AN IRISH SCANDAL THAT TOUCHED AMERICA'S SHORES
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald
Today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin briefed survivors of the findings of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission Investigation Report. Tomorrow he is expected to issue a state apology. The homes were run by religious orders for unmarried mothers and their babies and were officially supported by the state. The report is understood to say that 9,000 infants had died in those institutions since 1922.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald weighed in saying: "I think it is therefore appropriate that the Taoiseach will make an apology to the survivors, but what is more important than the timing of any apology is the extent to which that translates into action. That apology must be matched by real concrete actions, including changes to the law, and the value of any apology will be measured by the actions taken thereafter. In the time ahead, the voices of survivors, their families and their advocates and the adopted community must be front and center."
The report is also thought to detail the living conditions of the women and babies as well as practices that saw babies sent for adoption without the informed consent of their mothers. Many of these babies ended up in the US with no knowledge of their families back in Ireland. The case of Philomena Lee was made into a film and the horror of the experiences was there for all to see.
Philomena was sent to a local orphanage along with her two sisters after her mother died when she was just six years old. She lived at the orphanage, run by the Sisters of Mercy, for 12 years.
Philomena emerged from the orphanage aged 18 and met the future father of her son. Her pregnancy was “met with horror” and she was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home “without a clue of what was in store for me”.
Philomena raised her son, Anthony in the home for three years before he was sent to the US without her knowledge or consent. They both spent years attempting to find each other but Anthony passed away before they could be reunited.
Ms. Lee has been critical of the handling of the report, which was leaked to the media before the survivors had access to a copy, and also of the continued failure of the government to support victims and provide access to information. Hopefully, tomorrow will address these issues and provide another step in readdressing this appalling chapter in how Irish society treated women and their children.