Mother and son sue Catholic adoption agency and State

Tressa Reeves says was given the brush off by St Patrick’s Adoption Society when she tried to trace her son


A damages claim against a Catholic Adoption agency, brought by a woman and her son who was adopted shortly after she gave birth to him in the early 1960s, has opened before the High Court.

During her search Tressa Reeves, née Donnelly from Surrey in England, was given the brush off and told that the boy she named André was placed with a family in the United States.

Despite being fobbed off for many years he had been placed with a family living in Co Carlow where he was named Patrick Farrell.

She claims the placement was not lawful and without the legal safeguards provided under the adoption laws.

After a long battle for information, she and her son Patrick Farrell from Tullow were reunited in 2013.

As a result, the mother and son have sued St Patrick’s Adoption Society, Ireland, and the Attorney General seeking damages.

They claim that the defendants made false misrepresentations concerning her son’s location and failed to provide them with information about each other that the plaintiffs were entitled to.

It is also claimed there was a failure to protect their family rights and that the son was placed with a couple, Maeve and James Farrell, whose suitability was never assessed.

Her son seeks damages and exemplary damages on grounds including that his Constitutional rights were breached.

The State, it is alleged, failed to vindicate or recognise the mother and son’s rights.

The claims are denied.

Opening the case, Éanna Mulloy SC for the mother and son, said Ms Donnelly came from a highly respectable family in England, which was very religious and had connections in Ireland.

His client became pregnant shortly before her 21st birthday. It was then arranged for her to travel to Ireland, for work experience” and she ended up at a house in Clontarf in Dublin through St Patrick’s Guild, which was run by the Sisters of Charity nuns.

Counsel said she gave birth to a boy on March 13th 1961 at the Marie Clinic in Clontarf.

She was “sternly warned,” not to touch the newborn as it would be “bad for the child” who was to be put up for adoption.

However she defied this warning, counsel said, and baptised him with holy water she had in the home in the hope that some day she would find him.

Shortly after she was taken away and signed various forms consenting to the adoption. Counsel said the form was “false.”

Counsel said the documents she signed were legal nullities and had none of the normal safeguards required. The contents of the form about the mother were fudged and lacking in detail.

Counsel said that over the years his client following her marriage and the birth of her other children made visits to Ireland in attempts to get information about her son without much success.

She was brushed off by the nuns she dealt with at the Guild, and a person who worked at the place where she gave birth to her son suggested the boy was among those infants who went to the US.

Over the years counsel said that she got very limited information from the Society, and was sent from “Billy to Jack” and told she was not entitled to information on the basis of a right to privacy that the Farrells were entitled to.

Counsel said the Farrells were never entitled to such a right to privacy and this did not trump his client’s rights.

When she did get the file she discovered the names of the family who adopted her son had been blacked out.

Counsel said that the adoption agency continued “a go slow attitude” when it came to providing information to Ms Reeves.

She was eventually reunited with her son Patrick Farrell/André Donnelly in 2013, but counsel said she was “duped and cheated, through and through”.

Counsel said his adoptive father subjected him to extreme violence, who over the years inflicted several serious injuries on him, including breaking his front teeth, and breaking his hand after he lost a handball match.

The case before Mr Justice Denis McDonald continues and is expected to last for several days.