Woman claims in High Court action she was coerced at the age of 16 into adoption

A 56-year-old woman was coerced into having her baby daughter adopted nearly 40 years ago when she was just 16, it has been claimed in the High Court.

The woman is suing the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and accredited adoption agency, Cúnamh, for personal injuries and an alleged breach of constitutional rights by the adoption of her baby in 1979.

She says she became pregnant at 15 and the child was born in July 1979 in Mount Carmel Hospital, Dublin, where three days later the baby was taken from her against her will.

Her sister brought her home but her family had disowned her, it was claimed.

She says she went alone to Cúnamh, then known as the Irish Rescue and Protection Society, looking for assistance and accommodation. She was told it was an adoption service and it was too late for her to object because she had already signed the consent papers.

It is claimed that as a child herself, she was not in a position to give proper consent.

As a child, she could have been taken into care or a guardian appointed to protect her interests.

After she went home, she cried for days on end and later in 1979, she made the first of a number of suicide attempts.

She eventually coped by blocking it from her mind so that it was not real to her. In the early 1980s, she got married and had two more children.

However, she continued to suffer psychological trauma, panic attacks and sleep disturbance, it is alleged. She claims she is suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of unresolved issues around the adoption.

The court heard she is not contesting the validity of the adoption order.

The AAI and Cúnamh said she was made fully aware of her rights at the time of the adoption and given ample opportunities to reconsider before she signed the adoption consent form.

Today, the defendants asked the High Court to dismiss her case on grounds of delay in bringing the action.

Paul Gallagher SC, for the defendants, said she did not take her case until 2015 even though she became an adult in 1984 when she could have brought the case. It had not been brought within the statute of limitations and it was not suggested she was not capable of making a decision to take a case as an adult.

Personal injury claims must be brought within two years from the date of knowledge of the reason for the cause of legal action.

The defendants say the lapse of time has meant you could no longer have a fair trial as a number of critical witnesses to the adoption were either dead or no longer available. Those witnesses include AAI staff, a clinical psychologist and the judge who signed the adoption order.

Ciarán Lawlor BL, for the woman, said the statute of limitations did not apply from the date of her becoming an adult because the woman was effectively not of sound mind as a result of her age and the trauma she suffered.

In relation to delay, counsel said a letter was sent to the AAI in 1989 claiming it was an enforced adoption and that meant the defendant was aware from back then that she might have a claim and should have looked into it.

Her trauma was reopened in more recent years as a result of a lot of coverage of the topic of enforced adoptions.

Counsel also said there were a number of witnesses still available and his side was not made aware of what efforts had been made to contact them.

Mr Justice Garreth Simons said he would give his decision later.

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