Adoption Bill needs to allow full access to identity, says Philomena Lee

Inspiration behind Hollywood film was speaking at commemoration in Roscrea

Philomena Lee with her daughter Jane Libberton at the launch of the Philomena Project in Dublin last year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Philomena Lee with her daughter Jane Libberton at the launch of the Philomena Project in Dublin last year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Philomena Lee, whose devotion to finding her adopted son inspired a Hollywood film, said she would welcome the Government’s proposed Adoption Bill provided it allows adopted children full access to their identity.

Speaking at an event commemorating former residents of the Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home, in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where her son Anthony is buried, Ms Lee (82) said Ireland needs to move to a more open adoption system similar to the UK.

“Of course I would welcome change,” she said. “It’s not about bothering people that don’t want to be bothered; it’s about getting your identity, and you would welcome that change.”

Ms Lee, who lives in St Alban’s in the UK, travelled to Roscrea with family members, including her daughter Jane Libberton, who discovered her brother Anthony’s headstone at Sean Ross Abbey during research on the family.

“If I went looking for my mother and she didn’t want to know me, I would understand that and I would accept that but at least I would know who I was, and there may be aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters who do want to know,” Ms Libberton said.

Speaking at the ceremony, Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said Ms Lee’s story sets a “wonderful example for everybody in the country who would have us believe that natural parents do not want contact with their children or that their children do not want contact with them”.

“There are people in Leinster House who would have us believe that natural mothers do not want contact with the children that they lost to adoption, that they are somehow afraid of those children,” Ms Lohan said.

She said the details of the Adoption Bill, due to be published soon, do not “give us much hope”.

After a minute’s silence, 100 white balloons representing the “innocence and loss” of all the children who were born and died in Sean Ross Abbey were released into the air by more than 100 people gathered for the ceremony .