Irish PM says 'perverse' morality drove unwed mothers' homes

FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, Ireland's Prime Minister Micheal Martin speaks as he arrives at the European Council building in Brussels.  The Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin seems poised to make a formal apology on behalf of the Irish state, for the deaths of thousands of infants and other abuses in church-run homes for unmarried women and their babies, following inquiry findings due to be published on Tuesday Jan. 12, 2021. (John Thys/ Pool FILE via AP)
FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, Ireland's Prime Minister Micheal Martin speaks as he arrives at the European Council building in Brussels. The Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin seems poised to make a formal apology on behalf of the Irish state, for the deaths of thousands of infants and other abuses in church-run homes for unmarried women and their babies, following inquiry findings due to be published on Tuesday Jan. 12, 2021. (John Thys/ Pool FILE via AP)

LONDON – Ireland’s prime minister said Tuesday that the country must “face up to the full truth of our past,” as a long-awaited report recounted decades of harm done by church-run homes for unmarried women and their babies, where thousands of infants died.

Prime Minister Micheal Martin said young women and their children had paid a heavy price for Ireland’s “perverse religious morality” in past decades.

“We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy. Young mothers and their sons and daughters paid a terrible price for that dysfunction,” he said.

Martin said he would make a formal apology on behalf of the state in Ireland's parliament on Wednesday.

The final report of an inquiry into the mother-and-baby homes said that 9,000 children died in 18 different mother and baby homes during the 20th century. Fifteen percent of all children in the homes died, almost double the nationwide infant mortality rate, the report said. Major causes included respiratory infections and gastroenteritis, otherwise known as the stomach flu.

The report said “the very high mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time and were recorded in official publications.”

But, the document went on, "there is no evidence of public concern being expressed about conditions in mother and baby homes or about the appalling mortality among the children born in these homes, even though many of the facts were in the public domain.”

The inquiry is part of a process of reckoning in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Ireland with a history of abuses in church-run institutions, including the shunning and shaming of unwed mothers, many of whom were pressured into giving up babies for adoption.