The figure is terrifying. According to Sunday Independent, 9,000 children died in eighteen establishments welcoming single mothers between 1922 and 1998. On that date, the last of them closed its doors. The infant mortality rate – which averaged 15% – is twice the national rate. It is caused by neglect, malnutrition and disease.
This is still only partial information, the subject of a leak in the press, but it shows the extent of the drama. An official 3,000-page report is due to be published very soon on these children born out of wedlock and received, with their mothers, in establishments run by Catholic congregations.
Un moment crucial
“This is a crucial moment. I’m sad it took so long to be said ”Anne Harris, one of those single mothers who is now 70, told her story in a book, told reporters. “Irish society was quite rigid and misjudged children born out of wedlock. Women were quite simply thrown into these immense institutions and hidden from the eyes of all ”.
Former (Labor) minister of social protection and born in such a house in 1949, Joan Burton also welcomed the publication of this report, an important step in her eyes to document a system on the way to be forgotten. “It will reveal, especially to the new generation, what Ireland has done in the past to women who dared to love outside of marriage”, she writes in l’Irish Independent, calling on society to “Ask why this form of brutality has been tolerated for so long”.
In addition to the insufficient care given to their children, these women were themselves confronted with the ill-treatment of the nuns: forced to work in the kitchen and cleaning and qualified as “Sinners”, of “Dirt” or from “Daughters of Satan”.
A commission of inquiry created in 2014
This report is the result of the work of a commission of inquiry set up in 2014, after the shock caused by the research of a local history enthusiast, Catherine Corless. After hearing about bones in an old sewage tank, she unearthed nearly 800 child death certificates in the archives of the Saint-Mary home of the Bon Secours sisters of Tuam (Ireland), but only the trace of two burials.
→ ARCHIVE. Irish Church in the hot seat again
The Minister for Children then announced the creation of a “Commission of inquiry endowed with full legal powers to examine all questions relating to” mother-child “houses across the country”. The previous year, a film by Stephen Frears Philomena had also helped to bring to light this scandal: the actress Judi Dench played the role – true – of a young single mother forced to abandon her son for adoption in the years 1950 and eager to find him years later.
The government apologized to survivors for the media leak on Monday, January 11. According to Guardian, it would consider compensation and legislation to help mothers and their children reunite, if they so choose.