How Ireland Snatched My Beautiful Baby
by Kathy McMahon
with Fintan Dunne
Ireland, my native country, mobilized the State to illegally snatch my baby from me -and nothing can ever undo the damage inflicted on me and on tens of thousands of innocent Irish mothers.
I was tried and fraudulently found guilty in the kangaroo courts of Catholic Ireland - and I was sentenced to have my own flesh and blood torn from me.
Instead of helping me defend my parental rights, the Irish government and the Irish Catholic Church conspired to construct a sham legal process based on coerced consent in order to steal my child.
But don't take my word for it. Take Michael Viney's word - word for word.
My child was taken in 1974. Just ten years earlier, a 1964 article by Michael Viney of the Irish Times, details alleged "progress" made on adoption issues as justice minister, Mr C. J. Haughey steered that year's version of the 1952 Adoption Act into law.
(Aside: afterwards, the Irish Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid would write Haughey, to "express to you my own gratitude and the appreciation of the bishops for your courtesy and for the unfailing co-operation of the department [of justice] in all that concerns the adoption of children.")Viney reminds us that in 1964 an unmarried mother had only a one in four chance of keeping her child. Everything was clearly going swimmingly -for baby snatchers.
Writing in the newspaper of the influential and affluent, Viney notes that:
"The social pattern of adoption has changed remarkably [ ]. Before legal adoption the great majority of children were placed with families with plenty of love, but not much money..... But, last year, adopters in professional, commercial and technical occupations accounted for more than a third of the total."In Viney's 1964, money trumps love, even as Church and State met Irish class war - with the aim to steal the children of a Church-defined 'untouchable' caste: unmarried mothers.
But despite the rising numbers of adopting couples, the supply of children still exceeded the demand, Viney bemoaned:
"It is a situation that favours the perfect baby (and the perfect baby girl at that) and leaves the less well-favoured child to linger.... As one priest told me: [ ] they want the perfect child, who doesn't have red hair or a squint or a crocked toe."From whence are these perfect babies coming? From me and the likes of me. From we who have no rights. From us deemed 'fallen women' by the Church and doomed to our fate by a partisan State.
Viney charts how this cosy set-up works:
"An adoption order is irrevocable. It removes from the mother [ ] all parental rights and duties and transfers them to the adopters... [ ] a new [birth] certificate is issued... in which the child's surname is shown as that of the adopters."
"On the making of an adoption order, the Church authorities issue a baptismal certificate giving the child the surname of the adopters only. This was first introduced by Bishop Lucey, of Cork, well known [ ] for his strong personal interest in the welfare of the unmarried mother and her child."With 'good' friends like Bishop Lucey in high places, who needs constitutional and civil rights?
I do. I did. And I didn't get them.
Minister Haughey's 1964 Adoption Act copper-fastened a fraudulent process of consent.
My consent was as contrived as sweeping changes to a will made by an elderly person which benefit their current carers at the expense of other relatives. A judge might look askance at such a new will, on the basis that the elderly person was dependent for basic sustenance on the new benefactors, and might have been subject to undue influence.
Was I any different? 1. I was pregnant -thus dependent by definition, as were all my fellow mothers. And I was 2. semi-incarcerated with nuns on whom I was 3. further dependent for shelter and sustenance. And 4. all around me wanted to use the Adoption Act to take my child. What kind of free consent was that?
In 1964, Mr. Haughey knew all this from the State's dozen years of operating the 1952 Adoption Act. Did he amend the Act or its implementation to safeguard the mother's rights to exercise free choice? No.
The majority of Irish so-called adoptions have been mere kidnapping dressed in a flimsy moral artifice, wherein mothers became sacrificial victims for respectability and their babies became commodities. Real adoptions were the exception not the rule.
One member of the First Mothers group recently posted to Facebook the image of an infant with this message overlaid:
"Any child that is brought in the world is a blessing, not a mistake."Those babies were sent to bless their mother's lives. Our nation State turned that blessing into a lifetime curse.
The almost 800 Tuam babies evidence a terrible crime.
But even greater crimes left no gathered skeletal remains. The bodies of tens of thousands of coercively adopted babies lie in no mass grave. They disappeared like blossoms blown away on a summer breeze -leaving a desolate winter of grief to reign in the hearts of their mothers.
There are things worse than losing a child to death. Like losing one to adoption and never knowing its fate; or never being able to close that wound. That wound of not knowing is also felt by our adopted children - denied their birth information.
First Mother's bodies occupy no single mass grave. Yet we do die earlier than average -suffering far higher rates of physical and mental disease, with depression a companion for far too many of us. Ours is an enduring holocaust of the heart. Our daily pain is invisible, yet disabling.
Our only crime was to bring beautiful babies into this world - to cherish.
The State's crime was: to steal them. Church, State and families all colluded.
We need more than an inquiry into mother and baby homes and other institutions. We need openness and truth. We need to look at the broad issue of how unwed Irish mothers lost their civil rights - not only in 1928 - but up until 1998 and later.
Ireland is still in denial. We want Justice. We deserve no less.
Kathy McMahon is founder of the Voice for First Mothers Facebook group.
Fintan Dunne is press relations officer for the group.
First Mothers Group: http://facebook.com/groups/avoiceforfirstmothers/
Email: firstmothersvoice at gmail.com