About 9,000 infants died in church-run mother and baby homes in Ireland, the results of a government investigation revealed. The report, which was published on Tuesday, found that the infants who were living in church-run homes, established to cater to the needs of unmarried mothers, represent about 15% of the total infants that were raised in such establishments in the country. In total, Ireland had 18 such establishments.
The establishments existed in Ireland between 1922 and 1998, the report said, adding that most of the 56,000 unwed mothers who were in the establishments were forced there when they got pregnant out of wedlock. The report stated that it appeared that the women and their children were treated badly, especially during labor, causing the deaths of thousands of infants.
The report also stated that the Catholic nuns who ran the homes had the support of the Irish government as they received government grants and also got funding from adoptions. Stating that families of the women severely maltreated them because they got pregnant before marriage, the report added that the nuns aided and participated in the maltreatment, slapping, verbally insulting, and belittling the women while they were in labor.
Micheál Martin, the country’s Prime Minister, or Taoiseach stated on Tuesday that the country brought the situation upon itself by treating its women poorly. Martin said that every member of society is to blame for the tragedy.
According to the report, the most saddening part of the investigation was the revelation that thousands of infants died in the homes, negating the popular assumption in the 50s that the homes helped save the lives of “illegitimate” infants. The report said the homes instead substantially ensured that such infants would not survive, NBC News reports.
The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious order which owned three of the homes apologized to the women who could not get the love and assistance they needed during that point of their lives. The order stated that it was saddened that children died under its care.
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which submitted the report on Tuesday, investigated the incident for five years. The commission also examined accusations that some of the infants born in the homes were used as “guinea pigs” in medical trials for vaccines without consent from their parents. According to the report, seven medical trials carried out between 1934 and 1973, used children who were in the homes.
One of the victims told reporters that she was a resident of one of the homes in Cork, where she was used in a vaccine trial before she was adopted by a Philadelphia family in 1961. The commission stated in the report that the authorities of the home did not get the permission of the parents or that of government officials.
According to reports, being an unwed pregnant woman was almost unheard of and considered a taboo during the period. To save them from the “shame”, the women, with some being just 12 years old, were sent to the homes where they gave birth. According to reports, Martin will formally apologize to victims of the homes on Wednesday, on behalf of the country.