The southern state has just performed a comprehensive piece of social archaeology. A similar (but much less high profile) inquiry has taken place in England, where coercive adoption on moral grounds was also factor .
What’s shocking is that in Ireland 15% of all those born in the institutions did not make it out of infancy, and it had the highest proportion of unmarried mothers in the world. They were effectively hidden away and forgotten about.
In England, people like Alan Turing found to have committed a homosexual act in a public place was offered chemical castration over a prison sentence. This cold moral cruelty was widespread, leading to untold misery and worse.
In England Mother and Baby home numbers peaked in 1968, just a year after the Family Planning Act made contraceptives available across the UK. The report suggest the peak the republic was spread out between the 1960s and the early 70s
Although contraception was illegal in the Republic until 1979/80 when Charlie Haughey allowed it only for “bona fide family planning purposes”, it wasn’t until 1985 when the Fine Gael and Labour coalition finally authorised its public sale.
In this light, contraception ended the church’s coercive power over what happens in the bedroom, and particularly their misogynistic attitude to young women in their care.
Not everyone subscribed to this system, much of which was only sustainable through public donation. The sad truth is that the Irish state (and to a less extent the northern one) allowed churches to run these homes because it couldn’t afford to.
Stormont has commissioned a research report into whether there should be an inquiry which is due to be published by the end of this month…
…about 7,500 women and girls gave birth in the Northern Ireland homes, operated by both Catholic and Protestant churches and religious organisations.
In Northern Ireland, research into mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries was commissioned three years ago and was initially expected to take 12 months.
It was completed in February last year, but was then sent to those facing criticism to give them an opportunity to reply.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty