Philomena calls for adoption reforms

Philomena Lee, whose devotion to finding her adopted son inspired a recent film, has called for a more open adoption system here to allow people access their “genetic entitlement”.

Speaking at an event to commemorate all the woman and children who passed through the gates of Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where her son Anthony is buried, the 82-year-old grandmother said Ireland needs to move to a more open adoption system similar to the UK.

“Of course I would welcome change [referring to the Goverment’s Adoption Bill],” said Ms Lee. I don’t see why the rest of the world is not like the UK. It’s not about bothering people that don’t want to be bothered it’s about getting your identity and you ould welcome that change,” said Ms Lee.

“It’s about identity but it’s also a genetic entitlement.”

Limerick-born Ms Lee. who lives in St Albans, in England, travelled to the commemorative event at Sean Ross Abbey with a number of family members, including her daughter Jane Libberton.

“I think most people who were adopted are very sensitivem” said Ms Libberton. “If I went looking for my mother and she didn’t want to know me, I would understand that and I would accept that, but at least I would know who I was and there may be aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters who do want to know.”

Speaking at the ceremony, which took place in a memorial garden dedicated to the babies and infants who died in Sean Ross Abbey, Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said Philomena’s story sets a “wonderful example for everybody in the country who would have us believe that natural parents do not want contact with their parents or that their parents do not want contact with them”.

She said the leaked details of the the government’s Adoption Bill, which is due to be published soon, “does not give us much hope”.

“It seems they are continuing to want us to believe that natural mothers are afraid of their children and don’t want any contact,” said Ms Lohan. “Phil’s story and Anthony’s story make an absolute lie of that and we must always have that at the forefront of our minds.”

After a minute’s silence, 100 white balloons representing the “innoccence and loss” of all the children who were born and died in Sean Ross Abbey were released.

In her address, Sandra Merity, senior social worker with child and family agency Tusla, urged anyone seeking records about Sean Ross Abbey to contact the adoption agency in Waterford that holds the registrar for the notorious mother and babies home that was run by the Sacred Heart nuns.


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