'Removal of those children definitely illegal,' O'Carroll's mum told Dáil in 1956
Far from being a dark secret, illegal adoptions were openly debated on the floor of the Dáil in 1956 after being raised by comedian Brendan O'Carroll's mother.
Maureen O'Carroll, a Labour Party TD, was criticised by then justice minister Liam Cosgrave for handing "yellow English Sunday newspapers" the opportunity "to smear the name of this country".
In an exchange recorded on the Dáil record, Ms O'Carroll reveals that she travelled to Limerick to investigate the cases of Anthony Barron and Mary Clancy, of Camas in Bruff, who were given to families in the United States.
"I submit that not only was there something irregular about the manner of the removal of those children but something definitely illegal," she said. The Dublin North-Central TD claimed their removal from the State involved "serious contraventions of Section 40 of the Adoption Act, 1952".
Ms O'Carroll, whose son is the star of TV show 'Mrs Brown's Boys', had submitted a series of questions to the justice minister but was told there was "nothing irregular or unlawful".
"I was given the information that in the last three years 523 such children have left this country with a view to adoption in the USA. Five hundred and 23 is an appalling figure in view of the circumstances," she said.
She had no objection to children being adopted by US families as they would "not have to go through life in this country with the stigma they normally have to bear".
"But I do not see why it should have to be done in an illegal manner," she said.
Fianna Fáil's Donogh O'Malley said he "deprecated" the manner in which she had chosen "to bring publicity" to a question.
"What has been stated in all sincerity by Deputy Mrs Maureen O'Carroll will be splashed across many a paper, not only in Britain but in other countries, to the detriment of this nation," he said.