Monday 17 June 2019

Unmarried mothers sent to adoption body by singing priest Michael Cleary

'It was an open secret he was sleeping with every girl he could'

Fr Michael Cleary presenting his radio show
Fr Michael Cleary presenting his radio show
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The late Fr Michael Cleary is said to have played a central role in referring single mothers to the now infamous St Patrick's Guild adoption society.

Helen Maguire, who brought her baby there in 1966, said the "singing priest" suggested this to her while he was chaplain to the Irish community in London.

The Irish Independent has also learned of a separate case from the same year where Fr Cleary is also said to have arranged for another young woman to bring her newborn baby there.

For many years Fr Cleary was one of Ireland's best-known priests. Along with Bishop Eamonn Casey, he was the "warm-up act" before Pope John Paul II's mass in Galway in 1979. A charismatic figure, he regularly appeared on television, and was a newspaper columnist and radio presenter.

Following his death in 1993 it emerged he had secretly fathered two sons with his housekeeper Phyllis Hamilton.

Co Tipperary-born Ms Maguire left for England as an 18-year-old after becoming pregnant, and said Fr Cleary helped her get a job in a hotel in London.

Ross Hamilton, his mother Phyllis and father Michael Cleary
Ross Hamilton, his mother Phyllis and father Michael Cleary

She gave birth in November 1966 and said the priest advised her to put the child up for adoption in Ireland, but she wanted to keep the baby.

When she decided to return home to visit her family the following month, she needed somewhere to leave the baby for a few weeks as the birth was still a secret.

She said Fr Cleary suggested St Patrick's Guild and "arranged everything", believing she would have it adopted.

She said she gave Fr Cleary money to pay for her flight and he arranged for her to be met by a woman at the airport and brought to St Patrick's.

Unlike other women who went to the guild, which was located at Temple Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin, Ms Maguire did not bow to pressure to have her daughter Christine adopted. But the 71-year-old would discover last year that the baby she collected from St Patrick's and raised as her own was not her biological daughter.

Ms Maguire described Fr Cleary as "charming" during his time in London, but said it was an open secret he was sleeping with women.

"He was sleeping with every girl he could get," she said.

Fr Cleary would call into the hotel where she worked as a telephonist for lunch and tea and came into the staff room and ate with the women working there, she said.

"Then he would say to the girls: 'When is the next party?'," she said.

"They told me all about him. He would be booking the first bedroom, wherever the party was. We all knew he was sleeping with girls."

While she felt his behaviour wasn't harmless, she still felt she could trust him.

Fr Cleary returned to Ireland in 1967 to take up a position in Marino, Dublin.

He met Phyllis Hamilton after a charity concert in Marino in August of that year.

Coincidentally, Ms Maguire said she briefly worked with Ms Hamilton in a London Hotel.

According to her book, 'Secret Love - My Life with Father Michael Cleary', Ms Hamilton said that after she became pregnant with the priest's baby in 1969 he suggested she go to London "to get out of sight". She soon came back to Dublin and gave birth to a boy, who she called Michael Ivor, in March 1970.

According to the book, Fr Cleary suggested the best thing to do was to put the child up for adoption, which she did.

Ms Hamilton told how when she later had second thoughts about this and wanted her baby back, Fr Cleary flew into a rage.

He later brought her to a solicitor's office to sign the adoption papers.

The book also tells how in 1971, Ms Hamilton discovered the priest in bed with another woman, an unmarried mother he had previously counselled.

They later had a second child, Ross, in 1976.

Again, Fr Cleary wanted her to have the boy adopted, but he relented after she staunchly refused.

Irish Independent

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