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Watch: Irish PM apologises for 'profound generational wrong' committed at mother and baby homes

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File: Ireland's Prime Minister Micheál Martin speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.
File: Ireland's Prime Minister Micheál Martin speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.   -   Copyright  Johanna Geron, Pool via AP
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After a long-awaited report laid bare the harm done by Ireland's homes for unmarried women and their babies, Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin on Wednesday issued an apology to survivors.

Speaking on behalf of the state, he said he "deeply, deeply regretted" the wrongs that the report had exposed and that the country felt "deep remorse" for the "profound generational wrong".

"Each of you is blameless," Martin said to the victims, adding "each of you deserved so much better".

You can watch the full speech back in the video player, above.

The 3,000-page report found that 9,000 children died in 18 different mother and baby homes during the 20th century.

Fifteen per cent of all children born in the homes died, almost double the nationwide infant mortality rate.

Martin said the investigation laid bare “a deeply misogynistic culture” that meant thousands died prematurely or were faced with trauma for the rest of their lives.

Church-run homes in Ireland housed orphans, unmarried pregnant women and their babies for most of the 20th century.

"We did this to ourselves," the Irish leader added. "We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy, and young mothers and their sons and daughters were forced to pay a terrible price for that dysfunction. We embraced a perverse religious morality and control which was so damaging … All of society was complicit in it."

He also called on leaders of the Catholic church in the country to do the same on behalf of the diocese, which he said "behaved so badly".

"You don’t have Christianity in evidence here. The role of the state is complicit. It’s neglectful," Martin added of the findings in the report.

'An apology is not enough'

On the findings of the report, Martin said "an apology is not enough", adding that parliament would be "judged on the actions it took" in light of the revelations.

He promised that his government would act on all of the recommendations made in the report.

But ahead of Martin's speech, leader of the Labour Party Alan Kelly highlighted his concerns surrounding how information and tracing legislation will be dealt with to help victims and their families.

He said it was "deeply concerning" that a minister claimed it would be the end of the year before parliament would be looking at this legislation.

"Everyone deserves this legislation to be brought forward," Kelly added.

He also said that he did not think a state apology should have been issued, but rather a date should have been agreed with the survivors and institutions representing them.

Social Democrat Teachta Dála (member of the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann) for Cork South-West, Holly Cairns, flagged to the leader that Irish media had reported there were plans to build on the site of a former mother and baby home in Cork where it was expected some children had been buried.

The Taoiseach said a "dignified exhumation" should be carried out as has at other locations following an examination and "proper robust identification of the burial of all children".

He added that he had "deep concerns about construction going ahead in the absence of that".

What did the report find?

Church-run homes in Ireland housed orphans, unmarried pregnant women and their babies for most of the 20th century.

The institutions have been subject to intense public scrutiny since 2014 when historian Catherine Corless, who the Taoiseach labelled "a tireless crusader for dignity and truth", tracked down death certificates for nearly 800 children who died at the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway in western Ireland — but could only find a burial record for one child.

Investigators later found a mass grave containing remains of babies and young children in an underground sewage structure on the grounds of the home, which was run by an order of Catholic nuns and closed in 1961.

Women were often sent to the homes out of shame; as the report finds being an unmarried mother would eliminate prospects of marriage for any woman. Some pregnancies were a result of rape; some women had mental health problems, some had learning difficulties. And their lives were blighted by pregnancy outside marriage.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters was established by Government in 2015 to account for what happened to women and children in these homes during the period 1922 to 1998.