Hundreds of babies from church-run homes in NI were moved across Border

Research shows some babies were adopted in Republic or moved to homes or institutions

Hundreds of babies from Northern Ireland were moved from four homes, including two run by the Catholic Church in Belfast and Newry, to the Republic between 1930 and 1990, research has found.

The Marianville home in Belfast sent 202 to the South, while 171 more came from the Marianvale home in Newry, which were both run by the Good Shepherd Sisters.

Another 120 were sent from Mater Dei in Belfast, which was operated by the Legion of Mary, according to the research by academics at Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster.

The babies were most often sent to Nazareth House in Fahan, Co Donegal, which was the recognised baby home for the Catholic diocese of Derry; and to the Sisters of St Clare home in Stamullen, Co Meath, where 165 babies were sent.

Seventy-two of them were subsequently adopted in the Republic, while smaller numbers were moved to homes or institutions in Dublin, including Temple Hill and St Patrick’s Guild Baby Home.

More were sent to the Catholic Protection and Rescue Society Ireland and Holy Faith Convent, Eccles Street, with others taken by named individuals to addresses in the South.

Thorndale House in Belfast, which was run by the Salvation Army, sent 58 babies across the Border, though it is not clear what happened to those children subsequently.

Cross-Border co-operation

The North's First Minister, Arlene Foster, said she had already engaged with Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman regarding access to records on cross-Border adoptions.

“He has committed to consider the scope for co-operation in the area of adoption linked to mother and baby homes,” she said.

A least five were moved to Bethany Home in Dublin, which was among the institutions investigated by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, and at least 10 were sent to the Kimberley home in Greystones, Co Wicklow, which became the Westbank Orphanage.

Some babies were initially moved to other homes in the North and then adopted in the Republic, and the records also note the involvement of Northern welfare authorities and priests in the placing and subsequent adoption of babies across the Border.

A number of babies from Marianvale were adopted in the United States, including some who had first been moved to the Republic.

A total of 259 women and girls from the Republic – the vast majority from Co Donegal – were also sent to St Mary’s Home, a Magdalene laundry run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Derry.