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'My son died believing I had rejected him': Philomena Lee calls on Senators to support Adoption Bill

The Seanad is set to debate a Bill on the rights of adopted people this week.

IF THIS LEGISLATION had been in place years ago, Anthony and I would have been reunited with each other before he died. Instead, he died believing I had rejected him. It is too late for us, but would be a big help to other women who were separated from their sons and daughters by adoption.

Those are the words of Philomena Lee, who has called on every Senator to “do what’s right” and support the Adoption (Identity & Information) Bill that is due to be debated on Wednesday.

Lee’s story of forced adoption and her subsequent 50-year search for her son Anthony inspired the Oscar-nominated film Philomena.

Philomena Lee Visit to Irel Philomena Lee Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Under the Bill, introduced by Senators Averil Power, Jillian van Turnhout and Fidelma Healy Eames:
  • All adoptees (up to 50,000 people) will have a right to their birth certs, listing their original names and their parents’ names;
  • Natural parents can request information about their adopted sons or daughters;
  • Adoptees and their parents can choose whether they are happy to have their current contact details released to each other.

The legislation was drafted by Dr Fergus Ryan, a law lecturer at Maynooth University.

Lee said she was “pleased that legislation to recognise the rights of all adopted people, mothers and families is finally before the Irish parliament”.

Power, who is herself adopted, said that she has been contacted by “many other women like Philomena”.

They were devastated to lose their children in the first place and are heartbroken that they still can’t make contact with them now. They just want to know that their son or daughter is ok and tell them they never stopped thinking about them. Older women in particular are worried that if legislation isn’t brought in soon it will be too late for them.

“The Government has an opportunity next Wednesday to do right by these women by finally putting in place a proper system through which adoptees and natural parents may reunite if they wish. I hope they will accept our bill and work with us to ensure women like Philomena finally get the support they deserve,” Power stated.

The Bill will be debated in the Seanad at 5pm on Wednesday.

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Órla Ryan

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