herald

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Nun told mum adopted children 'want nothing to do with birth parents'

Tressa Reeves and her son, Patrick Farrell, outside court
Tressa Reeves and her son, Patrick Farrell, outside court

A woman who spent more than 50 years searching for her son has told the High Court she was informed by a nun during her quest that adopted children don't want anything to do with their birth parents.

Tressa Donnelly Reeves gave birth to a boy on March 13, 1961, and named him Andre in the hope of one day finding him - as he would be the only Andre in Ireland.

He was placed with a family in Tullow, Co Carlow, and given the name Patrick Farrell. They were reunited in 2013 after a long battle for information they claim they were entitled to, but were allegedly denied.

Soiled

Giving evidence on the second day of her action against the State and St Patrick's Guild (Incorporated) adoption society, which was run by Catholic nuns, Ms Reeves said she was encouraged not to look for Andre.

Her son is also suing the defendants.

Ms Reeves was told not to tell anyone she had a baby, particularly a man, as she would have been seen as "soiled goods". She was unmarried and aged just 21 when her parents sent her from her Farnborough home in Hampshire to Ireland to give birth. Her friends were told she was going to Dublin to learn cookery.

She accepted signing a consent for Andre's adoption days after he was born.

In the early 1970s she returned to Ireland and attended St Patrick's office in central Dublin where she spoke to a nun about her son, and gave her details relevant to the birth.

She said the nun - "who wanted to get rid of me" - told her St Patrick's had "no details" about his birth, and that "adopted children never want anything to do with their birth parents, especially the boys".

After that meeting she went to a clinic in Clontarf, where she had given birth to her son.

There she met the midwife who had delivered Andre, who Ms Reeves had been friendly with. She said that when she asked the midwife about Andre, she was told that he was among those babies that were sent to the US and that it would be impossible to trace him as there was "no paperwork" in regards those adoptions.

She said she was shocked by this, as she had been informed in the correspondence she received from the nuns in 1961-2 that Andre was sent to a family "down the country".

In their action, Ms Reeves and her son claim the adoption was unlawful and was done without the legal safeguards provided under the adoption laws. They claim the society made false misrepresentations concerning her son's location.

They allege the State failed to vindicate or recognise their rights. The claims are denied.

The State parties say they are a stranger to the claims and are not liable for any wrongs committed against them.

Felix McEnroy SC, for St Patrick's, asked the court to strike out the claim, on grounds including that based on the evidence put before the court the claim appeared to be one of personal injury.

Personal injuries actions are procedurally different from the claim they are contesting.

The case continues next week.

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