Fresh calls have been issued for an inquiry into mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland following the publication of a damning report into the church-run institutions in the Republic of Ireland.
The newly released report by Ireland's Independent Mother and Baby Homes Commission found that around 9,000 children had died in the 18 institutions under investigation during what Taoiseach Micheal Martin called "a dark, difficult and shameful chapter of very recent Irish history".
Now, human rights organisation Amnesty International is calling for a separate inquiry into both Catholic and Protestant-run homes in Northern Ireland.
"Northern Ireland must now follow the Republic of Ireland and instigate a full-scale inquiry into the appalling tragic scandal of Mother and Baby Homes here," said Amnesty International's programme director, Patrick Corrigan.
Amnesty says that more than a dozen mother and baby homes existed in Northern Ireland, with the last one closing its doors in the 1990s. The group says that approximately 7,500 women and girls gave birth in the homes.
The group highlighted the story of a woman who gave birth to a baby girl in 1979 while at Marianvale home in Newry, County Down. The home was run by the Good Shepherd Sisters - a Roman Catholic order. Aged just 18, the woman said her daughter was forcibly taken away from her and put up for adoption without maternal consent.
"My baby was taken from me. She was adopted against my knowledge or agreement. I missed everything - her first walk, her first words, her first day at school," she said.
“I will never get over it. The heartache has lived with me every day since and will live with me until my dying day."
Corrigan said that the distressing findings "echo the serious concerns we have long held about how women and babies were treated in near-identical institutions in Northern Ireland".
He added: “Women in Northern Ireland have told Amnesty that they suffered arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of their babies - criminal acts in both domestic and international law.
“Meanwhile, their babies were branded as ‘illegitimate’ on birth, taken from their mothers as new-borns -- some were adopted without consent, while others were put into loveless institutions, only to face death by malnutrition and burial in mass graves."
The Northern Irish government at Stormont has commissioned research into whether or not an inquiry should be held into the homes which operated in Northern Ireland - this is set to be published by the end of January.