Michael D Higgins: Mother-and-baby homes a 'violation of rights'

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image captionMichael D Higgins said state and church bear "a heavy responsibility"

Irish President Michael D Higgins has described what occurred in the country's mother-and-baby homes as a "violation of fundamental rights" of Irish citizens.

The institutions housed women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

A report published on Tuesday found an "appalling level of infant mortality".

"State and Church bear a heavy responsibility for this," said Mr Higgins.

About 9,000 children died in the 18 institutions under investigation.

The Irish government said the report revealed the country had a "stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture".

Report 'not a conclusion'

Welcoming the report's publication, Mr Higgins said: "The Commission of Investigation's report reminds us of how far short Ireland fell of fulfilling the promise of our Republic, and of how, the violation of fundamental rights of our fellow citizens was condoned over an extended period of time."

media captionPJ Haverty explains what life was like for him after being born in Tuam mother-and-baby home

"My thoughts must be, as they have been so often before, of the mothers and of the infants who died; of those children who survived and who continue to carry the trauma of their early lives."

It was important to go beyond the executive summary of the report and to give "appropriate attention" to sections that contain the human and personal statements, he added.

"Those statements are such powerful revelations of a society, church, a state and their institutions that contradict the traits of any real republic built on equal rights of citizens, care, true freedom, solidarity and compassion," he said.

"Publication of this report is not a conclusion, but an indication of the further work that is required to bring to light a fuller understanding of what occurred, and why, and the need to vindicate the rights of those women and children who resided in these homes."

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe scandal became an international news story when "significant human remains" were found on the grounds of a former home in County Galway

President Higgins said there was now a responsibility to move "without delay" to the next phase.

"It is the state that is charged with safeguarding the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens, and it is the state that must bear primary responsibility for failing to provide appropriate supports for these tens of thousands of young women and their children.

"Our focus now, as a state and as a community, must be to urgently meet the needs of, and address the concerns of the survivors and their families, as they have experienced and expressed them, and do whatever is necessary to support them."

On Tuesday Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin apologised for the "profound and generational wrong" to survivors of mother-and-baby homes.

Following the report's publication, the taoiseach said it described a "dark, difficult and shameful chapter" of Irish history.

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