The experience of women and children in institutions in Dundalk was laid before the Dáil last week by Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.
He was speaking during the debate on the second stage of the controversial Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill.
He outlined the ‘historic involvement of Louth County Council’ for placing women in institutions.
Deputy Ó Murchú said: ‘We all know that this State has a very long history. We had a society that was built around not giving adequate powers or protections to women and, beyond that, actually oppressing them.
‘We are at the point of redress and we all accept and support the need for a redress scheme, particularly for those who spent time in mother and baby homes’.
He said the women in these institutions were ‘absolutely failed over many years’ and had endured ‘pain heaped upon pain’. The women had been left ‘betrayed’ and ‘left to one side by the State’.
He said: ‘The fact is that a considerable number of people – I think it is in or around 24,000, probably more – now definitely feel they are getting absolutely no element of even delayed justice’.
Deputy Ó Murchú raised the two motions put into Louth County Council a number of years ago by Cllrs. Joanna Byrne and John Sheridan.
He said: ‘Denis Cahalane wrote a piece about Louth County Council’s historic responsibility or involvement in the mother and baby homes’, and he quoted from the report: ‘Women from County Louth were placed in Mother and Baby homes throughout the country. It is impossible to state accurately how many of the mothers and children in homes were from County Louth. …
‘Information on admission practice is incomplete. Women would have been referred by clergy, medical and nursing personnel, public officials or family members.
‘Many pregnancies arose from incest, statutory rape, or other exploitative situations’.
Deputy Ó Murchú said: ‘We have to accept that a huge number of women were absolutely powerless. All did nothing wrong. Many found themselves in exploitative situations because of the huge power differential that was in society. The great and the good at best did nothing to improve that set of circumstances. We are looking to address this’.
He criticised elements of the bill before the Dáil and said: ‘It is fair to say that the idea of removing from the scheme those people who were resident for less than six months in these homes just does not wash.
‘We all accept that these people went through a huge level of pain. That is before we start talking about the failures by the pharmaceutical companies and the clergy.
‘The Minister has the power to deliver what is a modicum of justice for these people, who have been too long without it. We all need him to do that’.