Mother and son settle illegal adoption case

Tressa Donnelly Reeves at the Four Courts today. Photo: Collins Courts

Ann O'Loughlin

A man who was illegally adopted and his birth mother have settled their High Court action against a Catholic adoption agency and the State.

Tressa Reeves, née Donnelly, and her son Patrick Paddy Farrell, aka Andre Donnelly, had sued St Patrick’s Guild (Inc) adoption society, which was run by the Sisters of Charity nuns and the State arising out of her long search for him following his illegal adoption in 1961.

The defendants had denied the claims.

On the what was the fourth day of the hearing, following lengthy talks between the side, Eanna Mulloy, for the mother and son, told the court late yesterday the parties had reached “a comprehensive agreement”.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald said he was “really delighted” the case had been resolved and agreed to strike out the proceedings, with liberty to apply to have the action re-entered.

The terms of the settlement are confidential. Mrs Reeves gave birth to Mr Farrell at a clinic in Dublin on March 13, 1961. Days later he was placed with a family at Liscolman, Tullow, Co Carlow, and given the name Patrick Farrell by the now deceased couple Jim and Maeve Farrell.

Mrs Reeves spent decades looking for him and they were reunited in 2013. Mr Farrell did not know he was illegally adopted until late in 2012, some months after Maeve Farrell’s death.

Mrs Reeves, now living in Cornwall, spent decades looking for her son and claimed she was given the “brush off” by St Patrick’s and others in authority when she sought to make contact with him.

The court heard Mrs Reeves, who came from a respectable Catholic English family with Irish connections, was sent to Ireland after she became pregnant in 1960.

She gave birth to her son at the Marie Clinic in Dublin in March 1961. She called him Andre, on the basis he would be the only Andre in Ireland, in the hope of someday finding him.

During her long search, she claimed she was told by a nun that adopted children don’t look for their birth parents and that he had likely been sent to the US. She learned in 1997 that he had been placed with an Irish family, but despite her requests was not given information that would allow her to contact him.

Mr Farrell was only made aware of his true origins in 2012, and told the court that while Maeve Farrell had doted on him, Jim Farrell regularly subjected him to physical violence.

Both Mr Farrell, aged 57, and Mrs Reeves, aged 79, said his ‘adoption’ was unlawful and claimed his placement with the Farrells was done without the legal safeguards provided under adoption laws.

They claimed false birth and baptism certs were procured in respect of baby Andre.

They had sought damages for alleged false misrepresentations made concerning Patrick’s location.

They also alleged St Patrick’s engaged in conspiracy, deceit, and failed to provide them with information about each other in a timely manner.

They claimed there was a failure to protect their family rights and that Andre/Paddy was placed with the Farrells, whose suitability was never assessed.

The State, it was alleged, failed to vindicate or recognise the mother and son’s rights.

The claims were all denied. The society, represented by Felix McEnroy, said it did not make any false misrepresentations or try to thwart Mrs Reeves’s effort to trace her son.

The State parties, represented by John Rogers, claimed they were strangers to the claims and were not liable for any wrongs committed against the plaintiffs.



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