Woman who gave birth at mother and baby home sues over commission finding
Court hears claim that documents obtained in recent years show child was illegally adopted
The woman was astounded to read that the Commission on Investigation into Mother and Baby homes had concluded that it had not seen evidence of illegal registration of births. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien
A woman who gave birth at a mother and baby home has brought a High Court challenge over a finding by the commission that investigated the homes that there was no evidence that births at those facilities had been illegally registered.
The action has been brought by the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who is not named in the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, who gave birth to a son at the Bessborough mother and baby home in Cork in the 1970s.
She claims that documents she obtained in recent years show that her child was illegally adopted.
The conclusion contained in the commission’s final report was “totally at odds” with what happened to her, she claims.
The court heard that the woman became pregnant at 15 years of age. She was unaware of her condition until a relative brought her to a doctor.
She claims that she was then taken to Bessborough, after being told by a female relative that she had “brought shame on her family.”
At Bessborough she was told by a nun there “not to talk to nobody”, and “keep her head down.” She had to work on the farm, and was forced to sleep on a stone floor in the basement, because another girl there would not share the single bed the two were allotted by the nuns.
When she went into labour, she did not know what was happening and was terrified.
Shortly after she gave birth her son was taken from her, and she was not initially told if the baby was a boy or girl.
She learned that she had a boy, but she never saw the infant again at Bessborough and left the facility a few days later.
A few months later she was brought by relatives to Cork, where she met a nun and a solicitor. She claims that at that meeting she was told to sign a form, without being given any explanation, and that her child would go to a couple.
She was also told to sign the form using a false name, which she did. In recent years she discovered documents, including a birth certificate, that did not have her name on them, but rather the false name she had been directed to use.
Other documents relating to the adoption of a male child from Bessborough also contained the false name.
She believes that her child was unlawfully adopted, and made a criminal complaint to the gardaí.
The DPP has opted not to bring a prosecution in her case, which disappointed her.
In addition, she made a statement to the commission set up to report on mother and baby homes.
When the commission made its final report, the woman was astounded to read that the commission had concluded that it had not seen evidence of illegal registration of births which occurred in the homes under investigation.
She claims that the commission has erred in law and acted in breach of her rights in arriving at this finding.
In judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General, the woman seeks various orders and declarations.
She wants the court to quash a paragraph that refers to the lack of evidence regarding illegal adoptions contained in the commission’s final report, which was published last January.
She also seeks declarations including that the commission did not vindicate her right to an effective remedy, and did not properly investigate the circumstances of the birth and adoption of her child at the home.
She further seeks damages and an order extending the time to bring her proceedings.
Lawyers representing the woman asked the court for an order preventing the media from identifying her.
The applicant was described as a private person, who suffered for many years over what had happened to her, who has not discussed what happened to her at Bessborough with many people.
Publication could also adversely impact her health, and the well-being of others associated with the action.
Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Mr Justice Garrett Simons, who agreed that a temporary reporting restriction should be applied.
The judge said he was granting leave, but noted that the action has been brought outside of the normal time limit.
Any issue over the challenge being brought out of time could be addressed at a later stage of the proceedings, the judge added.
The matter was adjourned to a date later this year.