Mother and Baby Homes Commission stymied by own remit

An ‘Irish Examiner’ investigation published last month revealed that three grave plots in St Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork City contain the remains of at least 21 children — some of which were buried as late as 1990. Conall Ó Fátharta argues that the failure by state agents to investigate the deaths raises wider questions about the terms of reference of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission

WHEN the Mother and Baby Homes Commission was set up in 2013, the limitations of its terms of reference were well flagged but quickly dismissed.

An Irish Examiner investigation last month revealed infant burials as late as 1990 in unmarked graves in a Cork City cemetery — and has laid these limitations bare.

As a result, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is unable to answer a very straightforward question in relation to these burials namely: Will all of the burials discovered in the three plots be investigated?

On the face of it, it seems the obvious answer is yes. All of these children are representative of the cohort of infant deaths that the commission is charged with investigating. They were all born to unmarried mothers, were destined for adoption, died, and were buried in unmarked graves.

All but one of the deaths are in plots owned by a formerly State-accredited adoption agency — St Anne’s Adoption Society, which closed in 2003 — and by the St Patrick’s Orphanage, which operated as a nursery for St Anne’s Adoption Society. Neither institution is listed as institutions under the commission’s remit.

However, of the 21 infant deaths uncovered during the Irish Examiner investigation, just five of those children were linked to an institution which falls under the remit of the commission: Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

While all of the deaths are indicative of the same issue, involve the same cohort of women and their children, the same lived experience, only the five that are linked to a mother and baby home which is under investigation can be examined.

The Irish Examiner raised this point with the department and asked if it would seek to extend the commission’s terms of reference to include St Anne’s Adoption Society.

In response, the department simply restated the commission’s terms of reference, pointing out that it is “required to investigate the relationships between mother and baby homes and other key institutions and organisations — these include children’s homes; orphanages; and adoption societies”.

It stated that it was, therefore, “not accurate” to suggest that St Anne’s Adoption Society was outside the terms of reference. However, in the next breath it stated that the deaths can be examined “in so far as they relate to the children who were resident for a time in the named institutions”.

As a result, the department said it had “no plans” to further extend the terms of reference of the commission.

Of course, this is the very point that was put to the department in the first place.

Outside of the five burials linked to Bessborough, none of the other children in these plots were resident in a named institution. Yet they are part of the very same system and the very same cohort of people that the commission is investigating.

However, according to the terms of reference as stated by the department, they are excluded as they do not relate to a listed mother and baby home.

The Irish Examiner then put a direct follow-up question to the Department of Children: Will the commission investigate all of the burials in the St Anne’s Adoption Society and St Patrick’s Orphanage society plots?

It responded by stating it was “not in a position to address the question raised” as it does not hold the records of the specific adoption society or burial plot.

The Irish Examiner then offered to provide the information confirming the accuracy of its investigation — and confirmed via Cork City Council, Tusla, and through accessing birth and death certificates in the General Registration Office.

The department replied within eight minutes advising to “contact the commission directly”.

The same question had already been put to the commission.

A response was issued eight days later: “The commission has advertised for people to come forward to provide any information about burials from Bessboro. We are following all possible leads. We do not announce our intentions in advance in respect of any aspect of the investigation.”

In preparation for the investigation, the Irish Examiner sought to confirm a number of details pertaining to the deaths with Tusla — which holds the records for St Anne’s Adoption Society. After examining the relevant records, it responded to these queries the following month.

However, the Tusla press office also advised that, in future, it would be “most appropriate for further queries of this nature to be submitted via the FoI process which is more suitable for queries as extensive as this”.

However, when the Irish Examiner sought the relevant material under FoI following publication, Tusla refused the requests, stating that the material predates the commencement of the FoI Act, known as the “effective date”.

This reasoning had been used to refuse a previous request by this newspaper and failed on appeal to the Office of the Information Commissioner. It had never previously been used by Tusla in relation to requests by this reporter for information on mother and baby homes.

All of this serves to highlight the wider problem with the commission and its terms of reference and goes right to the very heart of the Government’s deliberate or wilful ignorance of the issue.

This is a scandal that cannot be limited to examining simply mother and baby homes and issues “in so far as they relate to” mother and baby homes.

You cannot limit the experience of unmarried mothers and their children simply to those women who went through the mother and baby homes system.

The issue is not one of individual institutions but rather one of how unmarried women and children were treated in a sprawling network of interlinking institutions, which included registered adoption agencies, private agencies, industrial schools, maternity hospitals, and in many cases private citizens.

Under the current commission, these other institutions are only examined in terms of specific links to mother and baby homes.

That ignores a whole swathe of people and severely limits the inquiry’s capability to investigate the real elephant in the room — that of illegal adoption.

Take the case of Tressa Reeves, for example. The Irish Examiner first wrote about Tressa in 2010.

She was an English woman born to Irish parents. In 1960, at the age of 20, she became pregnant. Unmarried at the time, she was sent to Ireland to stay in a private nursing home in Dublin along with other young women in the same predicament.

She gave birth to her son in 1961 and baptised him alone in her room.

She called her son André because she felt the name would be unusual enough that she would be able to find him again. Just hours after giving birth, he was placed in the care of a religious-run adoption agency, St Patrick’s Guild in Dublin.

In its offices, she signed consent forms which, she presumed, would allow for her son to be legally adopted.

However, in 1997, more than 30 years later, she discovered the agency had allowed for her son to be illegally adopted. In short, a couple seeking a child was given the baby boy by the agency to register as if he was born to them. No formal adoption order was ever made.

It took another four years for St Patrick’s Guild to inform Tressa that André’s birth was falsely and illegally registered through the nursing home where she gave birth.

This had the effect of removing all legal evidence that Tressa ever had a child and was done without her knowledge or consent. Her son would have no idea that he was even adopted.

Even though the Adoption Act of 1952 was introduced to ensure such activity did not occur, St Patrick’s Guild

admitted to Tressa that it allowed other children to be placed in the same way, including another boy to the same family that took André.

Despite this, St Patrick’s Guild remained a fully accredited adoption agency through the Adoption Authority of Ireland until it closed in 2014.

Tressa’s experience mirrors that of thousands of other women, many of whom went through Ireland’s mother and baby homes. However, because she was not in one of these institutions, her cases and others like hers will not be examined by the commission. The illegal adoption of her son will also not be examined. Both will have to wait for their apology.

Adoption and the scale of illegal adoption is one of the key areas being examined by the commission, but only adoptions linked to the 15 listed mother and baby homes under the terms of reference for the inquiry.

Remarkably, St Patrick’s Guild, which has been making headlines in this regard for decades, is not a listed institution under the terms of reference.

Campaigners have repeatedly called for the agency to be included in the inquiry, but these calls fell on deaf ears in Government.

This was all the more remarkable a decision when the Irish Examiner revealed in April 2015, just two months after the commission was set up, that the Department of Children was informed by the Adoption Authority of Ireland in 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild had knowledge of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.

The revelation was contained in a note of a meeting between the Adoption Authority and representatives with the department and the General Register Office. “St Patrick’s Guild is aware of several hundred illegal registrations but are waiting for people to contact them; they are not seeking the people involved,” read the note.

“Must consider how revelations of this sort would affect a family unit.”

Given that the department was to set up an inquiry tasked with examining these very arrangements two years later, it seems extraordinary that it would exclude St Patrick’s Guild.

The Government has repeatedly resisted calls by adoption campaigners for an audit of all adoption files held in the State so that the full scale of illegal adoptions and birth registrations can be uncovered.

It has said an audit of adoption records “would yield little useful information”, as there would be “little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements” on the files.

However, a note of a meeting between two nuns from St Patrick’s Guild and representatives of Tusla, also obtained by the Irish Examiner, revealed that with regard to records on illegal birth registrations that the agency held, “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

And year after year, this newspaper has revealed more and more aspects of this scandal — coming directly from these files which have “little useful information” in them.

So whether it is infant deaths or illegal adoption, the mother and baby homes inquiry will only scratch the surface of a scandal.


Tuam and Bessborough: Houses of horror

The Tuam mother and baby home should not be treated as an individual scandal, but as part of a national trafficking network that commodified people, says Conall Ó Fátharta.


The women and children in Bessborough’s care were ‘considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders’.


“This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State…”

There’s that word, “scandal”, again. As a nation, we don’t tire of hearing it.

That time it was used by senior management in the HSE, in 2012, in relation to the contents of an archive of the Tuam mother and baby home, two years before the Tuam babies scandal broke. It wasn’t the first time the word was used in relation to mother and baby homes and the horrors they hold.

Seventy years earlier, the same word was used by parliamentary secretary to the then minister for local government and public health, Dr Con Ward, in relation to an 82% infant death rate at the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. That rate had been reported to state inspectors.

Two things are instructive. Not only has the State known for decades about this issue, but it is impossible to look at Tuam, or mother and baby homes, in isolation. Yet, that is exactly how this issue is playing out.

First, there is a scandal. Then there is an outcry. Then, there is an inquiry, but a limited one.

Focus on the narrow and ignore the broader picture. It’s a well-worn path.

Instead of examining the bigger picture of how unmarried women and children were treated in a sprawling network of interlinking institutions, private agencies and individuals, we compartmentalise.

We treat the Magdalene Laundries, and then the mother and baby homes, as if they are distinct entities, instead of as part of the same story.

And what about the adoption agencies, private nursing homes, maternity hospitals, priests, doctors, and even some prominent Irish names?

What about the baby rackets, the trafficking of children, the thousands of illegal adoptions, the falsification of records? Maybe one day we will get to that.

While we have spent the last year laying flowers at the feet of monuments honouring the dead male Irish heroes of 1916, female heroes lie in graves that are unmarked, forgotten, and largely ignored. Their children lie in other graves, or live, having been adopted, in both Ireland and abroad, many in very dubious circumstances.

This is a history we don’t like to talk about. We have barely written about it.

This is a history in which women who didn’t fit the idealised vision of newly independent Ireland were hidden behind high walls, their children removed from them, boarded out, adopted, or trafficked abroad.

We still don’t know how many were used for medical trials. Thousands more died, while hundreds of infant bodies were used by Irish universities for anatomical research and buried in the Angels’ Plot in Glasnevin as “anatomical subjects”.

The children’s crime? Simply the circumstances of their birth. Their mothers’ crime? That they were unmarried women.

The mistake, now, would be to simply focus on Tuam and the deaths that occurred there. This is a scandal that is as much about the living as it is about the dead.

Very specific concerns about infant mortality in such institutions were raised as early as 1945. The previous year, state inspectors reported that out of 124 infants admitted to the Bessborough home after birth, 102 died — a death rate of 82%.

[timgcap=A memorial at Bessborough, Blackrock, Cork.]zzzBessboroughBlackrockMotherAndBabyMemorial100317_large.jpg[timgcap]

It briefly led to the government of the day banning pregnant women being sent to the home and led Dr Con Ward to write to then Bishop of Cork, Daniel Cohalan, to express fears about a “public scandal” over the figures.

Our most recent governments fare little better, in terms of institutional knowledge of such shocking infant death rates.

In 2012, senior HSE management was expressing concern at what was being found in relation to both Tuam and Bessborough.

Two reports on the institutions were prepared by the HSE, while it was preparing material for the McAleese investigation into Magdalene Laundries.

These reports not only explicitly reference infant mortality rates, but also express serious concerns about the possible trafficking of children from the institutions. They also mention that these issues needed to be investigated as a matter of urgency.

IN THE case of Tuam, a note of a teleconference call on October 12, 2012, reveals that senior management in the HSE felt what had been discovered warranted a state inquiry.

The call involved then assistant director of the Children and Family Service at the HSE, Phil Garland, and then head of the medical intelligence unit, Davida De La Harpe, expressing concern that 1,000 children had been trafficked from the Tuam mother and baby home in what could “prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State”.

These concerns had been raised by the principal social worker for adoption in HSE West, who had found “a large archive of photographs, documentation, and correspondence relating to children sent for adoption to the USA” and “documentation in relation to discharges and admissions to psychiatric institutions in the Western area”.

The archive contained letters from the Tuam mother and baby home to parents, asking for money for the upkeep of their children, and notes that the duration of stay for children might have been prolonged by the order for financial reasons.

It also contained letters to parents asking for money for the upkeep of some children who had already been discharged or who had died.

The social worker, “working in her own time and on her own dollar”, had compiled a list of “up to 1,000 names”, but said it was “not clear yet whether all of these relate to the ongoing examination of the Magdalene system, or whether they relate to the adoption of children by parents, possibly in the USA”.

Those on the conference call raise the possibility that if there is evidence of trafficking, “it must have been facilitated by doctors, social workers, etc, and a number of these health professionals may still be working in the system”.

The note concludes by stating that, due to the gravity of what was being found, an “early warning letter” be written to the national director of the HSE’s quality and patient safety division, Philip Crowley, suggesting “that this goes all the way up to the minister”.

“It is more important to send this up to the minister as soon as possible: with a view to an inter-departmental committee and a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and state inquiry,” concludes the note.

A week later, in a separate report sent by Mr Garland to Mr Crowley, and which CC’d then national director of Children and Family Services, Gordon Jeyes, and Ms De la Harpe, Dr Declan McKeown, of the medical intelligence unit, outlines concerns about death rates at both Tuam and Bessborough.

Dr McKeown notes that the infant mortality rate for Tuam was “approximately 20%-25%, similar to that recorded in Bessborough”. He also raised questions as to the veracity of such death rates.

“Queries over the veracity of the records are suggested by causes of death such as ‘marasmus’ in a 2 ½-month-old infant; or ‘pernicious anaemia’ in a four-month-old. These diagnoses would be extremely unusual in children so young, even with the reduced nutrition of the time,” he said.

A separate report into Bessborough not only revealed that the deaths of hundreds of children were recorded in the order’s own register, but that, similar to Tuam, the operation was aimed at making money.

The examination of the order’s own records found that the women and children in its care were “considered little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”.

Minutes from meetings of the Sacred Heart Adoption Society’s board of management “further lend evidence to the order’s preoccupation with materialism, wealth, and social status”, while the wealth and social status of the adoptive parents was often the prime concern when deciding whether they would receive a child.

None of the concerns made it into the McAleese report, as they were outside its terms of remit.

However, that report did include other material that was, “strictly speaking, outside its core remit”, but deemed “in the public interest. This material “may challenge some common perceptions” about Magdalene laundries.

The Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes, published by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in July 2014 also failed to mention any of these concerns.

This is despite the fact that two government department’s had seen the 2012 HSE report on Bessborough, which revealed that hundreds of children died at the institution over a 19-year period.

All of the HSE concerns were being raised almost two years before the Tuam babies scandal made international headlines.

Where adoptions fit into all of this should be of particular interest. Adoption campaigners have spent years repeatedly calling for an audit of all adoption records held by the State. So far, these calls have fallen on deaf ears.

It’s hard to understand why. The Adoption Authority informed the government in 2013 that there “may be thousands” of cases where people had their birth history falsified, so they could be illegally adopted. This has never been investigated.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was told by an AAI delegation in June, 2013 — more than a year before the mother-and-baby home scandal — that there were “at least 120 [confirmed] cases” of illegal registrations.

This is not a small number, given the small sample size that would have been examined.

However, the AAI went further, stating that this could well be the tip of the iceberg and that there “may be thousands” more. It named a well-known former private nursing home — St Rita’s, in Dublin — where women went to give birth to their children, before having to place them for adoption, as a “huge source of illegal registrations”.

It specifically named one religious-run former adoption agency — St Patrick’s Guild, in Dublin — as being “aware of several hundred illegal registrations”, stating that the agency “are not seeking the people involved”, but were, rather, “waiting for people to contact them”.

The agency’s 13,500 adoption files — one of the largest archives in the country — are now in the hands of Tusla.

In a statement to this newspaper, AAI chief executive, Patricia Carey, said that the ‘may be thousands’ comment made at the meeting was “a throwaway remark” and was “not based on verifiable facts”.

However, the fact that the department had called for a meeting on the subject, and that an AAI delegation was willing to speculate at all on such a large number, indicates that the issue was firmly on the radar of the adoption regulator.

Any woman or adopted person who was through one of the above institutions will not be examined by the current commission, unless her case can be linked to one of the institutions under its remit.

Despite this, and countless media reports of adoptions being contracted on the back of documentation which is as best extremely dubious, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has stood steadfastly to the line that an audit of adoption records, to ascertain the scale of illegal and forced adoptions, “would yield little useful information”, as there would be “little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements” on the files.

It is impossible to make such a claim without at least examining the records and, secondly, it’s blatantly clear that these records do contain evidence of illegal adoptions.

Adoption support groups have repeatedly said that government refuses to order such an audit, because it fears what will be found. Given what the HSE found in 2012, in relation to Tuam and Bessborough, this may well be the case.

More than one government minister has said, on record, that every adoption carried out by the State since 1952 was done in line with the legislation of the day.

If that level of certainty exists at official levels, then why not open the files, let everyone see them and, for once, have this country do the right thing?

St Patrick’s Guild sought €50k from Tusla for adoption records

St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency requested a payment of “at least €50,000” from Tusla before it would transfer the more than 13,000 adoption records it holds.

The agency made the request on numerous occasions throughout 2015 and 2016. It was excluded from the current Mother and Baby Homes Commission despite the Government being told by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) that the agency was aware of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.

It ceased operating at the end of 2014 but, due to lengthy negotiations to ensure Tusla were indemnified against any legal action taken by people seeking their records, the files were not transferred until May 2016.

However, it has emerged that the agency had contacted Tusla a number of times throughout 2015 and 2016 seeking a payment of €50,000 before it would agree to transfer any records.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show that Sr Francis Fahy, director of services with St Patrick’s Guild (SPG), wrote to Tusla national manager for adoption Siobhán Mugan in October 2015 requesting an “immediate payment” in regard to almost €48,000 in expenses.

She had previously made a request in April of that year and stated that SPG had not been funded by Tusla since it closed in December 2014, but had continued offering a service to adopted people and natural parents “albeit in a more limited way”.

“It is now a matter of some urgency,” said Sr Fahy.

“At this time I am enclosing an account of the actual expenses to date for 2015 and would be glad to receive an immediate payment in regard of these expenses. If further details are required please let me know. A further sum will be required later as often payments fall due from October until such time as the service and the records are transferred to Tusla.”

The attached expenses from January to September 2015 included almost €10,000 on gas and electricity and phone bills of more than €2,000.

Ms Mugan responded to Sr Fahy stating that when the agency ceased operating there was no agreement with Tusla to continue funding into 2015.

She pointed out that, “in fact, it was agreed that the records would be in the possession of Tusla by late January, early February 2015 at the latest”.

However, Sr Fahy wrote to Tusla again in February of this year stating that it would need a payment of “at least 50,000” before it could transfer anything of the 13,000 adoption files. She pointed out that the agency was preserving and maintaining the records and offering a service on the understanding that its costs would be covered by the State.

“We were given to understand that upon submission of the necessary documentation and accounts funding would be made available to cover the costs incurred during this period,” said Sr Fahy. It was with this understanding that the work was carried out in good faith.

“While every effort has been made to bring the negotiations to a conclusion this has not yet been possible. Therefore, at this time, and as a matter of urgency, it is necessary to request that a payment of at least €50,000 be made prior to the transfer of the records.”

In April, principal officer in the Adoption Policy Unit at Tusla wrote to chief executive of the AAI Patricia Carey expressing concern about the request and fact that the agency had planned to retain copies of index cards containing birth information of adoptees and their natural families.

The AAI agreed to allow the agency hold the cards for three months post transfer of the files to allow it “to complete reports for the Authority”.

In April of this year Tusla agreed to a one of payment of €30,000 to support the storage of the files while the transfer was being negotiated and to assist the agency with its closure.

St Patrick’s finally hands over 13,500 adoption files to Tusla

More than 13,000 files from St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency have transferred to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency — almost three years after the agency ceased to operate.

The agency held approximately 13,500 adoption files — one quarter of all adoption files in the country. It closed in 2013, with the transfer expected to take between 12 to 18 months.

The Irish Examiner understands that issues around indemnity against any legal action taken by people seeking their records was a significant factor in the transfer delay.

Tusla declined to confirm it had been indemnified in respect of the records but it had “obtained the appropriate protection in respect of known potential issues”.

St Patrick’s Guild has been excluded from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, despite the Irish Examiner revealing that the government was in 2013 informed that the agency had knowledge of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.

An Adoption Authority of Ireland delegation told representatives of the Department of Children and the General Register Office in June 2013 that the agency was aware of several hundred cases of illegal birth registrations.

“St Patrick’s Guild are aware of several hundred illegal registrations, but are waiting for people to contact them; they are not seeking the people involved. Must consider how revelations of this sort would affect a family unit,” states a department note of the meeting.

St Patrick’s Guild has hit the headlines on numerous occasions — most notably when this newspaper revealed its role in the illegal adoption of Tressa Reeves’ son.

The agency was criticised by Alan Shatter in the Dáil as far back as 1997, when he hit out at it for having “deliberately misled” people by giving “grossly inaccurate information” to both adopted persons and birth mothers. He said such behaviour by an adoption agency was “almost beyond belief”.

The Government has repeatedly resisted calls by campaigners for an audit of all adoption files held in the State so that the full scale of illegal adoptions and birth registrations can be uncovered.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the fact the transfer of files overran significantly showed the “complete indifference” of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs towards the rights of adopted people and natural mothers.

“Both bodies are fully aware of the very significant numbers of illegal registrations on the files and, on the back of other scandals around child trafficking to the US, high mortality rates, mass graves, etc, are fearful of the potential scale of this operation becoming known,” she said.

Paul Redmond, chairman of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors, said the agency had been “exposed on numerous occasions” and called on Tusla to carry out a full audit of the files.

“If the HSE or Tulsa find suspicious issues in the files, the gardaí should be called in immediately and no one should be immune, including the nuns,” he said.

Kathy McMahon of the Irish First Mothers group said it was imperative that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission seek Government sanction to include St Patrick’s Guild in its investigation so it can fully audit all the files.

Mother and Baby Commission yet to decide on extending inquiry

It is beyond comprehension how you can examine 14 Mother and Baby Homes while excluding adoption agencies like St Patrick’s Guild – particularly considering what it has admitted in terms of illegal birth registrations


The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has yet to decide whether to ask for an extension of its remit to examine other institutions.
It comes as adoption groups have reiterated calls for a number of adoption agencies as well as a range of State and private maternity homes to be included in the investigation.
Under its terms of reference, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission will investigate how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 14 State-linked religious institutions.
The three-year inquiry — which has a €23.5m budget — will examine mother and baby homes, county homes, vaccine trials on children, and illegal adoptions where babies were trafficked abroad.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the Commission said it “not yet made any decision about recommending any extension of its terms of reference”.
St Patrick’s Guild has been commonly cited by campaigners as a glaring omission from the inquiry. The agency holds 13,500 adoption files — one-quarter of all adoption files in the country.
Last year, the Irish Examiner revealed that the agency was excluded from the scope of the inquiry despite the Government being told in June 2013 by an Adoption Authority (AAI) delegation that the agency was aware of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.
A note of a meeting between two nuns from the agency and representatives of the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, on February 3 last year also revealed that  St Patrick’s Guild’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.
The AAI also named St Rita’s private nursing home – also excluded from the inquiry – as a “huge source of illegal registrations”.
Claire McGettrick of the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) said she expected the Commission to add to the current “short list” if institutions it is examining.
“The legislation makes an express provision for the Commission to add to the initial list and it has resourced the Commission very well with a team of historians led by Prof. Mary Daly, President of the Royal Irish  Academy.”
“Historians realise there were many institutions and agencies involved in the Mother and Baby home sector in Ireland – JFMR and ARA have given a list to the Commission of some 170 institutions, agencies and individuals which our organisations and academic historians are also investigating,” she said.
Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes (CMABS) said it was a “national disgrace” that so many people were being excluded from the inquiry when so little effort is required to include everyone.
“If the Inquiry ‘sampled’ as little as four or five further institutions and a home birth, then all survivors would be included. The sample would include a holding centre such as Temple Hill, a public Maternity Hospital such as Holles Street, a so-called orphanage such as Westbank or Saint Philomena’s, a private nursing home such as St Rita’s and a home birth where the baby was forcibly removed by a social worker or a member of the religious acting on behalf of an adoption agency which would be investigated,” he said.
Kathy McMahon of the Irish First Mothers group said the Commission needed to adopt a “fully inclusive model”.
“Otherwise, we are on track to cherry-pick the truth so as to exclude the majority of women from consideration,” she said

No probe into illegal adoption files – 2010

I wrote this in 2010 – almost five years before we get a State inquiry. It also came years before I obtained material showing the Adoption Authority of Ireland was warning the Government that there could be “thousands” of illegal adoptions. The HSE took three months to issue me a response. It answered none of the questions I asked.  The full audit of all adoption records, which I have written about so many times before and since, has yet to happen


THE Adoption Board has said it has no intention of inspecting all adoption files held by the HSE and private adoption agencies, despite the HSE admitting some files contain evidence of illegal birth registrations.

The revelation comes after the Irish Examiner queried the HSE concerning an entry on its website.

“After the introduction of legal adoption in Ireland in 1952, some children’s births were registered directly into the name of the ‘adoptive’ parents. This practice had the effect of removing all reference to the natural parents from the official record and also meant the Adoption Board had no record of the case, as there had been no legal adoption. Some adoption agencies have records in relation to these,” states the entry.

It is a crime to falsely register a birth. The result of such practices meant some children were raised believing they were the natural child of their ‘parents’ when, in fact, they were falsely registered and illegally adopted.

In some cases, this was facilitated by adoption agencies, some of which remain accredited by the Adoption Board to this day.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE if any of the files showing illegal birth registrations were now in the possession of the HSE and, if so, had it informed the Adoption Board about such files.

A response was issued by the HSE after three months, in which it failed to answer any of the questions put to it.

“The HSE did receive files from a number of agencies when they ceased to operate. These files have been stored and are available to be reopened, as required. If the HSE receives a request to access the file from an individual who was adopted, this can be facilitated. Similarly, if information comes to light to suggest that an adoption was illegally registered this can be investigated further. However, it is important to note that if an adoption was illegally registered, this fact is not normally noted in the adoption file,” a statement read.

Despite its knowledge that some adoption files contain evidence of illegal registrations, the Adoption Board said it had never contacted or inspected any files held by the HSE.

The Adoption Board also said it has “no plans” to inspect the files of all adoption agencies and the HSE “within its current work schedule”.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the Adoption Board’s response to the issue was grounds for every member of the authority to resign.

“The fact that the HSE knows the details of adoption agencies which participated in illegal adoptions and that the Adoption Board has no intention to inspect these files to even quantify the extent of the problem is surely grounds for every single member of the board to resign,” said Ms Lohan.

Chairwoman of Adoption Loss – The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, Bernie Harold, called for a full audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the State to discover the extent of such practices.

“The only body which has the right to inspect every single file in any registered adoption agency is the Adoption Board. We hereby call on the Minister for Children Barry Andrews to issue an instruction to the board to carry out a complete audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the state,” she said.

St Patrick’s Guild accredited under 2010 Adoption Act

The very first agency accredited by the Adoption Authority of Ireland under the much heralded Adoption Act 2010 was was St Patrick’s Guild – despite all that is known about its actions. Since this story ran in 2010, it has closed but adopted people are left waiting years for it to transfer its 13,500 files to Tusla. They are being offered no tracing service while they wait. It told the AAI in 2012 (see blog for more on this) it had “several hundred” illegal birth registrations on its books but was not telling the people involved. Guess what? Nobody decided to do anything on

It told the AAI in 2012 (see blog for more on this) it had “several hundred” illegal birth registrations on its books but was not telling the people involved. Guess what? Nobody decided to do anything on foot of this revelation and St Patrick’s Guild was kept out of the Mother and Baby Home inquiry. No reason was given for this exclusion, which beggars belief.


A RELIGIOUS-run adoption agency which facilitated a number of illegal adoptions and which exported over 500 “illegitimate” children to the US has been re-accredited by the Adoption Authority.

St Patrick’s Guild was last month accredited to assist adopted people and natural parents through tracing, counselling and mediating.

This is despite the fact that St Patrick’s Guild facilitated the illegal adoption and false birth registration of the son of Tressa Reeves — a case exposed by the Irish Examiner last year.

The agency allowed a couple to take the child without a formal adoption order being made. The couple then falsely registered the child as their own.

In letters to Ms Reeves, the agency admitted it had placed at least one other child in the same way.

Between 1947 and 1967, St Patrick’s Guild also arranged for the export of 572 “illegitimate” children to the US for adoption.

The agency dealt with more than 10,000 adoptions here and holds more than 13,000 files on children who were fostered or adopted.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said she was “astounded” St Patrick’s Guild had been re-accredited given the volume of complaints levelled at it over a period of decades.

“In our experience, it is one of the most unhelpful adoption agencies to deal with, whether the adoption was illegal or not… We sincerely hope that now St Patrick’s Guild is accredited, they will be submitted to rigorous inspection by the new Adoption Authority.”

In a statement, the Adoption Authority said the decision to accredit St Patrick’s Guild came after “a detailed examination of the body’s current policies, procedures and practices in terms of compliance with the 2010 Act and the Adoption Act 2010 (Accredited Bodies) Regulations 2010”.