Religious orders, HSE sued over alleged forced adoption

Woman claims four-month-old baby taken from her 45 years ago

St Patrick’s mother and baby home on the Navan Road, Dublin

St Patrick’s mother and baby home on the Navan Road, Dublin

 

A woman is suing two religious orders and the HSE over the alleged forced adoption of her four-month-old baby 45 years ago.

When she later tried to find her adopted son, she discovered in 2008 he had died at the age of 35, the High Court heard.

The woman claims, when she was aged 21 in 1968, she was raped near Howth in Dublin and became pregnant. She was sent for pre and post-natal care to St Patrick’s mother and baby home on the Navan Road, Dublin, before giving birth in a city hospital in March 1969, the High Court heard.

At that time, she had been living and working in the Magdalene Laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin, having already spent most of her life in care.

From the age of six, she said she lived in institutions which had “extremely harsh” environments and where she was physically abused, went hungry, was frightened a lot of the time and had to work hard for no money.

She was taken out of school in fifth class and sent to work in laundries and had no freedom whatsoever, it is claimed.

In July 1969, four months after the birth of her baby boy, he was taken from her and given up for adoption, she claims.

Six months later, a nun in the Magdalene Laundry told her that if she didn’t sign the adoption papers, she would be “put out on the street”. The woman claims she insisted she wanted her child returned to her.

She was only allowed to see her baby in the St Patrick’s nursery at feeding time and was not allowed to say goodbye to him, she also claims.

After the baby was adopted, she ran away from the laundry. She later married and had six more children but, after the death of her husband 12 years into their marriage, her life became quite chaotic. There were spells when her children were taken into care, she claims.

Now aged 68, the woman is suing the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul who, she claims, managed the Navan Road home; the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, who ran the Magdalene Laundry; and the HSE.

She claims damages for suffering caused by the defendants’ alleged involvement in the taking of her first born son without any, or adequate, prior consultation and/or without fully informed consent.

She also claims negligence, breach of duty, breach of constitutional rights, and fraud in the way in which the adoption was arranged in breach of the Adoption Act 1952.

The defendants deny the claims.

The Daughters of Charity asked the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, to dismiss her claim. It was argued the delay in bringing the proceedings meant various witnesses and documents are no longer available with the effect their ability to properly defend the claims has been prejudiced.

The order also argues it did not manage St Patrick’s and that institution was rather managed by the Eastern Health Board/Dublin Health Authority, predecessor of the HSE.

The adoption was arranged through St Louise’s Adoption Society which was under the control of the health authority and not the order, it is argued.

Mr Justice Kearns said he will give his decision later.

Luán Ó’Braonáin SC, for the Daughters, said his client’s capacity to defend the case was highly prejudiced by the unavailability of witnesses. This case was “monumentally old at this juncture” and there had been no explanation given for the delay, he said

Louis McEntaggart SC, for the woman, said there was a failure to observe the statutory six month period before the child was taken for adoption. A nun who was a social worker in St Patrick’s in 1969 had witnessed a “mother’s consent to adoption” document in May 1969 showing the Daughters of Charity were an integral part of the adoption process, it is claimed.