Adoptions scandal another throwback to darker days

Action...Minister Katherine Zappone.
Action...Minister Katherine Zappone.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

The scandal that has come to light on ‘illegal adoptions’ is a bit of a misnomer. Technically, none of the 126 cases uncovered in the trawl of the records of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency were ever ‘adopted’. What happened is that they were taken from their birth parent by the agency, handed to adoptive parents, and were then passed off as their natural children at the General Registry Office.

The corollary was there was absolutely no record of the transaction at the Adoption Board (An Bórd Uchtála) as it was then known. As far as official Ireland went, there had been no adoption.

“The knowledge of this goes back decades and it would have been well known that this practice existed in Ireland at the time it was happening,” a person with in-depth knowledge of this area told me.

Why it was done probably reflects the morés of society at the time: the desire of the adoptive parents to be seen as the natural parents; the fact that the absence of any record of adoption would make it nigh impossible for the birth mother to trace her child.

Last week, I spoke to a woman, Susan Kiernan, who was brought up in Dalkey, South Dublin, whose parents never admitted to her she was adopted but who found out from neighbours.

When she went back to find her own roots she discovered she was born in a nursing home in Cabra Park and then whisked away by her parents. The deal was that they appeared as the natural parents on her birth certificate. Her natural mother was erased from the record.

Certainly the practice has been known and reported on for a long time. In 1987, in The Irish Times Pádraig Ó Móráin reported about how false information had been provided by St Patricks Guild, with its new director Sr Francis Ignatius telling him candidly that information had been disguised.

O Móráin’s reporting was not the only instance. Prime Time reported on this when reporter Mike Millotte, who wrote a book about Irish stolen babies, uncovered a practice where prospective American mothers signed into a nursing home as if they were heavily pregnant and then left a few days later with an infant.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.