Around 56,000 people — from girls as young as 12 to women in their 40s — were sent to the 18 institutions investigated, where some 57,000 children were born, according to the report.
One in seven of those children (15%) didn’t survive long enough to leave the homes, yet no alarm was raised by the State over the high mortality rates, even though it was “known to local and national authorities” and was “recorded in official publications,” the report found.
Prior to 1960, mother and baby homes “did not save the lives of ‘illegitimate’ children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival,” it said.
The report called the infant mortality rates the most “disquieting feature of these institutions.”
Speaking on Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the report “opens a window onto a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland over several decades,” and that the report “reveals significant failures of the state and of society.”
The report, which runs to more than 2,800 pages, was released just days after its key findings were leaked to a national newspaper — compounding the pain and anguish of survivors who have waited years for the final report — and who had been promised a first view of it by the Minister of Children.
Susan Lohan, co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance and a member of a dedicated survivors group appointed to advise the government, told CNN on Tuesday that the leaked extracts of the report, seen on Sunday, shows that the Irish government may seek to “trivialize” the human rights abuses that took place on a “massive scale” inside of these homes.
During her time at the Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home, Lee said that she was “deprived” of her liberty, independence and autonomy, and was “subject to the tyranny of the nuns,” who told mothers daily that they were to atone for their sins by “working for our keep and surrendering our children to the nuns for forced adoption.”
Lee, whose story was told in an Oscar-nominated movie starring Judi Dench, added that she was “taunted” by the nuns during a difficult labor, who she says told her that the “pain was a punishment for my promiscuity.”
The commission’s final report reported that this practice was not unusual.
For many survivors and advocate groups, there is concern that the report fails to vindicate their experience.
Lohan told national broadcaster RTE that the institutions were a “form of social engineering,” and that the “state and church worked in concert to ensure that women — unmarried mothers and girls who were deemed to be a threat to the moral tone of the country” were “incarcerated behind these very high walls to ensure that they would not impact or offend public morality.”
On Tuesday, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Affairs Roderic O’Gorman said: “The report makes clear that for decades, Ireland had a stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture, where a pervasive stigmatization of unmarried mothers and their children robbed those individuals of their agency and sometimes their future.”
Survivors are expected to receive an official State apology from Martin, the Irish Prime Minister, on Wednesday.
But for many, that apology will not be enough.
Lohan told CNN that she disagrees with the planned state apology, saying that no apology should be issued until survivors have had a chance to read and digest the Commission’s findings, which could take many weeks.
She also suggested that an apology should be the first of a series of several, noting that the commission’s investigations only covered 18 institutions, while some 180 sites were part of an Irish system that facilitated child neglect, premature death, forced adoptions, enforced disappearances, enforced labor, the stripping of identities, the falsification of state documents and the forging of mothers’ consents.
The report does not appear to fully address the allegations of forced or illegal adoptions, only stating that “many allegations have been made that large sums of money were given to the institutions and agencies in Ireland that arranged foreign adoptions. Such allegations are impossible to prove and impossible to disprove.”