Church leaders and religious orders offer ‘unreserved apology’ to Mother and Baby home victims, say Church and society must learn for future

Church leaders and religious orders offer ‘unreserved apology’ to Mother and Baby home victims, say Church and society must learn for future Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

Church leaders and religious orders have apologised for the “long-lasting hurt and emotional distress” survivors and all affected by the Mother and Baby homes have experienced.

The Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, welcomed the report and said in a statement we must continue “reaching out to those whose personal testimonies are central to this Report”.

He encouraged all Church leaders to read and reflect on the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which was published Tuesday, January 12.

“For the long-lasting hurt and emotional distress that has resulted, I unreservedly apologise to the survivors and to all those who are personally impacted by the realities it uncovers,” Archbishop Eamon Martin said in a statement. “I believe the Church must continue to acknowledge before the Lord and before others its part in sustaining what the Report describes as a ‘harsh … cold and uncaring atmosphere’.


“The Commission’s Report helps to further open to the light what was for many years a hidden part of our shared history and it exposes the culture of isolation, secrecy and social ostracising which faced ‘unmarried mothers’ and their children in this country,” he continued.

“Together we must ask, ‘How could this happen?’ We must identify, accept and respond to the broader issues which the Report raises about our past, present and future,” he said. “Above all we must continue to find ways of reaching out to those whose personal testimonies are central to this Report… We owe it to them to take time to study and reflect on the findings and recommendations of the Report, and commit to doing what we can to help and support them.”

The Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin told RTÉ Drivetime that those involved in the abuse “betrayed vulnerable women, they betrayed themselves and their calling and they betrayed the caring message of Jesus Christ”.

“Church-run institutions should be places where people experience the warm embrace of Jesus Christ, as particularly vulnerable people, not harshness, judgementalism and disrespect. And there’s so much of that in the story,” he continued. “Everybody who had responsibility has to stand up, admit their responsibility.”

Religious orders

A number of the religious orders who ran or were involved with the Mother and Baby homes have expressed their “deep sorrow” for their actions.

Sister Eileen O’Connor, Area Leader of the Sisters of Bon Secours Ireland who ran St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, apologised for their failure “to respect the inherent dignity of the women and children who came to the Home”.

“We failed to offer them the compassion that they so badly needed,” she said in a statement. “We were part of the system in which they suffered hardship, loneliness and terrible hurt.”

The Daughters of Charity, who staffed Pellstown/St Patricks on the Navan Road, also registered their deep regret “that we could not have done more to ease the burden and suffering carried by these women, mostly alone, as they dealt with both a major crisis in their lives and totally unjustifiable rejection”.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who ran three homes – Bessborough in Cork, Sean Ross in Roscrea, and Castlepollard, Co Westmeath – welcomed the report and said “it is a matter of great sorrow to us that babies died while under our care”.


“We sincerely regret that so many babies died particularly in regard to Bessborough in the 1940’s,” the statement continued. “We also want to recognise the dreadful suffering and loss experienced by mothers… We are distressed and saddened that it is so difficult to prove with legal certainty where many of these infants were buried especially with regard to Bessborough.”

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, who ran a home in Dunboyne, Co Meath, said in a statement that their “principal thoughts today are with women all around this country who were in one way or another pressurised to have their babies in mother and baby homes and to all those who were impacted, many by way of adoption, by the secrecy and injustice which then prevailed”.

The sisters also welcomed commission findings that “the majority of former residents who spoke to the Commission suggests that Dunboyne provided comfortable warm accommodation and the residents were well looked after physically”.

The Sisters of Mercy who had been involved with the Clare county home in Kilrush up to 1928 and at the county home at Stranorlar, Co Donegal until 1980, welcomed the Commission’s Report “as it shines a light on a very dark period in our country’s history. Our thoughts are with these women and their children today”.