A philanthropic fund to assist adopted people and natural parents to trace their relatives has been set in the wake of Oscar-nominated film Philomena.
The Philomena Project, in association with the Adoption Rights Alliance, will be launched in Dublin tomorrow by Philomena Lee and will lobby the Irish State to grant access to adoption records for both in-country and Irish-US adopted people and their families.
The Philomena Project has come about through the story of Ms Lee’s 50-year search for her son, recently brought to global attention via the Oscar-nominated film Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and based on journalist Martin Sixsmith’s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.
The project aims to provide finance, campaigning mechanisms, supports, and services to natural mothers who have been unable to or prevented from tracing children taken from them by adoption, particularly forced and illegal adoptions.
It will also assist the now adult children, particularly those taken to the US, to trace their natural mothers, fathers, and extended families, and to obtain their birth certificates and other relevant records.
Speaking about the project, Mr Lee said she had been moved by the support she has received.
"My daughter Jane and I established the Philomena Project because we’ve heard from so people who saw my story and want to help. It is my hope that this effort will help us find solutions that ensure every mother and child who want to be reunited are able to come together once again."
Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said she was honoured to be involved with such a project.
"With the launch of the Philomena Project, we can ensure Irish legislators will be held to account at home and internationally for their continued denial of the rights of at least 60,000 adopted people and an almost equal number of mothers," she said. "We will not tolerate more of their ‘deny til we die’ strategy. We want appropriate legislation now."
Human rights lawyer Maeve O’Rourke, who won pro bono lawyer of the year in Britain for her work on the Justice for Magdalenes Campaign, said the right to an identity and family relations without unlawful interference was a basic human right repeatedly denied to thousands of adopted people in Ireland.