Illegal adoptions: 'I don't have an identity now. It's like a tree falling over and the roots gone'

A Dublin woman believes her illegal adoption and the adoption of many others amounted to "child trafficking"
Illegal adoptions: 'I don't have an identity now. It's like a tree falling over and the roots gone'

The National Maternity Hospital, where Prof Eamonn de Valera Jnr arranged antenatal appointments for a woman who was not pregnant in order to facilitate an illegal adoption

A Dublin woman believes her illegal adoption and the adoption of many others amounted to "child trafficking".

An RTÉ Investigates documentary has exposed a number of disturbing revelations about Ireland’s illegal adoptions and some of the individuals who facilitated the once-common practice.

Mary Flanagan was one of those who was recently told she wasn't the biological child of the people she'd always believed were her parents.

In was October 2019 Tusla contacted her to tell her and her two siblings that they had been adopted.

"It's still surreal, I don't have an identity now. I don't know where my roots are, it's like a tree falling over and the roots are gone, that's how I feel.

“I think it is criminal that somebody has records on me, my birth, that's all I want, the time I was born, just the things that most people have," she said.

Ms Flanagan was one of a number of babies whose secret adoption was arranged by the son of a president of Ireland, Professor Eamonn de Valera Junior – a consultant gynaecologist at Holles Street National Maternity Hospital.

De Valera junior arranged antenatal appointments for a woman who was not pregnant in order to facilitate an illegal adoption. This was almost a decade after the Adoption Act 1952 came into force.

"It was child trafficking," Ms Flanagan said.

Speaking before the programme aired, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government was committed to passing "comprehensive legislation" to address the difficulties that people had in accessing their records which, he said, caused "justifiable anger and frustration".

He was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who told the Dáil that people's lives were being impacted by finding out they were "not who they thought they were".

Among those featured in the programme was Dublin woman Susan Kiernan, who learned as a child she was adopted. She spent years unsuccessfully trying to trace her birth mother, when out of the blue in 2018 she received a letter from Tusla looking to set up a meeting with her. She was told she was one of the 126 babies illegally adopted.

Among the documents seen in the programme was a demand for £85, the fee St Patrick's Guild charged pregnant women to care for their babies until adopted – the equivalent of over €3,200 in today’s money. 

But when Susan’s birth mother did not pay her fee, the Sisters of Charity went in pursuit. Two months on they threatened to send the child back to her.

The documents show a year on Susan’s birth mother was still struggling to pay the nuns and they began phoning Arnotts, where she worked as a shop assistant to get the balance of £82-10s which was still due.

"If you do not send, my collector will call to see you. She would prefer not to have to do this as it might be embarrassing for you and we want to safeguard your reputation. We have not failed you; you have failed us," the document said.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence