Saturday 23 March 2019

Mother and son at centre of illegal adoption case settles High Court action with 'comprehensive agreement'

Both Mr Farrell and Ms Donnelly claim the State and the agency consistently prevented them gaining information about each other
Both Mr Farrell and Ms Donnelly claim the State and the agency consistently prevented them gaining information about each other

Tim Healy

A man who was illegally adopted, and his birth mother, have settled their High Court action against a Catholic adoption agency and the State.

Tressa Reeves, nee Donnelly, and her son Patrick Paddy Farrell, aka Andre Donnelly, had sued the State and St Patrick's Guild (Incorporated) adoption society which was run by the Sisters of Charity Nuns, arising out of her long search for him following his illegal adoption in 1961. 

On the what was the fourth day of the hearing, following lengthy talks between the side, Eanna Mulloy SC, for the mother and son told the court on Wednesday the parties had reached "a comprehensive agreement". 

Mr Justice Denis McDonald said he was "really delighted" the case had been resolved and agreed to strike out the proceedings, with liberty to apply to have the action reentered.  

The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Mrs Reeves gave birth to Mr Farrell at a clinic in Dublin on March 13, 1961. 

Days later he was placed with a family at Liscolman, Tullow, Co Carlow and given the name Patrick Farrell by the now deceased couple Jim and Maeve Farrell.  

Mrs Reeves spent decades looking for him and they were reunited in 2013. Mr Farrell did not know he was illegally adopted until late in 2012 some months after Maeve Farrell's death. 

Mrs Reeves, now living in Cornwall in England, spent decades looking for her son claimed given the "brush off" by the St Patrick's Guild and others in authority when she sought to make contact with him.

The court heard Mrs Reeves, who came from a respectable Catholic English family with Irish connections, was sent to Ireland after she became pregnant in 1960.

She gave birth to her son at the Marie Clinic in Dublin in March 1961. She called him Andre, on the basis he would be the only Andre in Ireland, in the hope of someday finding him. 

During her long search, she claimed she was told by a nun that adopted children don't look for their birth parents and that he had been likely sent to America.

She eventually learned in 1997 that he had been placed with an Irish family, but despite her requests was not given information that would allow her to make contact him. 

Mr Farrell was only made aware of his true origins in 2012 and told the court that while Maeve Farrell had doted on him, Jim Farrell regularly subjected him to physical violence. 

Both Mr Farrell (aged 57) and Mrs Reeves (aged 79) said his 'adoption' was unlawful and claimed his placement with the Farrells was done without the legal safeguards provided under the adoption laws.

They claimed false birth and baptism certs were procured in respect of baby Andre.

They sought damages for alleged false misrepresentations made concerning Patrick's location.

They also alleged St Patrick's engaged in a conspiracy, deceit and failed to provide them with information about each other in a timely manner.

They claimed there was a failure to protect their family rights and that Andre/Paddy was placed with the Farrells, whose suitability was never assessed.

The State, it was alleged, failed to vindicate or recognise the mother and son's rights. 

The claims were denied. 

The society said it had it did not make any false misrepresentations or trying to thwart Mrs Reeves's effort to trace her son. 

The State parties claimed they were strangers to the claims and are not liable for any wrongs committed against the plaintiffs.

The court also heard that Paddy Farrell's adoptive mother, Maeve Farrell, told a representative from St Patrick Guild that she did not want Paddy Farrell to be told he was 'adopted'.

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