Nearly a quarter of the babies born to Irish mothers and exported to the US for adoption were born at the Sean Ross Abbey, Co Tipperary, the convent at the centre of the film Philomena.
Adoption rights groups have suggested that the high rates could be for “geographic reasons”, as it was so close to Shannon airport.
Department of Foreign Affairs records show that, of the 1,962 babies sent abroad for adoption between 1950 and 1974, 1,911 went to the US and approximately 438 of these children came from Sean Ross Abbey.
The highest rate of US adoptions was from St Patrick’s Guild in Dublin, from where 515 were sent, while Sean Ross’ figures for the same period stand at 438.
It is believed that American parents paid religious orders from €1,000 to €10,000 for their babies.
Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, recounts the true story of Philomena Lee’s search for the son she was forced to put up for adoption through the Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home in 1952 when she was aged 19.
The film put Ireland’s treatment of unmarried mothers under the spotlight and saw the establishment of The Philomena Project, which will assist adopted people and natural parents to trace their relatives and lobby the State to grant access to adoption records.
Adopted people have no right to their adoption records, birth certificate, or medical records.
Information and tracing legislation for adopted people and natural parents has been promised as a priority by every government since 1997.
Ms Lee has said her experience was similar to many Irish women who were forced into giving their children up for adoption.
“They told Anthony I had left him at two weeks old, that I had abandoned him. I reared him to three- and-a-half years, he was a lovely little boy,” said Ms Lee. “But I never got any answers to anything.
“I never knew anything about him at all. It was very sad to find out he had passed away, but at last I had found him.”
Co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance, Susan Lohan, has said that the vast majority of children were taken without their mother’s consent.
Number of babies issued passports for the United States:
-St Patrick’s Guild — 515
-Sean Ross Abbey — 438
-St Patrick’s Home — 254
-St Clare’s Stramullen — 130
-Sacred Heart Convent Cork — 98
-Catholic Women’s Aid Adoption Society Cork — 37
-St Joseph’s Convent, Croom — 29
-All Protestant Adoption Societies — 24
-St Bridget’s Orphanage — 14
-Miscellaneous — 101
Figures from the report to Government on mother-and-baby Homes for the Commission of Investigation.
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