In a statement, Philomina Lee has said she was dismayed that portions of the final report of the investigation into Mother and Baby Homes leaked to the press “ahead of the survivors having sight of it and digesting its findings”
Some of the details of the report were published at the weekend by the Sunday Independent – including that 9,000 children died in the 18 institutions investigated. That shocking figure represents one in seven or 15% of all children born in homes studied. These deaths took place across 14 Mother and Baby Homes and four sample State-operated County Homes.
The commission report also found that since the foundation of the State in 1922 to the closure of the last such home in 1998, 56,000 mothers passed through the homes and 57,000 children were born there.
The commission was set up following claims that up to 800 babies were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a former Bon Secours home in Tuam, Co Galway. In 2017, a significant number of human remains were discovered in an excavation carried out by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.
Lee said the leakage of the report will have only added to the suffering for all involved.
“This will undoubtedly add to the heartache and trauma of those directly affected and I am concerned for the welfare of all,” Lee said. Lee was sent to Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home in Co Tipperary in 1952 when she was pregnant and her son was later adopted without her consent. Her son Anthony grew up as Michael Hess in the US and mother and son spent years attempting to find each other. Heartbreakingly, Anthony passed away in 1995 before they could be reunited.
She has continued to advocate for survivors, calling for them to be paid compensation for their “unbearable suffering and loss.”
She said the State should apologise “without reservation” – the Taoiseach is due to make a formal State apology on Wednesday – alongside this.
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“For the purposes of healing, I believe it is essential that the Irish State and various churches involved in the enslavement of unmarried mothers and the trading of their children would apologise without reservation and would compensate the many generations of families who have suffered unbearable suffering and loss.
“I can only hope that the authors of this report recognise these facts and that those of us who were detained against our wills in Mother and Baby Homes, and gave birth there, are not all of the mothers nor all of the children who have suffered, and that the tens of thousands who went through State maternity hospitals, State children’s hospitals and various private institutions suffered the same fate – the unlawful destruction of their families, through forced adoption, child trafficking, forced labour etc," she added.