Nun said adopted children want nothing to do with birth parents, woman who spent 50 years searching tells court

By Ann O'Loughlin

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 said that when she gave birth to a boy on March 13, 1961 she named him Andre, as he would be the only Andre in Ireland, in the hope of finding him.

He was placed with a family at Liscolman, Tullow, Co Carlow and given the name Patrick Farrell.

Mother and son were eventually reunited in 2013 after a long battle for information they claim they were entitled to, but were allegedly denied.

Tressa with son Paddy. Picture: Collins

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

Her mother had told her it would be "disruptive for the child". Her mother also told her 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 years when she was sent from the UK to Ireland to have the baby. Her friends were told she was going to Dublin to learn Cordon Bleu cookery.

Tressa Reeves at 21.

She accepted signing a consent for Patrick's adoption days after he was born. In reply to her counsel Eanna Mulloy SC, she said she sent letters inquiring about the infant to a nun with St Patricks, and in reply was told he was placed with an Irish family.

She said in the early 70s she returned to Ireland, attended at St Patrick's office in central Dublin and spoke to a nun there 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 Andre's birth, and that "adopted children never want anything to do with their birth parents, especially the boys".

Mrs Reeves said she then left St Patrick's office and returned to where she gave birth to Andre - a clinic in Clontarf.

There she met the midwife who had delivered her son, and who Mrs Reeves had been friendly with.

Mrs Reeves said 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 regard to 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".

She renewed her search for her son in the mid-1990s after speaking to her Sligo-based cousin who stayed at her then home in Belgium.

Her cousin told her that there had been programmes on TV about changes in regards entitlements to information concerning adopted children in Ireland.

In their action, Mr Farrell and Mrs Reeves claim the 'adoption' was unlawful and was done without the legal safeguards provided under the adoption laws.

In their action against St Patrick's and Ireland, and the Attorney General seeking damages they claim the society made false misrepresentations concerning Patrick's location.

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

It is also claimed there was a failure to protect their family rights and that the son was placed with a couple, the now deceased Maeve and James Farrell, whose suitability was never assessed.

The State it is alleged failed to vindicate or recognise the mother and son's rights.

The claims are denied.

The society says it did not make any false misrepresentations. It denies keeping anyone in the dark regarding their entitlements or that it engaged in any conspiracies and says the society did not thwart or disparage any efforts by Mrs Reeves to trace her son.

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

In an application on behalf of St Patrick's, Felix McEnroy SC 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 being contested.

The case, counsel said, should have been bought at the correct forum, namely the High Court personal injury list.

Both John Rogers SC for the State defendants and Mr Mulloy for plaintiffs said the action was a not a personal injury claim. Mr Mulloy said the case should not be dismissed on that ground.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald said he would rule on the application at a later date, but has allowed the plaintiffs to continue with their evidence.

The case continues next week.

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