THE religious order that ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby home has said it is a “matter of great sorrow” that babies died under its care.
The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary issued a statement in relation to the publication of the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes saying they “want to recognise and accept that so many women who were shamed by society did not find the support and level of care they needed and deserved”.
The order said it was responding to “societal needs” when it opened the home in the 1920s. “Our thoughts 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 dilemma.
“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 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 apology by An Taoiseach 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 1940s.
“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.”