Independent Woman

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Philomena Lee heads to LA for women's rights award

Laura Butler

Published 23/03/2014|17:14

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Philomena Lee is portrayed by Dame Judi Dench in the film Philomena
Philomena Lee is portrayed by Dame Judi Dench in the film Philomena

She was the talk of Hollywood at this year’s Academy Awards and Philomena Lee is to return to the US to receive an award for her bravery.

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The 80-year old, whose life inspired the BAFTA-winning film Philomena starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench, will head to Los Angeles once more to be honoured by the women's rights group Feminist Majority Foundation.

She will receive the Eleanor Roosevelt Award during the Global Women's Rights ceremony on May 5, chaired by American broadcaster Jay Leno and his wife Mavis.

In 1952 Lee was forced to give up her son for adoption when he was three.

Fifty years later she embarked on a search for him with the help of British journalist Martin Sixsmith.

The silver screen adaptation of her personal journey has touched the lives of millions – as well as some of the biggest actors in the industry.

“We’re just amazed by how many people, even the movie stars, this story has touched,” Ms Lee told the Irish Independent.

She dropped in to HMV in the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin on Friday to launch the DVD of the film.

James Bond actor Daniel Craig didn’t want a picture with anybody else at one of the award ceremonies, but he said he’d happily have a picture with me. We’re still waiting for the bubble to burst.”

Following the overwhelming reaction her story has received on an international level, Limerick-born Lee and her daughter Jane Libberton launched the Philomena Project in association with the Adoption Rights Alliance, which aims to effect legislative change by calling on the Irish state to grant access to adoption records for both in-country and Irish-US adopted people and their families.

“The ultimate aim is to get the legislation changed, we’ve met some TDs in Dublin but it’s a long, tedious process – there will be a Supreme Court case or a referendum,” Ms Libberton said.

“It will take a few years, we’re going through the motions and applying for files – but we want to see it all through to the end, it’s likely to take a few years.”

The charity has so far received significant donations, including a generous sum from a name involved in the movie.

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