Tuesday 16 January 2018

Philomena urges State to re-examine adoption law

Tipperary woman Philomena Lee
Tipperary woman Philomena Lee
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

THE woman whose story inspired the recent popular film 'Philomena' has appealed to the Irish Government to re-examine its stringent adoption laws.

Philomena Lee became pregnant as a teenager in 1952 and her son Anthony was taken from her and adopted at age three from the Roscrea, Co Tipperary, mother-and-baby home to a family in the US.

Mother and son searched for one another for years but failed to reunite. In 1995, Anthony died of AIDS.

"He was taken the week before Christmas and I cried and cried and I think I drove the nuns mad," she said.

"I think if I had only met him once more and put my arms around him and given him a hug; he was so intensely looking for me. I pray for him every day and talk to him every day," said Ms Lee, whose character is played by Oscar-winning Judi Dench in the movie.

"They told him that I had abandoned him at two weeks, which I hadn't. I raised him for three-and-a-half years.

"It's awful the thought of him dying thinking I had abandoned him," she said.

She said that the mother-and-baby home told the young man searching for his mother that they "knew nothing about me".

"But every time I moved address, I wrote to them in case he wanted to find me. They lied to a dying man."

The Adoption Rights Alliance believes Ms Lee's case is not unique and over 60,000 adoption files are currently being held by the HSE, private adoption agencies and church representatives.

"This is another subset of women who were incarcerated in a joint enterprise by the church and state," co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance Susan Lohan said.

"The vast, vast majority of children in the mother and baby homes were taken without their mothers' consent."

Philomena, her daughter Jane Libberton and journalist Martin Sixsmith were in Dublin for the launch of The Philomena Project in association with the Adoption Rights Alliance.

The project aims to effect legislative change by calling on the Irish State to grant access to over 60,000 adoption records.

The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary order who ran the mother-and-baby home has expressed concerns over the film's depiction of their nuns. The order's nuns have also denied that they had blocked attempts by adopted children to access records.

Irish Independent

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