Tuesday 23 October 2018

'I want this sorted before I lose my memory or die' - Pensioner who is a 'citizen of nowhere'

  • Born in the Bethany Home in Dublin as Maurice Johnson
  • Adopted by a Belfast family and renamed David Paul Graham
  • Was sexually and physically assaulted during his childhood
  • Now Mr Graham isn't recognised as an Irish or UK citizen
Paul Graham said that he just wants to be an Irish citizen
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

A pensioner claims that he is "a citizen of nowhere" after being born in an Irish mother and baby home and was then adopted by a family from Northern Ireland.

Paul Graham (78) said that his lack of citizenship is a moral issue and after being diagnosed with dementia he wants the issue cleared up before he either loses his memory or dies.

Paul was born in the Bethany home in Dublin institution in 1939 and named Maurice Johnson, he was later adopted by a family in Belfast who renamed him Paul Graham.

The different names and the discrepancies during the adoption process mean that Paul has been refused citizenship by both the Irish and UK States.

Paul, who lives in Sydney Australia, told Independent.ie that he was born in the home for unmarried Protestant women in Rathgar, he was adopted months later by a family from Finglas, who brought him back within a year.

He said that he was later adopted by a family from Belfast, but he claims that throughout his childhood he was abused and miserable.

Paul said: "I was adopted by a family from Belfast, I remember they were very wealthy and that my father was about 30 years older than my mother.

"The first few years with them were pretty good, from what I remember, but then my mother became an alcoholic and everything changed - she would fly into terrible rages and beat me, she had affairs.

Paul Graham said that he just wants to be an Irish citizen
Paul Graham said that he just wants to be an Irish citizen

"I was also sexually abused by two men as a child."

Read More: 'We've been left to rot' - Bethany Home survivor claims he is ignored by the State because he's a Protestant

The Bethany Home
The Bethany Home

Paul decided to run away when he was 14 and joined the Royal Navy drummer band, although he jokes that he hasn't got "a flair for music."

After two years he was then transferred to the Navy, he said: "By that stage the navy was like my family, I didn't have anywhere else to go or any home."

It was through a colleague he became pen pals with his now-wife Hilary and they got married, they had three children and after 15 years in the defence forces he was discharged.

They decided to escape the Troubles in 1939 by moving to Sydney, Paul still had his travel documents from his time in the Navy but he was stunned to find out that he's not a British or Irish citizen.

He said: "I had always managed to get around on my navy documents but it turned out that I am recognised as a British subject, not a citizen as I was born in Dublin.

"I've always felt Irish and am proud to be Irish and when I went to look into getting my birth cert from the adoption agency in Dublin they told me that no record exists of Paul Graham, as I was known there as Maurice Johnson.

"The Irish government has said they can't offer me citizenship until I can prove that Paul Graham and Maurice Johnson are the same person, I have offered my birth cert but that's in Maurice's name and then all of my other documents are under the name Paul.

"I'm 78 and I have been diagnosed with dementia, I have been told my memory will probably go within the next couple of years, I'm not sure what else I can do.

"Essentially, I am a citizen of nowhere."

Paul said that he has written to Taoiseach Varadkar and various state departments for help but he has just been told that the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is ongoing.

He said: "I am nearly 80 and I have dementia and a leaking heart valve, which has been connected to my time in the Bethany Home, most of the guys who were there with me are either dead or in their 80s, we don't have time to wait on a commission.

"I just think that it's a moral point that I should be recognised as an Irish citizen.

Paul Graham said his lack of citizenship has caused travel issues (Stock picture)
Paul Graham said his lack of citizenship has caused travel issues (Stock picture)

"The system failed us as children and I just want this sorted out."

Paul said that he was an alcoholic for years as he struggled with his troubled childhood but after seeking help he has not drank for almost 40 years and has "built a wonderful life."

He said: "Alcoholics Anonymous cleared up a lot of the hurt and anger and I had about my childhood and helped me to address issues, for a long time I had felt unwanted.

"But now I know who I am and nobody can take that away from me, I don't want compensation or anything like that - I just want this cleared up."

Read More: Government rules out redress for mother and baby home residents

The Department of Justice has said that they do not comment on individual cases and requested Mr Graham to look into the citizenship process.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said a report into mother and baby homes is due to be published next year.

He said: "The experiences of former residents of the Bethany Home are being investigated by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters.

"The institutions being examined were identified based on criteria which marked them out as mother and baby homes and religious ethos was not a consideration in this process.

"The Commission has made no findings of abuse or neglect in its interim reports to date and its independent investigations are on-going.

"The Government is on record as stating that it cannot take steps which pre-empt the outcome of the Commission's important work.

"The Commission’s final report is due in February 2018 at which time the Government will be in a position to respond to the established facts and relating findings on all relevant matters.

"The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has invited former residents of the homes to participate in a facilitated consultation process.

"The first event was held on the 30th June and this process will consider the issues which have already emerged from the investigation to date."

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