Mother and son settle in illegal adoption case



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 Patrick Paddy Farrell (aka Andre Donnelly) sued St Patrick’s Guild, an adoption society run by the Sisters of Charity Nuns, and the State arising out of her long search for him after his illegal adoption in 1961.

The defendants denied the claims.

On the what was the fourth day of the hearing, following lengthy talks between the side, Eanna Mulloy SC, instructed by solicitor Neil Cosgrave for the mother and son, told the court late on Wednesday evening 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 13 March 1961. Days later he was placed with a family at Liscolman, Tullow, Co Carlow and named Patrick Farrell by the late 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 in England, spent decades looking for her son and claimed she was given the “brush off” by the St Patrick’s and others in authority when she sought to contact 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 named her son 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 been likely sent to America.

She eventually 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 make 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. They claimed false birth and baptism certificates were procured in respect of baby Andre.

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

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

They claimed there was a failure to protect their family rights and that the Farrells’ suitability as an adopting couple 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 SC, 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 SC, claimed they were strangers to the claims and are not liable for any wrongs committed against the plaintiffs.

The court also heard that Mrs Farrell told St Patrick’s Guild that she did not want her “adopted” son to be told he was adopted.

Aodhan O’Faolain, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.