State objects to ‘wide-ranging fishing expedition’ for adoption documents

Order claims documents essential in illegal adoption case brought by 100 year-old woman

Nessa Cahill SC said St Patrick’s Guild had handed over all of its records to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency in 2016, and her client has no means of accessing these.

Nessa Cahill SC said St Patrick’s Guild had handed over all of its records to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency in 2016, and her client has no means of accessing these.

 

The State has argued before the High Court that it should not be obliged to conduct a “wide-ranging fishing expedition” in order to provide documents relating to all alleged illegal adoptions carried out by St Patrick’s Guild over a 10-year period.

The State has agreed, albeit “late in the day”, to provide all relevant information so the surviving representative of the Religious Sisters of Charity, which ran the St Patrick’s Guild adoption service, can form a meaningful defence in the particular case being considered, said Fred Gilligan, representing the State.

This includes all data, documentation and information relating to the plaintiff’s birth, alleged illegal adoption and other information passing between it and Tusla as set out in the statement of claim.

The discovery motion against the State was brought by another defendant – a representative of the Religious Sisters – in the action initiated by a woman who claims she was illegally adopted in the middle of the 20th century.

The woman’s case is against St Patrick’s Guild (in voluntary liquidation), four former representatives of the Religious Sisters of Charity, with an address at Gilford Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4, Ireland and the Attorney General.

She is seeking damages for, among other things, actionable conspiracy, deceit and intentional infringement of her constitutional rights.

The woman also seeks court declarations that the State and the Attorney General failed to vindicate her rights as a child, and an adult, to the society of her true family members.

Wider disclosure

The State was objecting on Friday to wider disclosure of documentation it held across multiple Government departments “touching on or concerning any alleged illegal registrations” and or adoption records of St Patrick’s Guild between 1946 and 1956.

It was also objecting to providing “all and/or any other” documentation falling outside these categories which “may nevertheless, to the knowledge of the State, be relevant to the issues” of the proceedings.

Mr Gilligan said another child’s adoption during that period is “not relevant to this case” and the State should not be obliged to conduct a “wide-ranging fishing expedition” for the purposes of discovery.

While the plaintiff’s case alleges the State oversaw a regime of illegal adoptions, he said the case against the representative of the Religious Sisters is only in relation to this particular adoption.

Nessa Cahill SC, for the representative of the Religious Sisters, said the documents sought were relevant and necessary for her client to plead a “meaningful defence” and for indemnity and liability to be assessed.

She said St Patrick’s Guild had handed over all of its records to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency in 2016, and her client has no means of accessing these.

She argued that there was “complete inequality” between the State and every other party in the case in relation to the share of documentation and she did not accept the request for discovery was “unduly burdensome”.

She said much of what she sought had already been compiled for the purposes of the Commission of Investigation’s report into Mother and Baby Homes.

She said she would be bringing a separate motion at a later date to remove two other representatives’ names from the proceedings as they have died since the action was initiated.

Her client, who is not being sued in a personal capacity, is now over the age of 100 and resides in a nursing home outside of this jurisdiction.

Mr Justice Senan Allen said he would rule on the discovery motion at a later date.