In 2001, when I was 30, I learnt that my mother had had three babies born in Ireland in the 1960’s who had all been adopted. I’m not ready to publicly examine and discuss all of the emotional fallout from that. My mother – who died last year – was not willing to talk about any of that with me other than in two conversations after I learnt about those three babies – three siblings I never knew existed. The fact that I know of their very existence is due to the persistence of the oldest child, my sister, who tracked me down and made contact with me.
One of those babies – a boy born in 1968 – has never been traced. From what I have been able to piece together from various members of my extended family and from the little bit my mother was prepared to share with me, his adoption was not conducted through any formal agency and it is likely he was illegally adopted.
That baby is now a 50 year old man. He may well have children, possibly grandchildren as well. Imagine for a minute that everything you thought you knew about your background turns out to be wrong – your name, your ancestry, your extended family…… all wrong.
His case is unfortunately not unusual. News broke here in Ireland yesterday that the births of 126 people were illegally registered as shown by records of the St. Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. This wasn’t news to anyone involved in organisations such as the Adoption Rights Alliance who have been talking about illegal adoptions for years.
I’ve been watching the RTÉ evening news while writing this and the language used is very telling: this was described as births having been “wrongly” registered. No, these births were ILLEGALLY registered. ‘Wrongly’ makes it sound like an administrative error rather than deliberate and illegal falsification of legal documents which it was.
I don’t know if my brother is still alive. I don’t know if he knows he was adopted. His case – if indeed it was (as I suspect) an illegal adoption – is one of probably thousands. Ireland needs to start talking about this openly and correctly and not keep on covering all of this up hoping it will never resurface. Trust me, that doesn’t work and all it does is create greater damage when it finally comes to light.