Independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace said women were treated badly across a range of issues, from the denial of the right to choose whether to have a termination in the Republic, to cuts in lone parent payments.
Mr Wallace warned that children were suffering now under the Direct Provision restrictions on asylum seekers and their families.
“And how do we treat our most vulnerable today?” Mr Wallace asked in the Dáil.
“Are we proud of how we export 4,000 women each year to terminate pregnancies abroad? Single mothers — are we proud of how we have treated them?
“Are we proud of how we treated our Traveller children? Have we treated them any better than the Aboriginal children in Australia?”
Dublin TD Clare Daly insisted that someone from outside the State should head the probe into the treatment of women and babies in religious-run homes in order to ensure its independence.
Ms Daly urged the move because she said the State was complicit in what had happened in endured that system.
“I think it should be conducted outside the State, fully independently, because we all know that the State was responsible for funding many of these organisations and was very happy for the Catholic Church to take our young women, hide them behind grey walls, and exploit them and their children to save society the bother of having to deal with them,” Ms Daly said during a special Dáil debate on the mother-and-baby homes.
She said the State had decades of knowledge about what had gone on in these homes, but deliberately chose to ignore it.
“I find it nauseating to hear the hand-ringing from the Taoiseach, the talk of shock,” she said. “The only shock about this is that it has taken so long to address it.”
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the State had still not dealt adequately with the survivors of the Magdalen Laundries.
“There was huge interplay between the Magdalen Laundries and the mother- and-baby homes,” said Ms McDonald. “I don’t think you can carry out anything that pretends to be a comprehensive and objective examination of those institutions without returning to the issues in the Magdalen Laundries.
“We have a chance now to get it right and there is an expectation on the part of survivors and their families that we do.”