In 1961, at the age of 20, Englishwoman Tressa Reeves became pregnant and was sent to Dublin by her parents to enable the birth to be hidden from relatives and for the child to be placed for adoption.
She baptised her son alone in a room of the Dublin nursing home she was staying in. He was placed in the care of St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. She signed consent forms which would allow for her son to be legally adopted with all proper safeguards that that would entail.
She began the search for her son in the 1970s but it was not until 1997, more than 30 years later, that she discovered the agency had allowed for her son to be illegally adopted.
The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) was made aware of Ms Reeves’ case in 2001 and at least three former children’s ministers were made aware of the case.
In response to revelations of recent days, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said the State’s responsibility, once it has evidence of an illegal registration “to a high level of certainty, is to inform the individuals concerned”.
Since 2001, Ms Reeves has repeatedly requested that this happen in the case of her son. However, all such requests were denied until November 2012, when Ms Reeves’s son was told the truth of his identity.
He was 52 when he learned that he was not the biological son of the people who had raised him. He had suffered serious physical abuse at the hands of the man who he had believed to be his father.
Both Ms Reeves and her son lodged proceedings against St Patrick’s Guild, Ireland, the attorney general, and the AAI in 2014.
They are seeking reversal of wilful or concerted wrongdoing and redress, including various declarations concerning the serious and sustained breaches of their constitutional and European human rights.
The defendants have filed full defences with complete denials of any wrongdoing and advance objections to any proceedings for “prejudice… due to the passage of time”.
This is despite the fact that Ms Reeves had consistently asked the State and St Patrick’s Guild to make her son aware of the truth of his parentage as far back as 2001.
She and her son claim that it is the collective actions of the State and St Patrick’s Guild which deliberately kept them apart between 2001 and 2012.
The case is listed for July 3 in Dublin’s High Court where it is expected to run for almost two weeks.
Cosgrave Solicitors in Navan, Co Meath, is acting for Ms Reeves and her son. They declined a request for comment.