The treatment of unmarried mothers and their children in Mother and Baby homes, while hugely disturbing, cannot be blamed solely on those running the homes. Institutions provided refuge, albeit in a harsh environment, while families, politicians, the church and society as a whole failed these mothers and their children.
In l976 when Treoir, formerly the Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents and their Children, was founded, the legal status of children born outside of marriage was “illegitimate” and unmarried fathers did not have any legal recognition except for the purpose of “affiliation and maintenance”.
In the early days of the organisation the Information Service was used extensively by single pregnant women who were desperately in need of accommodation during their pregnancy as they could not remain at home. Often they did not have the means to support themselves in rented accommodation and generally could not cope with the stigma of being single and pregnant or an unmarried mother. Mother and Baby Homes, Family Placement and travelling to England to give birth were the options for these mothers.
For more, read Margaret Dromey’s article ‘Unmarried Parents – The Story So Far’