Order at centre of ‘Philomena’ movie denies receiving money for adoptions

Film tells story of Limerick woman whose child was adopted in US in 1955

Judi Dench, star of the movie Philomena, which tells the story of Philomena Lee. Photograph Tim P Whitby/Getty.

Judi Dench, star of the movie Philomena, which tells the story of Philomena Lee. Photograph Tim P Whitby/Getty.

Fri, Nov 1, 2013, 01:00


The congregation of nuns which ran the mother- and-baby home featured in the film Philomena has denied receiving money for babies put up for adoption.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary say no children “were sold by any mother or the congregation, to any party, nor did the congregation receive any monies in relation to adoptions while we were running the mother and baby home”.

The film, which stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and opens in cinemas today, is based on the true story of Philomena Lee from Limerick. She became pregnant at 18 and was sent to a mother-and-baby home in Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary.


Forced adoption
She was forced to give up her three-year-old son Anthony for adoption in 1955. Philomena focuses on her search to find her son, who was adopted by a couple in St Louis in the US and became Michael Hess.

He rose to the position of senior counsel in the Reagan and Bush snr administrations but died in 1995, aged 43, from an Aids-related illness.

The film, based on a book by former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith, alleges that Anthony Lee and other children were sold to US families for a “donation” of £100.


Options
The congregation ran the mother-and-baby home between 1930 and its closure in 1970. Its spokeswoman Sr Julie Rose said: “In those days, the options open to single mothers were very restricted.

“Adoption by a family who could take care of the child was often seen as the best outcome.”

The book states that Mr Hess, who is buried at the abbey, made several trips there before he died, inquiring about the whereabouts of his mother, but was told nothing.

Sr Julie said records that used to be held by the congregation “were that of the mother and up until the transfer of the records to the HSE, due to legal constraints . . . the congregation was obliged not to divulge any information held on file to children as this information was confidential to their mother.”