Government must help trace removed babies, sibling urges

Daughter of woman held in Mother and Baby home is searching for half-brother

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 15:00

The Irish authorities must help the families of children who were sent to the United States for adoption to trace them, the daughter of one woman held in a Mother and Baby home in Ireland last night declared.

Helen Baker’s search for her half-brother, Oliver Cullen, began after her mother Margaret died three years ago, still missing the child taken from her a half-century before - her only memory a fading, treasured black-and-white photograph.

Last night, Baker was one of a small group to gather outside the Irish Embassy in London to demand that the Irish Government holds a proper investigation into Ireland’s Mother and Baby homes.

Margaret Cullen’s journey to Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, began in Rathvilly, Co Carlow in 1956, after she became pregnant.

“She had been the eldest of 10. Her family didn’t have any choice. The local priest told her that an example had had to be made of her,” Baker told The Irish Times.

Cullen’s resulting son, Oliver, was “taken away from her” and sent for adoption to the US when he was 4 and a half years old. “She was told never to try to track him down - that she would ruin his life if she did.”

Three years ago, her mother died, leading Baker to take up the effort to find the half-brother she has now known about for nearly two decades.

So far efforts to trace him have failed, since the Irish authorities have refused to give her any information because her mother died three years ago. “But he was my brother,” she said.

Following her time in Roscrea, Baker’s mother came to Cardiff and married quickly: “She craved stability, so that is why she did that, maybe not well. But she was happy with my stepfather.”

Her mother revealed her past when mother and daughter sat by her stepfather’s side when he was dying in hospital in 1995: “We spent a lot of time together then. She had always intended to tell me.

“I am glad that she did,” Baker commented, “but she felt that she could never try to find him because of what the nuns had drilled into her. It was just like the Philomena movie.”

After her son had been taken from her, Cullen had suffered a nervous breakdown and was treated with electric shock therapy in an Irish hospital, Baker added.

“I believed it caused her huge trauma. She lost part of her memory as a result of the treatment. All I have of my brother is a photograph of him taken by the nuns when he was about three or so.