The Bishop of Achonry, Paul Dempsey has apologised to anyone treated in an undignified and demeaning manner, as highlighted in the Commission Report into Mother and Baby Homes.
In part of his statement this afternoon he writes:
“I am conscious as I write these words that I have no idea, nor can I even imagine what it must have been like for a young girl in Ireland to have become pregnant outside of marriage just a few decades ago. So many were abandoned by their families, their communities, their parishes, their priests, their Church, and the men who were responsible for their pregnancy. The loneliness, the shame, the fear, the angst, the sheer terror is beyond my comprehension. The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes Report goes to three thousand pages. It would be impossible for me to cover all the issues it raises. However, the general tenor that emerges within its pages is of a society that was cold and uncaring. We could all too easily blame “society,” but as a member of the Church, and a leader in that Church, I face the difficult reality that it was a society which was deeply influenced by the Catholic Church.
He goes on to say, the State has apologised, as have religious orders who were responsible. I too, as a Church leader, wish to apologise to all those who were treated in such an undignified and demeaning manner. However, as has been said many times, apologies can be easy, action is more challenging. I hope and pray that those who wish to find their true identity that might bring the peace they are searching for, can be given the means to do so.
As I conclude, there is one concern I wish to raise. I heard several politicians making statements this week about our past and how the poor treatment of women and children must never happen again. Related to this, over the past few years when I worked in parish, I was in regular contact with people in a Direct Provision Centre. I saw how women and children and others, were cramped into tight living spaces, lacking basic human dignity. I have been thinking about them these days. As we have been told, we cannot change the past, but we can change the present. I urge those in power, in the light of the Mother and Baby Homes Report, to focus on improving the living conditions of those in our Direct Provision Centres. I would imagine this real action to improve the lives of mothers and children today, would be a fitting tribute to those who suffered in Mother and Baby Homes in the past”.