Sunday 23 September 2018

'Duped and cheated' - mother and son wrongfully separated for 51 years sue adoption agency

Tressa Reeves (née Donnelly) arrives at court with her son Patrick Farrell (also known as Andre Donnelly). Photo: Frank McGrath
Tressa Reeves (née Donnelly) arrives at court with her son Patrick Farrell (also known as Andre Donnelly). Photo: Frank McGrath

Aodhan O'Faolain

A woman and her son, who was adopted as an infant in the 1960s, are suing a Catholic adoption agency in the High Court for damages.

Tressa Reeves alleges her son was wrongfully removed from her care and given to an older childless married couple.

She was only reunited with him 51 years after his birth.

The case involves St Patrick's Guild Adoption Society, the same body which earlier this year was revealed to have been involved in at least 126 cases where the adoption process was bypassed and adoptive parents were allowed to register the child as their natural child.

During her search for her son Mrs Reeves, née Donnelly, from Surrey in England, alleges she was given "the brush-off" and told that the boy she named Andre Donnelly had been placed with a family in the US.

He had, in fact, been placed with a family in Carlow where he was named Patrick Farrell.

The mother and son claim the placement was unlawful and lacked legal safeguards.

After a long battle for information, Mrs Reeves and her son were finally reunited in 2013.

The mother and son have now sued the adoption society and the Attorney General for damages. They have accused the defendants of making false misrepresentations concerning her son's location, and of deceit and failing to provide them with information about each other that they were entitled to.

It is also claimed there was a failure to protect their family rights and that the son was placed with a couple, James and Maeve Farrell, whose suitability was never assessed.

Her son seeks damages and exemplary damages on grounds including that his constitutional rights were breached.

The State, it is alleged, failed to vindicate or recognise the mother and son's rights. All of the claims are denied.

Opening the case, Eanna Mulloy SC, for the mother and son, said Mrs Reeves was from a highly respectable family in England, which was very religious, and had connections in Ireland. She became pregnant shortly before her 21st birthday.

It was then arranged for her to travel to Ireland for "work experience" and she ended up at a house in Clontarf in Dublin through St Patrick's Guild, which was run by the Sisters of Charity nuns.

She gave birth to a boy on March 13, 1961, at the Marie Clinic in Clontarf. Shortly afterwards she was taken away and signed various forms consenting to the adoption. Counsel said the forms were "false".

Mr Mulloy said the documents she signed were legal nullities and had none of the normal safeguards required.

In addition, he said the contents of the form about the mother's details were fudged and lacking in detail. The barrister said that years later, following her marriage and the birth of her other children, she made visits to Ireland in an attempt to get information about her son without much success.

She was brushed off by the nuns she dealt with at the guild, and a person who worked at the place where she gave birth suggested the boy was among infants who went to the US.

When she did get her son's file, she discovered the names of the family who adopted him had been blacked out. She was eventually reunited with her son in early 2013, but counsel said she was "duped and cheated, through and through".

The court heard her son was subjected to extreme violence by his adoptive father over the course of several years.

The case continues before Mr Justice Denis McDonald.

Irish Independent

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