Guard who became pregnant in 1980s speaks out about 'forced adoption'

A woman who says she was forced to give up her child for adoption after becoming pregnant out of wedlock in the 1980s has spoken out about her experience for the first time.

Guard who became pregnant in 1980s speaks out about 'forced adoption'

Update: 9.40pm:This evening, An Garda Síochána have formally apologised to former garda Majella Moynihan, the woman who was found in breach of discipline after becoming pregnant out of wedlock.

A statement from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris read :

On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I fully apologise to former Garda Majella Moynihan for the manner in which she was treated and the subsequent lifelong impact this had on her.

Earlier: A woman who was charged with a breach of garda discipline when she became pregnant out of wedlock in the 1980s has spoken out for the first time.

Cork-born Majella Moynihan believes she was forced to give up her child for adoption after she became pregnant while a recruit after becoming involved in a relationship with a male recruit.

Majella, speaking on the Doc On One series on RTÉ radio, recalled a meeting with her District Officer in An Garda Siochana when she was four months pregnant. At this point, the father of the child had made it clear he would not be involved in the baby's life, after Majella rejected a marriage proposal.

"I sat in his office, I told him that I was pregnant and the first question he asked me was ‘Who is the father of your child?’. And he said ‘Is he a guard?’ and I said ‘he is’ and straight away, he got out a pen and he wrote down his name," she recalled.

"And I remember asking ‘Why is it that important who he is and whether he’s a guard or not?’ I didn’t know what that meant at that time."

Majella gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but gave up the child for adoption.

"On May 31, at two minutes past five, I gave birth to a beautiful boy.

"I left the hospital on June 1, and I left my son behind," she said crying,

"The next day I went into the hospital and he was in the nursery and I asked the nurse could I hold him and she said no. I remember staring into the nursery, just wanting to grab him and run. I didn’t know where I was going to run. That pain is still like it was yesterday," she explained.

"It was the worst day of my life."

The child, David, was placed into foster care.

In September 1984, upon returning from maternity leave she was charged with two breaches of garda discipline:

  • (i) Conduct prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit on the force. That is to say that between the May 20, 1983 and September 30, 1983, you being an unmarried female member of An Garda Síochána did associate on terms of intimacy and undue familiarity with one Recruit Garda, an unmarried member of An Garda Síochána and during such period of association, you had sexual intercourse with said Recruit, as a result of which you became pregnant and gave birth to a male child at Galway Regional Hospital, Galway, on or about May 31, 1984.
  • (i) You being a female member of An Garda Síochána, did on or about the May 31, 1984 give birth to a child outside wedlock at Galway Regional Hospital, Galway, Co Galway.

Majella officially signed the papers to give up her son for adoption but feels she was forced into this decision.

She said:

To me, it was a forced adoption because I was in no state of mind to sign it.

"Looking back at me now as that 21-year-old, 22-year-old, I was a lost soul. I was portraying to the civilian out on the streets that I was a wonderful, carefree person and inside I was dying."

Majella in 1988.
Majella in 1988.

Majella spoke of the pressure that was put on her from all sides to give the child up for adoption.

"The pressure came from every angle to adopt - it came from the Gardaí, it came from Cura and it also came from the social worker."

Eventually, the Archbishop of Dublin intervened, advising the Garda Commissioner at the time that if Majella was convicted, it would encourage other female Gardaí to go to the UK for abortions. Majella was made aware that, without this intervention, she would have been sacked.

Traumatised by the loss of her child and by the treatment she had received within the Force, Majella remained a member of An Garda Síochána for a total of 15 years but, in 1998, eventually sought early retirement.

The father of Majella’s child would be fined £90 for his conduct.

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