"Appalling" level of infant death at Mother and Baby Homes, says report 5 months ago

"Appalling" level of infant death at Mother and Baby Homes, says report

The long-awaited report was released today.

There was an "appalling" level of infant death at the Mother and Baby Homes, a new report has found.

The Commission of Investigation has found that approximately 56,000 women and 57,000 children were admitted to the mother and baby homes in Ireland between 1922 and 1998. 9,000 children, or 15%, died in the institutions under investigation.

The report, which has been five years in the making, details the lives of women and children who lived at 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes during this period.

It is believed that the proportion of women admitted to these homes was likely the highest in the world in the 20th century.

According to the report, many of the women admitted to the homes were "destitute" having been rejected by their families or the father of their unborn babies. The women and girls ranged in age from 12 to upwards of 40 years.

Sections of the report, as published by RTÉ News, say that the only difference between these women and other women in Irish society was that they had become pregnant before or outside of marriage.

"Their lives were blighted by pregnancies outside of marriage and the responses of the father of their child, their immediate families and the wider community," it reads.

The report also states that there is no evidence to suggest that women were "forced" into mother and baby homes by the Church or State. Rather, they felt they had nowhere else to go and "the mother and baby homes gave some assurance that their secret would be protected."

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After giving birth, many women reported feeling pressured by family members or by mother and baby home staff to give their child up for adoption.

While in these homes, many women experienced emotional abuse in an atmosphere that was largely "regimented and institutional." Many women also suffered traumatic birth experiences, with many being uninformed about the process before it was happening.

Mother and baby home survivor Philomena Lee said today that she hopes the report will help others to come forward about their experience and to seek information about their children.

Lee spent over three years at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary after becoming pregnant when she was 18 years old.

She and her son Michael, who had been adopted by an American couple, had been searching for each other for years. He sadly passed away in 1995.

"A lot of other mothers suffered like I did," she told RTÉ's Radio One today. "It's given them a chance to come forward and be able to find out so much about themselves. They were never given any information at all.

"We worked in the laundry from half eight until four o'clock and then we were allowed in for an hour to play with our babies.

"I used to teach him little songs and things. Three and a half years and then just to be snatched away. They told me, 'Your son is going to be adopted'. Just like that. It was a week before Christmas."