'I was told not to touch him' - Tressa Reeves recounts single night with son before illegal adoption

Tressa Reeves and her son Paddy Farrell earlier this month. Pic: Collins.

Tressa Reeves, a mother who, along with her son who was illegally adopted, has settled a High Court action against a Catholic adoption agency and the State, has said she hoped the settlement would encourage others to act.

Tressa was speaking to Joe Duffy on Liveline this afternoon and said that the authorities would support and assist them.

The High Court heard that the 79-year-old mother and her son Patrick Farrell, aka Andre Donnelly, had settled their action against St Patrick's Guild adoption society and the State.

They had sued the agency which was run by the Sisters of Charity, and the State arising out of her long search for him following his alleged illegal adoption in 1961.

Tressa Reeves with her son Patrick Farrell. Pic: Collins

Tressa recounted how it all began.

When she became pregnant in England, the nuns in the convent across the road from her home, who were friendly with Tressa's mother, arranged for her to spend six months in Dublin.

She gave birth to her son at a clinic in Dublin on March 13, 1961, when she was 20 years old. Her wider family and friends were told she was away on a food course.

"It has brought illegal adoptions to the fore and it's showing people that it is possible to get your true indentity and that the authorities are much more helpful now, and kinder and will assist them.

"Back in my day, I got a lot of doors slammed in my face."

The Government has recently announced that there are at least 126 cases like Ms Reeves' case where Tusla will have to inform people that their adoptive parents were wrongly and illegally registered on their birth certificate as their birth parents.

Tressa Reeves aged 21.

Tressa explained that in 1961 when Andre was born in Dublin, she got to spend a single night with him.

She said: "He was allowed to come into my room and he slept in a little cot at the foot of my bed and I was told not to touch him because I was not to bond with him, that was for his other mother.

"So I sat on my hands and looked at him and eventually I picked him out of the cot and I cuddled him and I baptised him Andre because I thought it was an unusual name and when I came back when he was grown up I'd find him because there wouldn't be another Andre around.

"And then in the morning, I stayed awake holding him, put him back quickly before the nurse came and she took him away and I didn't see him again for 52 years."

Days later he was placed with a family in Co. Carlow and given the name Patrick Farrell.

Before leaving for England, Tressa told Joe how she gave up her child after signing three forms in St Patrick's Guild which she thought were adoption forms.

She said: "I was signing things that they had type-written out and I didn't know you could have six months before you actually relinquished your child that you could change your mind..."

Tressa then said that if she had known the truth, she would have changed her mind.

She said: "If I had got back to England and I had thought I can go and get him, I would have made arrangements and I would have hot-footed back.

"Of course I wanted to keep him, I didn't want to give him up, of course, I wanted to keep him. I knew I couldn't because in England at the time, especially coming from my family, I couldn't look after him because I had no income and no money and there was no national assistance or anything like that, there was no benefits.

"My mother wouldn't have it, my sister actually - who was married - asked mum if she could have him and mind him until I was able to have him.

"And one of my aunties, who had suffered a few miscarriages, had said she could look after him until I was able to have him, but my mother wouldn't allow that.

"I wanted to stay there (in Dublin), I did ask the nursing home if I could stay there and go to work and then mind the baby while I went to work, but they refused.

"They said 'oh no, married women don't work in Ireland', because I was meant to be married with a little ring on, so they wouldn't let me stay.

"I was Mrs Gallagher, not Mrs Donnelly. My name was Tressa Donnelly, but I was to be Mrs Gallagher."

She then recounted what St Patrick's Guild told her when she was leaving.

Tressa said: "I wasn't to get back in touch with the organisation at all, it would be very bad for the child, I wasn't to have anything to do with it.

"I wasn't to tell any man in England that I had a baby, because nobody would marry me, because marriage was the ultimate aim for all girls in those days."

After she gave birth, she then returned to England, got married and had four children.

When she started to search for Andre in the 1970s, she then revealed what was said to her by a nun at St Patrick's Guild.

Tressa said: "I was told by the nun there that there was no file and she said 'you must have imagined it', having a baby.

"So I then went to the nursing home, it was 10 years later and the same midwife was there and she told me that he'd gone to America, there was traffic between Irish babies and America in those days and there would be no paper trail, and so I wouldn't ever find him.

"So I gave up again, but then I started again when a cousin from Sligo got in touch with me and said she'd seen a programme on television on new tracing, St Patrick's Guild was doing new tracing.

"She put me in touch with them and I phoned two or three times before I eventually got through to Sister Gabriel and she'd said there had been a fire and all the files had been burnt.

"So that's the sort of runaround I had. It wasn't until the 90s when the director there actually did help me."

She found Andre Donnelly in 2012. She explained how his adoptive parents had changed his name to Patrick Farrell.

His birth certificate was also changed making it look like his adoptive parents were his birth parents and his date of birth was also changed on the certificate.

This made it extremely difficult for Tressa to find her son. His adoptive parents have since passed away.

Until he was contacted by the Adoption Society, Andre did not know he was adopted.

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