Court challenges over mother and baby homes report adjourned for two weeks

Cases lodged involve claims final report does not accurately reflect evidence given

An anonymity order was not sought in the case brought by Philomena Lee, who was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby Home in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, when she became pregnant aged 18. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

An anonymity order was not sought in the case brought by Philomena Lee, who was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby Home in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, when she became pregnant aged 18. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Lawyers for seven women challenging the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes are in correspondence with the State about identifying a number of lead cases which could determine core issues in all of them, the High Court has heard.

On Tuesday, when case managing the seven separate cases, Mr Justice Garrett Simons was told by John Quinn BL, for the State respondents, there has been helpful correspondence between the sides concerning the identification of lead cases.

Alan Brady BL, for retired nurse Philomena Lee, one of the applicants, said there was consent between the sides to the cases being adjourned for two weeks.

Counsel said the time to date has been used effectively and some affidavits have been sworn. Some applicants are out of the country and other affidavits have yet to be sworn, he indicated.

Mr Justice Simons, adjourning the cases to July 27th, said he was grateful to the sides for endeavouring to agree as much as they can.

The judge previously suggested one or two ‘lead’ cases might be selected to decide core issues raised in all of them.

The cases are against the Minister for Children, the Government, Ireland and the Attorney General.

They involve claims the Commission’s final report does not accurately reflect the applicants evidence to it and breaches their rights to fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice.

The claims include that section 34 of the Commission of Investigation Act 2004 required that they, as persons unnamed but allegedly identifiable in the final report, be given the Commission’s draft report and the opportunity to make submissions on that.

It is claimed the failure to do that breaches section 34 and their fundamental rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights. Other issues concern the nature of a redress scheme and the constitutionality of provisions of the 2004 Act.

Orders preventing identification of some of the applicants have been made.

An anonymity order was not sought in the case by Philomena Lee, now aged 88 and living in England. She was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby Home in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, when she became pregnant aged 18. When her son was aged three, he was sent for adoption by a US couple. Ms Lee’s life was the subject of a book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, by Martin Sixsmith, and a film, Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench.

Her solicitor Wendy Lyon, of Abbey Law, said in an affidavit the Commission’s findings included there was “no evidence” for the opinion of some women their consent to adoption was not full, free and informed. Ms Lee’s evidence was that she was not given any time to consider a document which she was told to sign and which relinquished her rights to her son, Ms Lyon said.

The other applicants include Mari Steed, of Virginia, US, born in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home, Cork, in 1960 and adopted by an American family in 1961; and Mary Isobelle Mullaney, of Blackrock, Co Dublin, born in the Sean Ross Abbey home in March 1965.

Ms Steed claims her rights were damaged by being subject to the Quadrivax vaccine trial while in Bessborough and she was entitled to an opportunity to address the Commission’s finding there was no evidence of injury to the relevant children as a result of the vaccines.

Ms Mullaney, represented by KOD Lyons, claims the report gives an inaccurate impression she was unhappy with her adoptive parents.