Diarmaid Ferriter: Illegally adopted being left without identity

Ireland’s commissions and inquiries into institutionalisation are failing survivors

Baby shoes: The quests for information, personal identities and accountability for what happened permeate investigations, inquiries and  journalism, but we have yet to find a satisfactory way of resolving the dilemmas. Photograph:  Will Hamilton

Baby shoes: The quests for information, personal identities and accountability for what happened permeate investigations, inquiries and journalism, but we have yet to find a satisfactory way of resolving the dilemmas. Photograph: Will Hamilton

Who am I? This fundamental question lies at the heart of some of the most difficult aspects of our modern history and borders many of the controversies associated with confronting the legacies of institutionalisation. That question was also the title given to RTÉ’s investigative programme broadcast this week about Ireland’s illegal adoptions. One of the women interviewed, Mary Flanagan, born in 1961 and illegally adopted, described the pain of discovering this illegality and the dearth of information: “I don’t have an identity . . . it is like a fallen tree. The roots are gone . . . that is exactly how I feel.”

The quests for information, personal identities and accountability for what happened permeate the multitude of investigations, inquiries and probing journalism of recent decades, but we have yet to find a satisfactory way of resolving the dilemmas.

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