Wednesday 22 November 2017

Mary Kenny: Burton's story of adoption shows us how well it can work

Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

JOAN Burton has spoken, movingly, about how she was given a photograph of her birth mother just before the meeting with Eamon Gilmore which confirmed her new appointment as Social Protection Minister. It was the first picture Burton had ever seen of her biological mother -- who is now dead -- in middle age, and the photo has become "almost a talisman" in her new ministerial role.

For any adopted person, that connection with a birth family has got to be deeply significant. For any birth mother who has ever placed a child for adoption -- let's not use the cruel expression "given up for adoption", which implies rejection -- it must also have carried a comforting echo. Burton's birth mother would surely be proud to see what a success her daughter has made of her life.

But Burton has always spoken, too, about the wonderful support that her adoptive family, and particularly her adoptive mother, has played in her remarkable career. "My adoptive mum was fantastic," she told interviewer Jason O'Toole in early February. "She encouraged me. She just had great belief in me. She was a champion. She just believed in me and was really positive, a really lovable and popular person. She was really anxious that I would continue my education and do everything that I could (with my life)."

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