Press Statement from the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, 12.01.21
We welcome the publication of the report of The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation today and we wish to compliment Judge Yvonne Murphy and staff on this difficult, detailed and informing work.
As the report clarifies, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were invited by the local authorities to open a Mother and Baby Home in Cork in the early 1920’s, and later at Roscrea and Castlepollard. As today, we respond to the urgent and unmet societal needs in our mission throughout the world, so we responded at that time and established the three homes in Ireland.
Our thoughts today are mainly with the thousands of women who were taken, sent or driven by societal and family pressure to have their babies in secret in mother and baby homes. Some of these women have never spoken about their experience. As a consequence of the secrecy which prevailed around the adoption process, many adopted people are still seeking information. Our thoughts are with all those involved in this ongoing dilemma today.
As the report shows these homes were established so that pregnant unmarried mothers could have their babies at a remove from society and family, and at facilities other than the County Homes. Irish society demanded that many unmarried women would have their babies in secret. Some religious communities provided a service in response to these societal norms and demands, driven by the secrecy and shame which surrounded pregnancy out of wedlock.
We especially want to recognise and accept today that so many women who were shunned and shamed by society did not find the support and level of care they needed and deserved at such a dreadful and painful time in their lives.
We welcome the announcement by An Taoiseach that he will be apologising tomorrow to all those who spent time in Mother and Baby Homes. For our part, we want to sincerely apologise to those who did not get the care and support they needed and deserved.
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. We also want to recognise the dreadful suffering and loss experienced by mothers.
The burial of infants and children who died while in care has understandably become a matter of immense controversy. 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. We did everything possible including the engagement of a professional historian to assist us in our dealings with the Commission on this vitally important matter.
We also wish to recognise and place on record that many of our Sisters over the decades dedicated their lives and worked tirelessly in providing care for women and children, with limited State support in the early decades. Many women who spent time in our homes remained in contact with our sisters for decades, carrying and sharing a secret not known to anyone else. This is also a very sad aspect of a period in Irish history.
As we have just received this 3000-page report, we will now be reviewing it in greater detail.
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