Illegally adopted woman urges Government to conduct nationwide investigation

Theresa Hiney Tinggal was stunned to discover the truth about her past in 2002 at age of 48, and has criticised the Government for ignoring the issue for so long
Illegally adopted woman urges Government to conduct nationwide investigation

Theresa Hiney Tinggal has called for a full investigation. Picture: PA

A woman who discovered she was illegally adopted and had her birth certificate falsified has called for a full, nationwide investigation into the scandal.

Theresa Hiney Tinggal has said any inquiry must not be limited to adoptees from St Patrick’s Guild, where at least 126 births between 1946 and 1969 were incorrectly registered.

Ms Tinggal was stunned to discover the truth about her past in 2002 at age of 48, and has criticised the Government for ignoring the issue for so long.

It comes after an RTE Investigates documentary shone a fresh light on the decades-old scandal, focusing on St Patrick’s Guild, an adoption society in Dublin run by the Sisters of Charity.

“It’s nothing new. It’s not an expose, it’s confirmation of what happened. I told the government about that in 2002," Ms Tingaal said. 

“But you know, it has brought everything out in the open. I think there will be a review.

“But I do think that there can’t just be a review of St Patrick’s Guild. They need to review all the illegal adoptees, and all the other homes, especially for people like me that have evidence. I’m hoping that something positive will come out of it.

“I’ve been at it now for 19 years. I find it very, very frustrating. OK, this programme has come out now. But is it all going to die down in a few months? Will the Government forget about it?”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told his parliamentary party meeting ahead of the documentary’s airing that the adoptions were “illegal… they were wrong.”

“There will be a full and caring government response to what is revealed.

“The issue of illegal adoption is shocking. We will ensure those affected are helped and supported. It’s critical they have access to their identity. The information tracing legislation is a priority.”

Responding to those comments, Ms Tinggal said: “For information and tracing, that’s OK if you’re adopted, but for illegal adoptees where does that leave us?

“There really isn’t any information. I think for us, we need an investigation into all the private homes. That’s what needs to be investigated.”

The Taoiseach’s position appears to be at odds with the findings of the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which found “very little evidence” of forced adoption in Ireland between 1922 and 1998.

Ms Tinggal met with then minister for children Katherine Zappone back in 2016 to discuss the exclusion of illegally adopted people from the Commission, but said she felt “stonewalled” and received no answers.

“I could never get a reason from her. She wasn’t particularly interested in us, to be honest.

“It’s another smack in the face. Going over there, arranging these meetings and then to be treated like that,” she said.

At the time a spokesman for the minister said she was “happy” to meet Ms Tinggal and described the discussion as “positive and constructive”.

Ms Tinggal, 66, was born in Dublin but now lives in Bournemouth.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin told his party the Government will ensure those affected by illegal adoption will be helped and supported (Julien Behal/PA)

She said she intends to write to the Taoiseach and the current minister, Roderic O’Gorman, about the issue.

She added: “You can’t investigate St Patrick’s Guild and leave people that were illegally adopted elsewhere. Because some of those people last night were not illegally adopted from St Patrick’s Guild.

“They have to be seen to be fair, you know, otherwise this is going to go on for years and years and years.

“They need to draw a line under it now and deal with the people that want answers. Other illegal adoptees, like myself, we want answers.”

Ms Tinggal said she got “the shock of my life” when it was revealed to her for the first time by her uncle in 2002 that she had been adopted, despite the fact that her adoptive parents were named on her birth certificate.

She asked her sister about it, who she says replied: “Oh my God, who told you?”

She added: “She knew, my sister knew. Everybody knew, the whole area knew, everybody.

“That’s actually the worst thing about all of this. I actually haven’t got a problem with being adopted and my mother giving me up, because of the circumstances in the 50s, I fully understand where she was coming from. I have no issue with that.

“The worst thing for me was all the lies and deceit. With the result I actually don’t trust anybody any more, I don’t believe anything anybody tells me.”

Through Freedom of Information requests, she eventually obtained a copy of an HSE file on her adoption.

“Apparently there was a social worker looking into it and she had put on the file ‘I have not been able to find Theresa’s mother, I need direction’. Nothing was ever done,” she said.

“There was a note saying ‘remove from the file’, ‘Theresa does not know the Hiney’s are not her parents’. That prevented me from finding my mother. Why did they do that?”

She notes that her adoptive parents received a sum of £45 at time.

“All I was worth was £45. There must have been a sale on,” she remarks wryly.

Ms Tinggal has stepped back from her campaign work with The Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors in recent years, but now intends to return to it.

“I was ill about two years ago from all of this and I’ve kind of stepped back. But now, it’s got me going again. It’s the unfairness of it. People have no idea what it’s like not to have an identity and to be lied to all your life.”

She is currently working on a book, Against All Odds, about her life story and runs the website

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