A Stormont-commissioned report estimated around 10,500 women entered homes here between 1922 and 1990.
However, due to incomplete records this figure may be much higher.
First Minister Arlene Foster said on Tuesday that the voices of survivors would be heard “loudly and clearly” with a new independent investigation.
The report examined eight mother-and-baby-homes, a number of former workhouses and four Magdalene Laundries. They were operated by both Catholic and Protestant churches as well as other religious organisations.
Mother-and-baby institutions housed women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage while laundries were Catholic-run workhouses that operated across the island of Ireland.
The Most Reverend Bishop Donal McKeown said that “disclosure has to be a duty, any records that are there should be made available to any inquiry”.
Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Bishop McKeown said he is “ashamed” the experiences of women in mother-and-baby-homes have not been taken more seriously in the past.
“If anyone is trying to hide records or destroy records – that is a crime – of course there is no reason why records should be withheld because people want to know who they are.
“They mightn’t like what they find out when they discover who they are, the parent may not want to know them, but people have to have access to as much information as possible.”
Judith Gillespie, who chaired the executive’s independent inter-departmental working group on the homes, said she was shocked by the age of the girls who were in these institutions.
“Many were very naïve and didn’t understand what had happened to them, didn’t receive any sex education in any circumstances.
“That’s what shocked me the most, the judgement on these girls who were victims, certainly not preparators, had no reason at all to feel shame or guilt, yet that shame or guilt was hoisted on them.”
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Reverend John McDowell, said he “acknowledged with shame that members of the Church of Ireland stigmatised women and children in a way which was very far removed from Christian principles and which resulted in an unloving, cold and judgmental attitude towards pregnant women who deserved better”.
‘The birth of a child should always be a time for happiness, and that many young women experienced it as joyless and cold is a matter for bitter regret.
“I am sorry and apologise for the role we played in treating unmarried women and their children in this way. They deserved much better.”Tags: