DERRY JOURNAL Editorial: Mother & Baby Homes Report - The shame, the blame where it belongs at last

The recently published Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes makes for harrowing reading and shows how moral corruption in the name of morality and a culture of silence was allowed to subjugate women and destroy lives.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 6:05 pm
Mother and child.... many mothers were separated from their children. (File picture)
Mother and child.... many mothers were separated from their children. (File picture)

The fact that women were shunned, locked away, had children forcibly removed from them is well documented. The fact that those same women and their children, if they survived, had to exist as outcasts and often in atrocious conditions has also been exposed, but the sheer scale of what happened here was perhaps less known and is now laid bare.

What’s tragic is that there are some people today who still take this moral high ground, who believe a married mother is somehow different to an unmarried mother; that a child born out of wedlock or being raised by a single parent is somehow different to a child born to married parents. It is a symptom and a remnant of a sickness in society that creates a social hierarchy whereby one shape must fit all. It is in fact the very antithesis of a compassionate, tolerant society and an island of equals.

The abuses perpetrated were widespread and they were institutionalised. And in homes, in parishes across this island it kept on happening. Sometimes parents did their best for their child and grandchild, helped raised them and stood up for and in front of them, but many families shunned their own daughters, perhaps in some cases through fear the rest of their family would face the wrath of a society sitting in judgement. Some would have had pressure applied to do so. There were powerful forces at play and notions of what was good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable were clearly defined and rigidly enforced.

There was some light in this dark chapter of Irish history locally and the women who ran The Castle must be commended for the humanity and compassion they showed. They were a friend to many when they needed it most. Would that others and society at large had been as kind.

In wider society today across the world, for all the changes we have seen, derogatory terms, gossip and violence are still used to try to control and denounce women. There is a duty on all of us to make sure what happened here is never allowed to happen again, and that those women and their children, including the little ones who died, are never forgotten.