TD met her sister for first time just two weeks ago

Mother-and-baby home inquiry must also deal with laundries, adoption, church, says Anne Ferris

In a poignant speech to the Dáil, Labour TD Anne Ferris said that 'before that day two weeks ago, I had never laid eyes on my sister.' Ms Ferris and her sister were born in two different mother and baby homes in the 1950's.

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 01:00

A Government backbencher has spoken of her first meeting with her sister just two weeks ago.

In a poignant address to the Dáil Labour TD Anne Ferris (59) said that “before that day two weeks ago, I had never laid eyes on my sister.

“It was the first time we had ever shared a pot of tea. Each of us was adopted from a different mother and baby home into different families and eventually, we ended up living in different countries.”

She said that sitting together they looked like sisters, but did not talk like sisters. “Where other sisters in our age group have shared experiences and a shared family history, we just have had a long gap in our lives.

“I never played childhood games with this sister. I never fought with her over toys . . . She was not handed down my old clothes. We did not go to school together or to discos and nor did we fight over boys. She does not know my children and I have never met hers. We look very alike but . . . that is the only aspect of our lives that we share.”

Mixed race

Ms Ferris also referred to mixed-race children who spent their childhoods in institutions. They were not considered by the church or the State to be appropriate candidates for adoption and suffered “truly shocking” racial discrimination, physical and mental abuse.

She said many other people with similar backgrounds have not yet had their voices heard and that was why the commission on mother and baby homes “must be a broad and all-embracing inquiry”. The homes, adoption processes, Magdalene laundries, private nursing homes, county homes, church hierarchies, religious organisations and the State are part of a very large jigsaw puzzle that must be considered in its entirety, she said.

“Until this is done openly, honestly and comprehensively, the gaps in the lives of families all over the country cannot begin to be filled.”