In a 3000-page report published by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation setup in 2015 by the Irish government following claims that 800 children had been buried in an unmarked mass grave in a Galway Mother and Baby Home, the MBHCI found 339 infant deaths at a home for unwed mothers between 1922 and 1964.
In response, the Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, has called upon the Catholic church to offer an ‘abject apology’ to the survivors of the 14 unwed mother and children homes run by catholic congregations that were investigated by the commission.
‘There is no doubt that the church had far too much influence in that society at the time. When you impose rather than propose your high values, you will often do damage. And I believe that was the responsibility of the church’.
Closed in 1964, the Stranorlar County Home admitted 1,646 unwed mothers and 1,777 children in the preceding 42 years. The report detailed the appalling conditions that the women and children were subjected to – the overcrowding, lack of water and sanitary services – and the frequent outbreaks of typhoid as a result.
Of the 339, 60% are reported to have been caused by pneumonia or bronchitis.
‘The diet, the report reads, was dominated by bread and tea, but the Minister for Local Government determined that it was too generous and the county home was informed that residents should receive three meals a day, not four.”
The report, which looked into 18 homes, most of which run by Catholic religious congregations, (Stanorlar being one of the four state-run homes), found that 9,000 children had died across the investigated institutions between 1922 and 1998. Of the children admitted to these homes, 1 in 7 is said to have died – almost double that of the regular population.
In a statement for the Irish Bishops’ Conference about the report, Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan said:
‘While we look back at the failures in the religious institutions that existed in our country at that time, we must also cast a critical eye on the structures of today to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not replicated. The personal stories contained in the report speak powerfully and starkly to our world today. Let us not repeat the errors, failings and sins of the past which have been highlighted and, above all, let us remember and value the dignity of each human person.”