Friday 23 March 2018

Court dismisses woman's case against religious order over the alleged forced adoption of her baby 45 years ago

The Four Courts
The Four Courts

A 68-YEAR old woman's case against a religious order over the alleged forced adoption of her four-month-old baby 45 years ago has been dismissed by the High Court.

Her case against a second religious order and the HSE is still pending.

The woman claimed she was raped in 1968 and became pregnant at the age of 21 before being sent to the St Patrick's mother and baby home on the Navan Road, Dublin.

She had to give the baby up for adoption as she was also a resident/worker in the Magdalene Laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin, and says she was warned  by a nun there if she didn't sign the adoption papers she would be put out on the street.

She sued in 2013 claiming duress, illegality and fraud over the adoption.

It was claimed that because there was a breach of a six month statutory period before an adoption can be made, that the clock stopped running on the Statute of Limitations for bringing the legal action.

She had sued the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, who she said managed St Patricks, the Sisters of Charity Refuge, who operated the Magdalene Laundry, and the HSE as successor to the original health authority for Dublin. They denied her claims.

The Daughters of Charity last Monday, who said it was not them but the health authority who managed St Patricks, asked President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns to dismiss her claim because the 44 year delay in bringing it meant important witnesses and information relating to the events of 1969 when the adoption took place were no longer available.

The judge ruled today her claim against the Daughter of Charity was statute barred.

He said the woman's lawyers argued the Daughters of Charity concealed details of an informal adoption system which operated at the time in breach of the 1952 Adoption Act and that premature consent had been obtained from her.

It had also been argued the Daughters of Charity's role in the process only became known through third party disclosures.

The court was satisfied an informal process operated in this case whereby the woman was asked and provided interim written consent, in May 1969, until such time as valid consent could be obtained in accordance with the Adoption Act.

He was satisfied the the Daughters of Charity order was "an active participant in this highly questionable process".

But it was clear the woman, who was an adult at the time, was fully aware of all the matters now complained of, including alleged undue influence and duress.

In his view, there was no indication the Daughters perpetrated a fraud or concealed anything from her such as would allow the Statute of Limitations not to run.

Even if the system in operation had not been known to her, he was satisfied that, with reasonable diligence, documents which she later obtained could have been obtained before she got them in November 2014.

The case was commenced out of time and was therefore statute barred.

There was also an inordinate and inexcusable delay in commencing the proceedings, he also said.

While the court sympathised with her predicament, the matters she complains of were known to her from the outset.

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