Majella Moynihan considering suing State for damages

Former garda may seek pension and lost earnings for discipline over 1980s pregnancy

Majella Moynihan:  was 22 when she was charged, under Garda Síochána regulations, with having premarital sex with another garda and with having given “birth to a child outside wedlock”. Photograph: RTÉ

Majella Moynihan: was 22 when she was charged, under Garda Síochána regulations, with having premarital sex with another garda and with having given “birth to a child outside wedlock”. Photograph: RTÉ

 

Majella Moynihan, the former garda who faced disciplinary action for becoming pregnant outside of marriage in the mid-1980s, has appointed a solicitor and is considering suing the State for damages arising from her treatment.

Such a case would seek to recover her full pension, as well as lost earnings that she would reasonably have expected to earn through promotion had she stayed in the force and not been subject to disciplinary action arising from her pregnancy.

The former garda was 22 when she was charged, under Garda Síochána regulations, with having premarital sex with another garda and with having given “birth to a child outside wedlock”. She went on to give her son up for adoption.

Ms Moynihan said on Monday senior officers told her in later years that her career was effectively ended by the incident. She later tried to take her own life five times.

She has appointed Seán Costello solicitors to represent her.

Statute of limitations

A potential barrier to her pursuing a claim for damages against the State or the Garda would be the two-year statute of limitations on such claims. However, such a time limit can be extended if it can be proved that someone was unable to come forward due to the psychological impact their case had on them.

A report in The Irish Times from 1985, when news of the case first broke, suggests that Ms Moynihan’s pregnancy was not the first time the force had dealt with unmarried women gardaí becoming pregnant.

Majella Moynihan in 1998. She has been commended for telling her story by the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Photograph: RTÉ
Majella Moynihan in 1998. She has been commended for telling her story by the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Photograph: RTÉ

“One woman was transferred following the birth of her baby to a location near her home, where arrangements were made to care for the baby while she continued working,” archives show. In another case, “a pregnant ban-gharda was instructed by her superior to marry the father of her child, but succeeded in resisting the instruction and retaining her post”.

More cases?

Fine Gael TD for Dublin South Kate O’Connell, who is part of a cross-party group of TDs including Independents4Change’s Clare Daly and Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy who met Ms Moynihan in recent months, questioned whether there were more cases similar to hers in the Garda. She asked whether women were “systematically being treated as Majella was”. Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan called for Ms Moynihan to be awarded a full Garda pension.