how the State, “and we as a society acted,” he said.
“The report presents us with profound questions. We embraced a perverse religious morality and control, judgmentalism and moral certainty, but 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 part of our national history.” he told Deputies.
“And for the women and children who were treated so cruelly we must do what we can, to show our deep remorse, understanding and support.”
He then declared: “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 the fundamental dignity and rights as mothers and children who spent time in these institutions is humbly acknowledged and deeply regretted, he said.
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, Mr Martin added.
“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.”
“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 report gave survivors what they have been denied for so long: their voice, their individuality, their right to be acknowledged, he said, paying tribute to the “steady determination” of the former residents, researchers and campaigners.
“Throughout this report former residents talk of a feeling of shame for the situation they found themselves in,” Mr Martin noted.
“The shame was not theirs – it was ours,” he said.
“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 want to reassure survivors, their families and the country, that this Government is determined to act on all the recommendations of the report and to deliver the legislative change necessary to at least start to heal the wounds that endure.”