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15.01.2021

Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation – A Statement by the Archbishops

A Joint Statement from the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin in relation to the Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation. The Most Revd John McDowell & The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson.

The Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin, Bishop of Glendalough, and Primate of Ireland, have issued the following statement in relation to the Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation:

‘The Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation sheds light on the suffering of women and children who found themselves with nowhere else to go but to these homes.  The pain and hurt experienced by the women and children in these homes has been shocking and disturbing, and their response has been courageous and inspiring.

‘We acknowledge with shame that members of the Church of Ireland were complicit, as with the rest of society at that time, in a culture of hypocrisy and judgement which stigmatised women and children and endangered their health and well–being.  We are sorry and apologise for the role that our Church played in shaping a society in which unmarried women and their children were treated in this way. They deserved much better.

‘We also want to pay tribute to those former residents of homes, and others, who have focused society’s attention on mother and baby homes.  One of the most prominent groups was associated with the Bethany Home, which operated under a general Protestant ethos while being independently managed.

‘We acknowledge the Commission’s detailed and extensive reporting and we must all feel ashamed when we consider the social pressures and judgements that drove so many women and their children into these deserts within our community. 

‘The Report seeks to understand the injustices endured, and also recognises the difficulties faced by those who ran the homes in a society that often did not want to know or to help, and in a State that did not help enough. 

‘The Commission’s recommendations on access to available information for residents in the homes deserve urgent consideration to ensure certainty in future over access to their personal records and knowledge of their identity.

‘Everyone who has read this Report and related coverage can only be moved on behalf of the women and children whose stories are told within it.  This is a sombre time for us all.’

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Origins and ownership of the Bethany Home

There has been considerable commentary on a reference in the Report that the Church of Ireland was associated with the bodies that founded the Bethany Home: the Dublin Prison Gate Mission, and the Dublin Midnight Mission.  This appears to imply a governance link, which is not factually accurate, and a correction of this is being sought from the Commission.  The Church’s research sources are being supplied to the Commission and will be supplied to the media on request; they are repeated below for transparency. 

The Church regrets the renewed confusion this has caused to former residents. The Church wishes to clarify its position regarding ownership of Bethany.

Dublin Prison Gate Mission

The Report states in Chapter 22 (para 22.1, page 1), that Dublin Prison Gate Mission, one of the bodies that founded the Bethany Home, was associated with the Church of Ireland. In fact, it is widely recorded that the Dublin Prison Gate Mission was established in 1876 by Friend Mary Edmundson, a member of the Quaker meeting, and a description of the founding and history of the project is included in the book Charitable Words: Women, Philanthropy, and the Language of Charity in Nineteenth Century Dublin by Margaret Helen Preston (p.118), Praeger Publishers, 2004.

Dublin Midnight Mission

The Mission is also claimed to have been associated with the Church of Ireland (also at Chapter 22, para 22.1, page 1).  Little is known about this charity; it raised funds locally, among Protestant communities in Dublin in the 19th Century and the early 20th Century, but was not a body connected to the Church of Ireland.  It is supposed to have its origins in a London–based gentlemen’s charity aimed at rescuing women and founded by Theophilus Smith, some aspects of which are described by Smith in a publication from 1860, entitled Statement of the origin, proceedings and results of the midnight meetings for the recovery of fallen women (5th edition), Midnight Meeting Movement, London; the publication is available at the following link: https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=cZpdAAAAcAAJ&hl=en_GB&pg=GBS.PT4 

Bethany Home was an amalgamation of the above charities. Governance documents concerning the Dublin Prison Gate Mission are with the Charities Regulatory Authority.

Irish Church Missions (ICM)

The ICM was founded as a private mission in England in March 1849 by an Anglican clergyman, the Revd Alexander Dallas, Vicar of Wonston, Hampshire.  It had an independent management – it was not run by the Church of Ireland or the Church of England – and raised much of its funding privately while viewing itself as an Anglican entity working alongside the Church on the island of Ireland.

The Report acknowledges its English origins later in Chapter 22 (paragraph 22.100, line 14, page 46) – “A member of the ICM’s general committee in London visited Ireland as a result of this case” – referring to an occasion in 1943.  The Report more casually describes the ICM as being “the Church of Ireland’s Society” (Chapter 22, para 22.11).  For the reasons above, this is factually inaccurate.

 

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