Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

08.36 13 Jan 2021


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Historian Catherine Corless says survivors of mother and baby homes were 'very hurt' by the Taoiseach specifically blaming society in general for the way they were treated.

The long-awaited Commission of Investigation report published yesterday found there was an "appalling" level of infant mortality in the homes, while tens of thousands of women and children were shamed and stigmatised.

In the Dáil later today, the Taoiseach will apologise on behalf of the State to the survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.

Micheál Martin yesterday described the report as harrowing, and said society did this to the women and children.

Ahead of his apology, the Taoiseach said his remarks 'in no way sought to the diminish the role of the churches or indeed the State'.

However, historian and campaigner Catherine Corless - whose research played a pivotal role in uncovering the scale of the mass grave of children who died at the home in Tuam - told Newstalk Breakfast some of his comments have caused a lot of hurt.

She said an apology 'from all around' is needed - including highlighting the role of the Church and State - rather than putting so much weight on the role of society in general.

Catherine Corless: Mother and baby home survivors 'very hurt' by Taoiseach's comments

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She said: “All were complicit - we all know that.

"But he specifically pointed out society in general, and the parents and grandparents of these survivors. They were very, very hurt over that.

"They all have their own stories. They gave their own stories, like [how] it was impossible for their mothers to stay in the village because of the Church and the attitudes they created at the time.

"I'd have preferred for the Taoiseach to come out and say they were all at fault... we need an apology from all around."

'Not surprised at all'

Mrs Corless said her research and campaigning means she was not shocked by some of the findings of the report.

She said: “We know there was a massive amount of deaths. Just take Tuam alone, where there’s a huge number for one home. I wasn’t surprised at all.

“I think they’re a little bit vague still as regards the illegal adoption - I think there’s a lot of people disappointed it wasn’t gone into in a little more detail in the report."

While the Government has pledged to act on the findings of the report, Mrs Corless said the question now is when it is all going to happen.

She also said redress has never been the main issue for the survivors she has dealt with.

She said: "I’ve said it over and over again: they need an acknowledgement from the people that hurt them and put them in this situation.

"That’s first and foremost, and that hasn’t come out as yet.”

Meanwhile, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman believes the religious orders should contribute to any financial compensation for the survivors.

He told Breakfast: "The Commission's report has revealed huge failings on the part of the State and the religious institutions.

"These congregations and their members on a day-to-day basis were supposed to be looking after the women and children in these mother and baby homes.

"They'd have been directly aware, particularly in the early decades, of the incredibly high infant mortality rate."

Main image: Local historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Main image: Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

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