Wednesday 18 September 2019

'That was a real shock' - Future Ireland manager Stephen Kenny opens up on emotional search for his birth mother

Republic of Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland U21 manager Stephen Kenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

Ireland manager in-waiting Stephen Kenny has opened up on the shock he felt after discovering his birth mother put him up for adoption when she was in her thirties.

The newly appointed Ireland U21 boss was speaking to Marian Finucane during a wide-ranging interview on RTE Radio 1.

Having discussed his career in the League of Ireland and the recent announcement of his ascension into the national set-up, Finucane moved onto Kenny’s personal life and his recent search for his origins, having always known that he had been adopted as a child.. 

"It can be very slow finding out information as an adopted child. You get bits of information, I went and met the social worker in Letterkenny when I was living in Inishowen," Kenny said.

"We had various meetings at various times and I got some news and some of it was a bit of a shock to me. I wasn’t one of those sort of angry adopted kids who felt abandoned, I had kind of squared it with myself that it was a possibly a woman who was 17, 18, 19 or 20. In 1971, that wasn’t unusual for someone to give up a child."

However, after receiving more information about his case, Kenny was shocked to discover that his birth mother was in a different situation.

"What I found out wasn’t what I expected," he explained.

"My mother, in fact, had given me up in her thirties so that was a real shock. I just couldn’t believe it. I obviously got more information as well because it gives you her occupation and so forth. In 1971, it was difficult for women but she was a professional woman with a good career.

"So that was even strange, you feel like you were part of a lifestyle decision. I don’t know enough at the moment but it asks questions about whether you were just not wanted in that regard."

Kenny also revealed that the search ended with sad news when the authorities finally traced his birth mother.     

"She subsequently got married and had two girls. It was only a year and a half ago so we were still trying to trace her and then I was driving to work one morning and the social worker rang just as I was pulling in to Oriel Park," he continued.

"And she told me 'we’ve found your mother but I’ve got bad news for you, she died a couple of years ago.' So it was a strange sensation."

Kenny had started looking into his history after his father passed away in 2014 and said that the support he had from his parents was hugely beneficial to him growing up.

"My mother and father have always been very supportive. They told us straight away, we’ve always been open about it in our family. They said whatever you want to do just go ahead and do it. There is that element of guilt sometimes where you feel a loyalty and you don't want to be disloyal but my mother and father were fantastic about it."

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