Speaking on Irish Radio channel RTÉ, Archbishop of Armagh and the Primate of All Ireland, Dr Eamon Martin, hopes that religious congregations won’t be scapegoated for their role.
Last week, he “unreservedly” apologised for the Church’s complicity in the culture of isolation, he said that “I accept that the Church was clearly part of that culture in which people were frequently stigmatized, judged and rejected.”
“For that, and 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.”
However, over the weekend, the Archbishop of Armagh, while admitting there was “clear evidence that the day-to-day running of these institutions was very harsh”, presumably seeking to apportion collective blame, observed that they were reviewed by state inspectors.
“They were commissioned by the State and local authorities, county councils and expected to intervene when the rest of society had basically banished these mothers”, he said.
“As soon as women and children went into these places, society didn’t seem to want to know any more, be they living or dead.
“If it’s just, proportionate and if it’s in account of the findings of the commission, I do feel the church needs to do reparation for this. I accept that… we can show our apologies are sincere by being willing to contribute in any way we can”.
“We are shamed, really, to realise and think of the number of vulnerable women and their unborn children and then their infants who were stigmatised and shamed and excluded from their homes and families.
“Essentially they were banished by society with all of their rights largely ignored by everyone,” he said.
Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman who formally apologised for the state’s role in the scandal and asked the Church to contribute to whatever restorative scheme is established, has outlined 22 action points to address the problems raised in the report. He took the opportunity to tackle the objections of some of survivors and commentators about the report itself.
Speaking on Gavin Reilly’s radio show, On The Record, O’Gorman spoke of an overly legalistic approach that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation took on the subject of consent.
“Abandoned by their families” and under pressure from “local authority figures like clergy or doctors”, unmarried mothers “felt they had absolutely no choice but to accede to an adoption,” he said. The chapters of the report dealing with the personal testimony demonstrated that the consent given by unwed mothers to enter these homes was clearly “compelled”.
The report remains a point of contention in Ireland, with former President Mary McAleese describing it as a “scholarly piece of work” and Irish Independent politician Catherine Connolly saying the evidence collated was “contaminated” by “former residents who spoke to each other”.