Hundreds of cases may follow in wake of adoption lawsuit

Thousands of people may come forward to sue the State and religious orders over forced and illegal adoptions following the settlement of a high-profile case in the High Court.

Tressa Reeves and her son Patrick Farrell settled their action over his illegal adoption 57 years ago and expressed hope that the outcome will encourage others in similar situations to take legal action against those responsible.

The Irish Examiner first revealed Mrs Reeves’ case in an exposé in 2010.

In a statement given on the steps of the Four Courts in Dublin, Tressa Reeves, standing side by side with her son Patrick Farrell, aka André Donnelly, said: “I sincerely hope the outcome of this case will have encouraged other people in similar situations to me to act as I did. Hopefully, the authorities will support and assist them”.

Following a four-day hearing, the court was told on Wednesday the parties had reached a comprehensive agreement.

Mrs Reeves (neé Donnelly) and her son Patrick, had sued the State and St Patrick’s Guild adoption society which was run by the Sisters of Charity Nuns. It arose out of her long search for him following his illegal adoption after she gave birth to him in a Dublin clinic in the 1960s.

He was placed with a family at Liscolman, Tullow, Co Carlow, and given the name Patrick Farrell by the now deceased couple, Jim and Maeve Farrell.

Mrs Reeves spent decades looking for him before they were reunited in 2013. He did not know he was illegally adopted until late in 2012.

Mrs Reeves, now living in Cornwall in England, claimed in her search, she was given the “brush off” by St Patrick’s and other others in authority when she sought to make contact with him.

She said while there have been many changes in the decades she spent searching for her son, owing to advances in technology, “things haven’t changed for the men and women and children affected by illegal adoption, some of whom don’t even know their own identity”.

She said in October 2009, when Patrick was 47, she went from Cornwall, where he eldest daughter Miranda was in a hospice suffering from terminal cancer, to Joyce House in Dublin (the Registry of Births Marriages and Deaths) to collect her son’s birth certificate.

On my return to England, I showed the birth cert to Miranda. Unfortunately, Miranda never got to meet her brother before she passed away.

At that stage, she said, she had already written to the authorities to speed up the reunion with her son but “to no avail”. Mrs Reeves also called on other people in her situation to come forward and take legal action against those responsible.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said there were potentially thousands of people in Ireland with no idea they were illegally adopted — many of whom could consider legal action once told of the truth of their identity.

I urge Minister Zappone to expedite these cases and to stop delays caused by open-ended scoping exercises, meaningless legislation and other barriers. Time is running out for elderly mothers and their middle-aged sons and daughters,” she said.

“In the last two months, Dublin has honoured Magdalene women, the Taoiseach has apologised to the LGBT community for past injustices, and Ireland is seeking a seat at the UN security council. Ireland can not pick and choose which human rights to vindicate. It’s time the human rights of families torn apart by forced and illegal adoption are recognised and vindicated.”

In May, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs revealed that 126 cases of illegal registrations had been found in the records of St Patrick’s Guild. The records were transferred to Tusla in 2016 following the closure of the agency.

The Irish Examiner also revealed that Tusla has raised concerns about a further 748 adoption cases from St Patrick’s Guild which contain evidence of names being changed, cash payments, and other “irregularities”.


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