The head of the Catholic church in Ireland has apologised to the survivors of the mother and baby homes.
Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said the church was clearly part of a culture in which people were frequently stigmatised, judged and rejected.
He added: “For that, and for the long-lasting hurt and emotional distress that has resulted, I unreservedly apologise to the survivors and to all those who are personally impacted by the realities it uncovers.”
Ireland’s senior cleric said the church should acknowledge sustaining what the commission of investigation report described as a harsh, cold and uncaring atmosphere.
He said: “The commission’s report helps to further open to the light what was for many years a hidden part of our shared history and it exposes the culture of isolation, secrecy and social ostracising which faced ‘unmarried mothers’ and their children in this country. ”
He said witnesses had given courageous testimony.
“We must identify, accept and respond to the broader issues which the report raises about our past, present and future.
“Above all we must continue to find ways of reaching out to those whose personal testimonies are central to this report.
“They have shown determination in bringing to light this dark chapter in the life of church and society.
“We owe it to them to take time to study and reflect on the findings and recommendations of the report, and commit to doing what we can to help and support them.”
He said the rights of all survivors to access personal information about themselves should be fully respected and again urged the State to ensure that any remaining obstacles to information and tracing should be overcome.
“The commission believes that there may be people with further information about burial places who have not come forward. I appeal to anyone who can help to do so,” he said.
“All burial grounds should be identified and appropriately marked so that the deceased and their families will be recognised and never be forgotten.”
He said this report will stir many emotions as it further uncovers disturbing and painful truths about the past.
“I commend those who have fought to have this story told and I thank those who have already been supporting survivors through various organisations and providing a platform for their voices to be heard,” he said.