Woman sues over alleged forced adoption in 1969

A 68-year-old woman is suing two religious orders and the HSE over the alleged forced adoption of her four-month-old baby over 40 years ago.

She says she was raped aged 21 in 1968, near Howth in Dublin, became pregnant, and was sent for pre- and post-natal care to St Patrick’s Mother and Baby home on the Navan Road, Dublin, before giving birth in March 1969, the High Court heard yesterday.

At that time, she had been living and working in the Magdalene Laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin, having already spent most of her life in care.

From the age of six, she lived in institutions which each had “extremely harsh” environments. She says she was physically abused, went hungry, was frightened a lot of the time, and had to work hard for no money. She was taken out of school in fifth class and sent to work in laundries with no freedom whatsoever, it is claimed.

Four months after the birth of her baby, in July 1969, the boy was taken away from her and given up for adoption. Six months later, a nun in the Magdalene Laundry told her if she didn’t sign the adoption papers she would be “put out on the street” although she insisted she wanted the child returned to her.

She was only allowed to see her baby in the nursery at feeding time and was not allowed to say goodbye to him, she says.

After the baby was adopted, she ran away from the laundry. She went on to marry and have six more children but following the unexpected death of her husband after 12 years, her life became quite chaotic and there were spells when her children were taken into care.

In 2008, when she began to look for her adopted son, she discovered he had died tragically at the age of 35, the court heard.

She is suing the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul who she says managed the Navan Road home, and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge who ran the Magdalene Laundry, along with the HSE.

She claims damages for suffering caused by the defendants’ involvement in the taking of her first-born son without any, or adequate, prior consultation and/or without fully informed consent. She claims negligence, breach of duty, breach of constitutional rights, and fraud in the way in which the adoption was arranged in breach of the Adoption Act 1952.

The defendants deny the claims.

The Daughters of Charity asked High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns to dismiss her claim over delay in bringing proceedings because witnesses and documents are no longer available for them to defend the case properly.

The Daughters also say they did not manage St Patrick’s but this was done by predecessor to the HSE, the Eastern Health Board/Dublin Health Authority. The adoption was arranged through St Louise’s Adoption Society which was under the control of the health authority, they say

Mr Justice Kearns said he will give his decision later.

A nun who was a social worker in St Patrick’s in 1969 witnessed a “mother’s consent to adoption” document in May 1969 showing the Daughters of Charity were an integral part of the adoption process, it is claimed.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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