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Heart-wrenching documentary shines light on adoption trade of Irish 'illegitimate children'

Martin Sixsmith travels to Ireland and America to reveal the moving stories of parents and children.

Ireland's Lost Babies documentary airing tonight on RTÉ One
Ireland's Lost Babies documentary airing tonight on RTÉ One
Image: Rte

Updated 10.5pm

A HEARTBREAKING DOCUMENTARY by journalist Martin Sixsmith on the Irish Catholic Church’s role in the adoption trade of thousands of ‘illegitimate children’ was aired last night on BBC television, and tonight on RTÉ Two.

Sixsmith helped Philomena Lee in her search for her son, with the story later being made into a Hollywood movie.

Catholic Church

Returning to the subject matter, Sixsmith travelled to Ireland and America to reveal the moving stories of parents and children whose lives were changed forever, when they discovered evidence that the Church failed to properly vet prospective parents, sometimes with tragic consequences.

This World: Ireland's Lost Babies Mary Monaghan and Martin visit the grave of her dead natural mother for the first time. Source: Rte

The documentary revealed how ‘illegitimate children’ were removed from their mothers and shipped abroad on passports approved by the State.

Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home

The story of Lily Boyce touched a nerve with many. Sixsmith travelled to rural Ireland to hear Boyce’s story about how she kept her pregnancy secret from everyone right up to the moment she gave birth to her son.

Upon finding out the truth, her mother took Lily and her newborn son, Joseph, to Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home. When her son was 17 months, Lily was told by the nuns to dress him so he could go to his “new family”.

Later that day, she waved goodbye to him as he was led away.

Lily later searched for her son and found that he had been sent to the US. She received no help from the Church in finding him and had to employ the service of a private investigator in the US to find him. She succeeded in contacting Joseph and received a letter from him a number of years ago, but she has not heard from him since. She recently attempted to make contact with him again.

This World: Ireland's Lost Babies Journalist, Martin Sixsmith Source: Rte

The programme stirred a lot of emotions, with people taking to Twitter to give their reaction to the heartbreaking stories of children, who are devastated to this day about not being given the answers they so longingly searched for.

If you missed the documentary last night, you can catch it again tonight on RTÉ One  at 10.15pm

Read: This 1940s letter describes the ‘decent class’ of unmarried mothers who were ‘first offenders’>

Read: Here’s a list of maternity homes in Ireland in 1947

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