Tag Archives: illegal adoptions

This afternoon.

The report into the state’s role in illegal adoptions by Prof Conor O’Mahony. the Government’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, has been published.

Via Belfast Telegraph:

The report concludes that the state was aware of the practice of illegal birth registration for decades before any serious action was taken to investigate the practice and mitigate its effects.

It also found that the action taken to date falls short of remedying the violation of the right to identity for many of those affected.

The ad hoc, piecemeal and delayed reaction of the various state bodies to illegal birth registrations failed to discharge the state’s obligation to ensure accurate registration of births and to correct inaccurate registrations, and exacerbated the impact of the practice on affected individuals,” the report adds.

The report also states that the state should consider an apology to those who are affected by the practice of illegal birth registrations if it is requested.

However, apologies carry little weight unless backed by practical measures to remedy the rights violation in question,” the report continues.

“As such, the state should implement measures aimed at the identification, so far as possible, of cases of illegal birth registration, informing individuals affected and correcting the register of births.”

State aware of illegal birth registration for decades, report finds (Belfast Telegraph)


…Holly Cairns TD, Social Democrats, Social Democrats Social Justice Spokesperson, said:

“The government will no doubt claim that the Birth Information and Tracing Bill, which is currently making its way through the Oireachtas, will address many of this report’s recommendations. This is simply untrue. Over the past two weeks, I have tabled and argued for over 300 amendments, based on engagements with human rights experts and survivors. Not a single amendment has been accepted by the Minister for Children.

“Adopted people have been denied access to their personal data for decades. They are therefore highly sceptical of the government’s assurance it is acting in their best interests. Dr. O’Mahony’s report provides a clear roadmap for action that must be followed immediately.


Irish newspaper ads for children in 1960s and 1970s

This morning.

A report to be published later today on the practice of illegal adoptions in Ireland will recommend the establishment of a State inquiry.

Via RTÉ News:

The report, by Prof Conor O’Mahony. the Government’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, will also advise that those affected by illegal birth registrations should receive a State apology.

Last year, following an RTÉ investigation that examined how thousands of Irish babies were illegally adopted over several decades, the Government commissioned the report to advise on next steps.

The report, which was seen by RTÉ Investigates, concludes the State was aware of the criminal offence of illegal birth registrations for many decades. Successive governments, it finds, repeatedly failed to adequately remedy these human rights violations.

It adds that inaction has exacerbated the impact on affected individuals and denied many the opportunity to connect with biological family members.


It also calls for the Government to acquire and centralise all adoption files in one location, including files that are currently in private ownership.

This should be followed by a targeted investigation to determine the scale of illegal adoptions here and to inform those affected.

In response to Prof O’Mahony’s recommendations, RTÉ Investigates understands that the Government will concede a State apology should be forthcoming. It has also committed to a scheme of one-off payments of €3,000 to individuals affected by illegal birth registrations.

Report on illegal adoptions to recommend State inquiry (RTE)

Previously: Cherishing The Children Equally

From top: ads for children, 1960s and 1970s; Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman

This afternoon.
A review of illegal adoptions in the State has recommended against a full-scale inquiry,  Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman told cabinet colleagues this morning.

Via The Irish Times:

The sampling review is thought to have examined around 1,500 records held by the Adoption Authority of Ireland and Tusla, finding around 260 instances where there was information or so-called “markers” which raised the suspicion or prospect that an illegal adoption may have taken place.
Based on the prevalence of so called “markers” within this sample, the review estimates that between around 5,500 and up to 20,000 files may have similar indicators within the wider archives.
It is understood that while files contain material or “markers” which raised suspicions, the review didn’t find clear evidence of illegal adoptions indicated.
….the review stops short of recommending a full-scale inquiry into the issue.

Good times.

Illegal adoptions review advises against inquiry despite thousands of ‘suspicious’ files (Irish Times)


Susan Kiernan with a portrait of herself as a young girl. Susan was illegally adopted at four days old.

Last night.

RTÉ Investigates: Illegal Adoptions.

In case you missed it.

Laura Fitzgerald writes:

Dublin woman Susan Kiernan – who featured on last night’s programme – 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. She managed to sneak copies of some of her documents during the meeting but was later provided with redacted records when she went through official channels.

Among the documents seen last night 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 showed 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. The balance due was £82-10s…

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“.

However, Susan’s birth mother was unaware the letters to return her baby, were nothing more than idle threats. Because Susan could not have been returned – she had in fact already long since been placed with her adoptive parents at only four days old.

Watch back here


Last night.


This morning.

Pic: RTÉ

The President’s son: Holles Street Gynaecologist Professor Eamonn De Valera Jnr (left) arranged illegal adoptions

Staying in tonight?

RTÉ Investigates examines the story of Ireland’s illegal adoptions and some of the powerful individuals who facilitated trafficking.

Laura Fitzgerald writes:

RTÉ Investigates has uncovered new evidence of the involvement of some of Ireland’s most elite and powerful individuals in repeatedly arranging the illegal adoption of babies.

Among them was the son of a President of Ireland, Professor Eamonn de Valera Junior – a Consultant Gynaecologist at Holles St National Maternity Hospital.

[The Mail on Sunday first broke details of De Valera Jnr’s involvement in 2013]

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.

Brenda and Brian Lynch were two of four children illegally adopted into the one house over the space of five and a half years. The four adoptions were facilitated by Eamonn de Valera Jr. Their adoptions were concealed as fake pregnancies.

Brian’s adoptive mother went to St Brendan’s Nursing Home on Dublin’s Percy Place on her pretend due date, only to emerge with Brian, the child of an unmarried mother.

Fearing her children would face the stigma of adoption, their adoptive mother never told them the truth. Brenda Lynch:

No one is above the law, who does this person think that he is? That he can just decide that oh yeah here is a baby, we will take her from her and give her to a good family, middle class. It is incredible.”

The Lynch family were not the only people for whom Prof Eamonn de Valera Junior facilitated illegal adoptions.

Mary Flanagan was born in March 1961 – she never knew she had been adopted. She was told a story as a child about her much-wanted miraculous arrival. In October 2019, Mary’s life was thrown into upheaval when she and her sister Anne were told by TUSLA they and their late brother Seamus were not the biological children of the people they’d always believed to be their parents.

“Prof de Valera was mum’s gynae and he was her gynae for years because of the fact she had so many problems and she went to see him privately, it must have cost her a fortune you know and like we weren’t a wealthy family by any means.”

RTÉ Investigates: Ireland’s Illegal Adoptions at 9.35pm on RTÉ One.

Previously: The Ireland That We Dreamed Of

Pic: UCD

Staying in Wednesday?

Laura Fitzgerald writes:

RTÉ Investigates tells the story of some of the thousands of children who were illegally adopted in Ireland. How despite being alerted to the issue the authorities did little to intervene. How many decades later those children, now adults, still battle bureaucracy to find their true identities….

RTÉ Investigates: Ireland’s Illegal Adoptions on RTE One at 9.35pm on Wednesday.

Last night.

In the Dáil.

Indpendents4Change TD and Dublin MEP candidate Clare Daly brought forward a motion on Ireland’s illegal adoption practices that were facilitated through Mother and Baby Homes.

During her response, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said: “The motion before us is well-intentioned. However, responding to these events and experiences is not as straightforward as the Deputies suggest.”

Ms Daly said:

“We have had a number of discussions on the mother and baby interim reports.

In that sense, it may seem odd that we are giving our limited Private Members’ time to discuss this matter again.

We do so at the request of the shrinking survivor community and on their behalf and because there is unfinished business in this area.

The motion calls on the Government to establish an inquiry into the serious evidence which has emerged in recent times regarding the falsification of documents, birth certificates, illegal registration and other irregularities regarding adoptions and forced adoptions that took place in this State.

It is five years since the horrific story of the 800 burials in Tuam hit the headlines.

At that time, the Government promised all matters in regard to the mother and baby homes would be examined.

The then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, said that if this matter was not handled properly Ireland’s soul, like the babies of so many mothers, would lie in an unmarked grave.

Five years on, the feeling of many of the survivors is that nothing much has changed, except many of their members have died.

They feel they are being put down a cul-de-sac into a forum that they never requested, the report of which will not be published.

There needs to be a scrutiny of the illegal adoptions in particular, way beyond the limited scoping exercise to which the Minister, Deputy Zappone, has committed.

Some 45,000 adoptions were registered in Ireland since it became illegal in 1952.

At least the same number of illegal adoptions or arrangements have been made.

Under the terms of our adoption legislation, adopted people do not have access to their birth information.

To obtain that information, they must go through the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

For those who were illegally adopted, the ability to trace their identity is thwarted even further by a cover-up of the illegal practices that went on over decades, facilitated through the mother and baby homes and other institutions with the knowledge and in collusion of religious orders, hospitals, doctors and State agencies.

This is the great unfinished business of these types of scandals in our past.

When the scandal broke about the 126 irregular adoption files, there was shock and consternation but this had been well flagged since the 1930s.

It was flagged by Mike Milotte and Catriona Crowe. I put it on the record many times since 2011.

We know that altered records from Bessborough have been in the hands of the HSE since 2011.

A HSE report in 2012 warned that death certificates were falsified at Bessborough, which potentially could have facilitated adoption under the radar.

In 2013 the Adoption Authority Ireland acknowledged that it was aware of several hundred illegal registrations specific to St Patrick’s Guild.

When the commission was set up we asked that illegal adoptions be included in the terms of reference. They were not included.

This motion is again calling for them to be included because if they are not included, some of the survivors will have to take their cases to the United Nations.

This would mean that, shamefully and yet again, survivors of abuse in this country have to look abroad in order to get access to justice. Those people should get access to justice at home.

The Minister must provide an appropriate response on this issue, way beyond her countermotion, which will cause further problems for the community.

The fifth interim report indicates that there are children who are unaccounted for. We have that information, which is not a surprise.

People do not know if their family member has died or was sold on to families in the United States.

The report also makes it clear that Galway County Council not only knew about Tuam but was involved in covering it up, as the missing minutes from 1937 indicate.

That is only one part of it.

We have to be very clear that the scandal of the mother and baby homes is not limited to Tuam or the terms of reference of the commission.

Those terms of reference only include 14 homes and a sample from the county homes.

That will not get to the bottom of the illegal adoptions because approximately 300 private nursing homes were excluded from the commission.

On top of that, an unknown number of private arrangements took place in other circumstances, for example, where birth certificates were falsified by adoptive parents registering as natural birth parents and passing the baby off as their own while avoiding State involvement through the adoption process.

These cases are almost untraceable.

When the story of the 126 cases of illegal registrations broke I was contacted by a man – coincidentally, a constituent of mine – who, at the age of 38, after his parents had died, was told by a friend that he had been adopted.

In his own words, he was a married man with four children who did not have a biological identity.

He said it took him about a year to come to terms with that fact, saying that he felt that he did not exist, that he was not here and that he wondered about his birth.

He was 70 when he contacted me, and said he searched at length throughout his life to find out who he was and where he came from.

When the 126 cases of false registration emerged, he thought that perhaps he was one of those affected and it gave him an opportunity to find the answers he sought.

However, he did not get an answer.

He only got an answer when we put him in touch with Sharon Lawless, a wonderful person who has done so much work in this area, who helped him, via DNA testing, to find some answers and, happily, some other siblings, which was a tremendous story.

That may not happen for everybody and we really need, as part of the redress scheme, practical steps and support for those who need access to DNA testing.

However, the continued delays in the publication of the investigation’s finding is pushing back the possibility of a redress on an ageing population which cannot wait.

This is an incredibly time sensitive issue and it is highly regrettable that the Government has not heeded the commission’s call for redress to be put in place.

Many of the unofficial arrangements were made in the maternity wards of our public hospitals where young women were forcibly separated from their babies through intimidation, deception and collusion between the hospitals and religious orders, and indeed some adoptive parents.

We know that Cónal Ó Fátharta from The Irish Examiner has done heroic work in this area.

He recently highlighted the case of Jackie Foley, who was 16 when she gave birth in Bessborough in 1974. She signed a consent form to have her son adopted but did not sign her own name.

Instead, instructed by a nun and in the presence of a solicitor and her mother, she was forced to write a different name, that of Micheline Power, a woman who does not exist.

The documentation was deliberately falsified. She signed the paper in a false name for a child that she had already registered under his own name, Dermot Foley, but he was given the bogus name of John Power.

An adoption order issued by the State’s regulatory body, the Adoption Board, was contracted on the basis of these false identities.

Instead of acknowledging the wrong, the agencies involved did what they always do; they circled the wagons, delayed and denied.

In responses to freedom of information requests, these cases are described as “possible illegal registration”.

That is why we have consistently called for the handing over of all files and records by all of the institutions and religious orders and the introduction of appropriate legislation to allow adopted persons full access to their records.

That is the purpose of the motion before the House and the reason we called for these matters to be included in the commission before it was set up. It is also the reason we are calling for them to be included now.

The Minister’s response, which mentions a limited audit, is not appropriate. We know there will be a review of around 1,500 files. That is just 1.5% of the 100,000 files in the hands of the Adoption Authority.

The review is limited to looking for evidence of illegal registrations, not illegal adoptions. The issues around this are much broader than illegal registration and they are not currently being examined.

I note that the Minister’s amendment refers to her leadership in this matter in respect of sampling, among other things, but I have to stress that this is ignoring all of the other illegalities around this issue.

On top of that, we were promised that the audit would be released by Easter. Has the Minister received it? If not, why not? When can we expect it to be published? It will inform some of the other areas of work that have to be dealt with.

We have to examine the issue of redress as a matter of critical importance.

Members of the survivor community, some of whom have joined us in the Public Gallery, will be absolutely gutted to read the Government’s response to our motion.

The collaborative forum’s recommendations, which have been unfairly published out of context and in the absence of the full report, asked for health and well-being packages and a programme of memorialisation.

This is repeated in the Minister’s amendment but it is not declared that this will be acted upon. The amendment calls for a co-ordinated approach from Government and for an analysis to be conducted. There is no actual implementation.

Some five years on from Tuam, a health package is still at the developmental stage. How long will it take for survivors to get redress?

They are suffering from trauma and ill health because of this, yet the Minister’s response to our motion is that she will look at it.

The same thing was said five years ago. The survivor community would have hoped to have perhaps been allocated a medical card as part of a redress scheme. The issue of redress begins when these people are believed and acknowledged.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors, which represents the vast majority of survivors, has asked to meet the Taoiseach to discuss this, but so far he has refused to meet it.

Why will he not meet it to hear, from the mouths of its members, what it means not to be acknowledged, properly recognised or believed, and the effect the lack of action is having on them?

They do not need nice words but rather action to address the trauma that many of these people are experiencing.

We are calling for an urgent and comprehensive response to deal with the delays in the reports of the commission and the adoption audit, a package of basic supports for the remaining survivors to be rolled out without delay, a full audit of all the adoption files in the hands of the Adoption Authority and the illegally adopted to be included in the commission of investigation.

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Thanks Bebe

This morning.

In the Dáil.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone was asked by Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell about her department’s scoping exercise into illegal adoptions being carried out – which was announced in May.

Ms Mitchell asked Ms Zappone to outline the number of records being examined by Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland as part of her scoping exercise and the progress on it.

Ms Zappone said there are approximately 150,000 adoption records in existence and, of these, 100,000 are in possession of the State – Tusla or the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

She said the sample of adoptions being investigated has been taken from this 100,000 but she didn’t specifically state how many records are being examined.

She said issues regarding data protection and GDPR rules have arisen and so the estimated time for the independent reviewer’s report to be delivered has been extended until mid-December.

Later, Ms Mitchell, who raised the work of the Irish Examiner’s Conall Ó Fátharta on the matter, said asked Ms Zappone if she would commit to holding an investigation into all adoption records and commit to seizing records not in the State’s possession.

She added:

“Recent media reports suggested that much of this documentation has been in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for years. So, minister, I want to ask you, if this information has been in this department for years, why has it taken so long to initiate an investigation?”

Ms Zappone, in her reply said she was “deeply concerned about the issue of illegal registrations” and is in regular contact with people who have been adopted and their advocates.

She said:

“It’s true that the adoption authority has previously spoken publicly about cases on its files where it suspects there to have been an illegal registration but, so far, it has not had sufficient information on file to confirm them.

“As I said in my press statement of the 29th of May, it is examining these unconfirmed cases further, to see if any further facts can be established. But it’s really difficult to prove these cases in the absence of good records.

“If the AAI, following this validation exercise,  reaches the high level of certainty that I have spoken of, these cases will be added to the 126 that have already been confirmed and announced by me. “

Ms Zappone told Ms Mitchell that she also reads the Irish Examiner and is aware of the work of Mr Ó Fátharta and other journalists on the subject.

Watch back here

Related: Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone under fire over adoption records (Conall Ó Fátharta, August 2018)