Irish Inquiry Finds 9,000 Infants Died in Homes for Unwed Mothers

Lavern Vogel

More than 9,000 infants died in homes for unmarried mothers in Ireland between the 1920s and the 1990s, many run by Catholic religious orders, a long-awaited inquiry concluded after years of campaigning from survivors and their offspring. In some years during the 1930s and 1940s, the report said, more than […]

More than 9,000 infants died in homes for unmarried mothers in Ireland between the 1920s and the 1990s, many run by Catholic religious orders, a long-awaited inquiry concluded after years of campaigning from survivors and their offspring.

In some years during the 1930s and 1940s, the report said, more than 40% of the children in the mother-and-baby homes were dying before their first birthday, high mortality rates often known to the government and local authorities.

Over the entire period of the study, about 15% of all the children who were in the 18 institutions that were investigated died in the homes, some of which were owned and run by local health authorities and others by religious orders.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin said the report described a “dark, difficult and shameful chapter of very recent Irish history” that had lasting consequences. He said the Church, state and society shared responsibility and that religious orders responsible should make a contribution to those seeking redress.

Some of the religious orders responsible for the homes issued apologies. The former Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said “the church way outstepped its role and became a controlling church,” and should apologize, in comments to RTÉ, the Irish broadcaster. He said those responsible for the abuse betrayed vulnerable women and their calling.

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