Ireland had a 'stifling, oppressive and misogynistic culture' of stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children for decades, according to the Government.
It comes as the long-awaited final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has been published after survivors were briefed on its contents earlier.
The Taoiseach will issue a state apology tomorrow and counselling services are available to survivors.
The commission says the harsh treatment of unmarried mothers was "supported by, contributed to, and condoned by, the institutions of the State and the Churches" - but that some of the institutions offered a 'harsh refuge' when many families provided 'no refuge at all'.
It reveals there were around 56,000 unmarried mothers and 57,000 children in the mother and baby homes and country homes investigated by the Commission, mostly in the 1960s and 70s.
However, it says it's likely there were another 25,000 unmarried mothers and even more children in other homes which were not investigated.
It finds that around 9,000 children died in the institutions under investigation - or around 15% of all the children in the institutions - and describes the mortality rate among children born in several of the homes as 'appalling'.
It shows there were seven vaccine trials in the homes between 1934 and 1973 involving a number of children, with the trials not in compliance "with the relevant regulatory and ethical standards of the time".
Children's Minister Roderic O’Gorman has pledged a ‘comprehensive’ and survivor-centred response to the findings of the report.
It will included giving people access to personal information contained in the commission’s records (in line with GDPR) and creating a central repository of institutional records.
Financial, health and other supports will also be provided - including a ‘form of enhanced medical card’ for all former residents of the homes.
Minister O’Gorman said: “The Commission’s investigation reveals the truth of what happened, within the walls of Mother an Baby Homes and beyond them, to many thousands of women and children.
“Importantly, it also inscribes for posterity, those journeys, those heartbreaks, those truths in the words of those who experienced them first-hand.
“The report makes clear that for decades, Ireland had a stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture, where a pervasive stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children robbed those individuals of their agency and sometimes their future.”
He said the Government will now carefully examine the report in the weeks and months ahead in order to implement the recommendations.
However, the Coalition of Mother And Baby Home Survivors says the homes covered by the report do not offer the full picture of what happened.
They said: "Tens of thousands who were born outside the institutions investigated by this inquiry, have been excluded; particularly those who were illegally adopted.
"Every single day, illegally adopted people are giving medical professionals false, misleading and potentially lethal family medical histories.
"This Government and Commission has essentially thrown them under a bus and walked away. Equally the County Homes operated directly by the Government have been largely ignored."