Sisters of Bons Secours will participate in State's planned redress scheme
THE order of nuns that ran the infamous Mother and Baby Home at Tuam have apologised for the treatment of women and children at the institution and the "disrespectful and unacceptable" way infants who died were buried.
The Sisters of Bon Secours also confirmed to Independent.ie that they will participate in the Government's planned redress scheme for survivors.
The scandal of what happened in the various Mother and Baby homes around the country was revealed due to the work of historian Catherine Corless.
A Commission of Investigation was set up in the wake of her claims that up to 800 babies were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a former home in Tuam.
Sister Eileen O'Connor, the Area Leader of the Sisters of Bon Secours Ireland released a statement this morning.
The statement said: "The Commission’s report presents a history of our country in which many women and children were rejected, silenced and excluded; in which they were subjected to hardship; and in which their inherent human dignity was disrespected, in life and in death.
"Our Sisters of Bon Secours were part of this sorrowful history."
The statement says that the Bon Secours ran St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam from 1925 to 1961.
"We did not live up to our Christianity when running the Home.
"We failed to respect the inherent dignity of the women and children who came to the Home. We failed to offer them the compassion that they so badly needed.
"We were part of the system in which they suffered hardship, loneliness and terrible hurt.
"We acknowledge in particular that infants and children who died at the home were buried in a disrespectful and unacceptable way. For all that, we are deeply sorry."
The statement adds: "We offer our profound apologies to all the women and children of St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, to their families and to the people of this country."
It concludes: "Healing is not possible until what happened is acknowledged.
"We hope and we pray that healing will come to all those affected; those who are living and those who have died. We hope that we, our church and our country can learn from this history."
Ms Corless responded to the release of the statement from the Sisters of Bon Secours saying: "I was amazed really and truly.
"I couldn’t believe my ears because I didn’t expect that. I thought it would take a lot more lobbying, a lot more begging you could say."
She told RTÉ Radio's Today with Claire Byrne show that it was an "honest" and "clear" statement "that they are taking the responsibility and the onus of what they did and they have admitted that they weren’t following the proper teaching of Christ.
"And they did admit especially about the burials that they buried those babies in an indecent way – or words to that effect."
She said the statement is "a great relief" adding: "I know that it will mean quite an awful lot to the survivors who went through the home.
"That’s the one thing they had asked for, for them to say sorry.
"One man, he kept saying that ‘I want to go to the grave and tell my mother that the nuns said they were sorry for what they did to us’.
"That’s how much it meant to them and that has been my passion for the last few years for people to acknowledge and to own up to what happened."
Ms Corless said she hopes the orders of nuns that ran other Mother and Baby homes will "follow suit" adding: "that has to come first and foremost to admit that they were wrong for dishing out cruelty to these poor people."
The Commission's report was published yesterday and Taoiseach Micheál Martin is to make a State apology today.
On Tuesday, the Taoiseach said those religious orders associated with mother and baby homes should make a financial contribution to a redress scheme.
“The religious orders concerned in particular should make a financial contribution to any scheme that the Government will be developing, particularly where lands would have been sold, for example,” Mr Martin said.
There are plans for the remains of hundreds of infants buried at Tuam to be exhumed for DNA testing and possible identification.
Children Minister Roderic O'Gorman has said that he hopes the legislation allowing for this to happen will be passed by the end of the year.
The Sisters of Bons Secours are making a voluntary contribution of €2.5m towards the cost of the excavation process.
The overall costs are estimated at between €6m and €13m.
Mr O'Gorman last night announced that the Government is planned to set up a Restorative Recognition Scheme for survivors of Mother and Baby homes.
He has written to the religious congregations involved seeking a meeting to discuss whether they will make a contribution to a proposed redress scheme.
Mr O'Gorman said he a "significant contribution" from the religious organisations would be appropriate.
The Sisters of Bon Secours confirmed that they will participate in the scheme.