Ireland's 'brutally misogynistic culture' saw the death of 9,000 children in mother and baby homes, report finds

A baby shoe is seen at the Tuam site in Ireland's County Galway during a 2019 vigil.

(CNN)Thousands of babies and children died in 18 of Ireland's mother and baby homes -- church-run institutions where unmarried women were sent to deliver their babies in secret, often against their will -- over eight decades, according to a landmark report.

On Tuesday, the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters -- which was set up to investigate what happened in 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes from 1922 to 1998 -- announced the 9,000 deaths as part of the final findings of its near six-year inquiry.
Around 56,000 people -- from girls as young as 12, to women in their 40s -- were sent to the 18 institutions investigated, where some 57,000 children were born, according to the report.
    One in seven of those children (15%) didn't survive long enough to leave the homes, yet no alarm was raised by the State over the high mortality rates, even though it was "known to local and national authorities" and was "recorded in official publications," the report found.
      Prior to 1960, mother and baby homes "did not save the lives of 'illegitimate' children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival," it said.
      The report called the infant mortality rates the most "disquieting feature of these institutions."
      Speaking on Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the report "opens a window onto a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland over several decades," and that the report "reveals significant failures of the state and of society."
        Martin formally apologized to the survivors of the homes on Wednesday, for the "profound generational wrong" visited upon them.
        Speaking in the Irish parliament, he said the report was a "moment for us as a society, to recognize a profound failure of empathy, understanding and basic humanity, over a very lengthy period."
        "I want to emphasize that each of you were in an institution because of the wrongs of others, each of you is blameless," Martin said, addressing the survivors.
        The report, which runs to more than 2,800 pages, was released just days after its key findings were leaked to a national newspaper -- compounding the pain and anguish of survivors who have waited years for the final report -- and who had been promised a first view of it by the Minister of Children.
        In his apology, Martin also discussed the role of conservative religion in the scandal. The Catholic Church and institutions associated with it are highly influential in Ireland.
        The Taoiseach said the most striking thing revealed in the report was the "shame felt by women who became pregnant, outside of marriage" in the country.
        "We embraced the perverse religious morality and control, judgementalism and moral certainty but shunned our daughters," Martin said.
        He added that Irish society at the time had a "completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy" for which "young mothers and their sons and daughters" were "forced to pay the price."
        Martin also said that the conservative Catholic values of the time did "not diminish the responsibility of churches and state for the failures laid bare."
        "The state's duty of care was not upheld," he said, addressing survivors. "The state failed you, mothers, and children in these homes."
        Susan Lohan, co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance and a member of a dedicated survivors group appointed to advise the government, told CNN on Tuesday that the ​leaked extracts of the report, ​seen on Sunday, show that the Irish government may seek to "trivialize" the human rights abuses that took place on a "massive scale" inside of these homes.
        Survivor Philomena Lee, who spent years searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption said in a statement on Sunday that she had "waited decades for this moment -- the moment when Ireland reveals how tens of thousands of unmarried mothers, such as I, and the tens of thousands of our beloved children, such as my dear son Anthony, were torn asunder, simply because we were unwed at the moment our children were born."
        Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, which operated as a mother and baby home from 1930 to 1970.