Minister for Justice apologises to former garda investigated over premarital sex
Majella Moynihan was charged with breaching disciplinary rules in relationship with colleague
Majella Moynihan in her early 20s. She told RTÉ: “I remember thinking ‘what are they doing?’, ‘Why am I being charged like a criminal?”
The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has joined the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris in apologising to a former garda who faced dismissal in the 1980s after having a child out of wedlock.
In a statement on Sunday morning Mr Flanagan said he had spoken to Mr Harris about the case. “I welcome his apology to Ms Majella Moynihan on behalf of An Garda Síochána. I echo that apology in my capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality.
“As a young Garda, Ms Moynihan faced an appalling ordeal at a time in Ireland that was sadly too often characterised by stigma and intolerance. What happened to her was clearly wrong on every level,” he said.
In a statement on Saturday evening, Mr Harris said: “On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I fully apologise to former garda Majella Moynihan for the manner in which she was treated and the subsequent lifelong impact this had on her.”
Earlier on Saturday, Ms Moynihan spoke publicly for the first time about her ordeal in an RTÉ Radio One documentary.
When she was 22, Ms Moynihan was charged with breaching the force’s disciplinary rules for the transgression of having premarital sex with another garda, becoming pregnant and having a child.
Transcripts from an internal Garda hearing from the time reveal an aggressive line of questioning by senior officers, scrutinising the young woman’s sexual history, and her use of contraceptives.
Faced with dismissal for bringing discredit to the force, Ms Moynihan only kept her job at the intervention of the archbishop of Dublin, who feared firing her would lead to more gardaí travelling to England for abortions, if they became pregnant outside of marriage.
Ms Moynihan was born in Kanturk, Co Cork in 1962, and in 1983 joined An Garda Síochána.
Training in Templemore, Co Tipperary, she met another Garda recruit, who she had had a previous relationship with. The pair started seeing each other again and Ms Moynihan became pregnant.
In correspondence, a district officer in Store Street Garda station told a chief superintendent Ms Moynihan was “honest, dependable and willing”. The officer said: “I am particularly impressed by her devotion to duty while pregnant.”
She gave birth to the baby, David, in Galway Regional Hospital in May 1984, and gave him up for adoption.
“I felt and I still feel that I was pressurised into it . . . From the time that I told the authorities in the Garda Síochána that I was pregnant, that’s the one thing that was kept being mentioned: Was adoption, adoption, adoption,” Ms Moynihan told RTÉ’s Documentary on One.
“And unfortunately I signed that paper. To me it was a forced adoption because I was in no state of mind to sign it,” she said.
Then after later returning to work, she was charged on two counts of breaking the force’s disciplinary code.
The first charge against her was for having premarital sex with another garda.
The second charge was that Ms Moynihan, “being a female member of An Garda Síochána, did on or about the 31st of May 1984 give birth to a child outside wedlock”.
Ms Moynihan said: “I remember thinking ‘what are they doing?’, ‘Why am I being charged like a criminal?”
The internal case against her was dropped, and she was not dismissed from her job, due to concerns raised by archbishop Kevin McNamara with Garda commissioner Larry Wren.
Despite the internal case being dropped, Ms Moynihan was summoned to a sworn internal hearing into the conduct of the father of the child. She was asked about their relationship and whether he had used contraceptives.
“I walked in and the father of my son was sitting on the right with his representative. There were chief superintendents, superintendents, an inspector, a sergeant and a stenographer and I was put in a seat in the middle of the floor. And they started,” she said.
“I don’t understand why they felt that they had a right to ask me about anything of my past. It had nothing to do with me getting pregnant. And then I was told that I had discredited the force,” she said.
“How that they could even comprehend to put a 22-year-old vulnerable person who did nothing wrong, that they portrayed I had done so much wrong, into a room full of men and to tear me apart like they did,” she said.
As a result of the hearing the male garda was fined £90 over his conduct.
An Garda Síochána has never apologised to Ms Moynihan over her treatment. “I knew 35 years ago what they did was wrong. I know today what they did was wrong. Yes, I want an apology,” she said.
In 1998, Ms Moynihan sought early retirement from the force, after 15 years service.
Years later in 2017, she was contacted through a social worker and informed her son David wished to meet her.
“One of the hardest things I ever did in my life was meeting my son, I found it very, very difficult because I felt that he was angry with me and I had my own pain,” she said.
Ms Moynihan and her partner Martin, who she began dating in 1994, also have a 21-year-old son called Stephen.
“I think for Ireland in the 1980s, in the middle 1980s, that it’s an appalling infliction on any female to have been charged with giving birth and charged with having intercourse,” she said.
“Two of the most beautiful things in the world, and yet I was charged with them, and today I know that what they did was totally wrong and that I am very lucky to be the strong person that I am to have come out of it,” she said.
The full Documentary on One feature will be broadcast again on Sunday at 7pm, on RTÉ Radio One.