The Children’s Minister has said the outline of the Government’s information and tracing legislation allowing survivors of mother and baby homes access to their personnel information will be published by early April.
Roderic O’Gorman also said elements of the mother and baby homes report were a “disappointment” to survivors.
He added that the failings of the State, which were repeated over many decades, had the “most horrendous” consequences for the most vulnerable in society.
He made the comments during statements in the Seanad on Tuesday on the Commission of Investigation’s mother and baby homes report.
The institutions for women who fell pregnant outside of wedlock produced high levels of infant mortality, misogyny and stigmatisation of some of society’s most vulnerable, the independent report found. It was published last week.
Mr O’Gorman said: “I know elements of this report are a disappointment to survivors. Sections where a strictly legalistic approach was taken to the profoundly personal impacts of what happened in the institutions, sections where the commission’s conclusions that it could not find evidence of what happened and where this could be interpreted as a denial of experiences of survivors.”
He added that the chapter on the confidential committee stood out as an “unambiguous” statement of the suffering of mothers and their children and as a testament to the “lived truth” of what happened in the institutions.
The Green Party TD also said it was a “clear articulation” of the repeated failings of the Church and the State.
Mr O’Gorman reiterated the Taoiseach’s apology to mothers and children on behalf of the state and said he too was “deeply sorry” for the hurt that was experienced.
“There has been a profound wrong visited upon the Irish women and their children who were placed in these institutions,” he said. “I was to restate in the strongest possible terms: They did nothing wrong”.
He said the Government would prioritise the publication of the information and tracing legislation, adding that many former residents were of an age where they needed to see immediate action.
“They deserve to see real change in their lifetime, and we as a Government must do all we can to make this happen,” he said.
“They have already waited too long for justice to be done.”
He also said he had written to religious congregations and charities seeking their engagement on the issues of apology, their own contributions to redress and the provision of institutional records.
Independent Senator Victor Boyhan, who grew up in institutional care, said there were “glaring holes” in the report.
He described what happened in the institutions as “shocking and terrible”.
“I was born in the Dublin Union in St Kevin’s which is now St James’s Hospital and I wasn’t adopted so this report leaves many glaring holes,” he said.
“We talk about mother and baby homes and children that were in homes and adopted. But what about children who weren’t adopted?”
“They went on to be in full-time residential care,” he added. “If there were horror stories in the mother and baby homes there were even greater horror stories in long term care. I speak as a man who has lived the experience.”
He told his fellow senators there were people and institutions that were excluded form the report and they should not be put any any disadvantage: “Anyone who was in care and was subject to, or should have been under some sort of supervision by the State, must get redress.”
He added that gagging orders should not be applied as it would not be “right or proper”.
Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly said it never ceased to “shock” her that the State could treat its most vulnerable with “so little humanity”.
She said: “No one could read this report and not see abuse and neglect, babies died on an unprecedented level. 9,000 deaths which was between two and four times the level of the general population.
She said some of the institutions run by the State were among the worst in the country.
“Women were incarcerated in a system that made no attempt to show kindness or to make amends for past abuses,” she told the Seanad.
“It shamed and debased them and their children.
“They were put there by a State that did not provide them with alternatives. that did not prosecute rape, did not provide them with contraceptives and that acted in a way that was deferential to a Church that used its power to abuse other.”
She added that the Government will be judged on how it responds to the report and that engagement with survivors needs to be “stepped up”.