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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: -2°C
forced adoption

Woman's signature forged on letter saying nuns from Mother and Baby Home 'deserve a medal'

The survivor saw the letter, written in 1980, for the first time last month.

A WOMAN WHO received personal documents from the Department of Children says her signature was forged on a letter sent to nuns from a Mother and Baby Home in 1980 thanking them for their help.

Mary* maintains she never wrote the letter and was not aware it existed until last month. She believes her late mother wrote the letter, pretending to be her.

A number of religious orders have previously used such letters to show that some women who spent time in mother and baby homes and similar institutions were grateful for the help they received, as noted by the Commission of Investigation’s final report in January.

Now aged in her 60s, Mary was sent to Ard Mhuire Mother and Baby Home in Dunboyne, which was run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, in the late 1970s when she became pregnant outside marriage in her early 20s.

Mary wanted to raise her daughter but felt compelled to give her up for adoption in 1980, despite repeated attempts to keep her.

In the letter, the writer says the nuns deserve medals for their “fantastic work” and that the institution in Dunboyne must still be “packed out” with pregnant women and girls.

Screenshot 2021-07-28 11.18.12

Mary received a copy of the letter, purporting to be from her, in June.

It was among several files sent to her after she submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR) to the department for documents related to her which had been compiled by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), individuals have the right to request a copy of any personal data which which has been processed by an organisation.

The department became the data controller in question after the Commission dissolved at the end of February.

Mary wishes to remain anonymous but The Journal has met her and confirmed her identity.

She gave evidence to the Commission’s Confidential Committee in 2015. During this interview, she says, the women asking her questions did not mention the letter in her file but referred to similar letters in a more general sense.

“When we went up [to Dublin] that day they kept saying, ‘Why did people write letters [thanking the nuns] if people were discouraged with what went on [in the institutions]?’,” Mary told us.

Upon receiving the SAR documents last month, she understood why this point was raised with her. She said a copy of the letter in question was in her file in 2015 but not shown to her while she gave testimony.

“I only saw it a couple of weeks ago and I couldn’t believe it, I was shocked. There are things that I may forget along the way but if they’re brought to my attention, I remember. I never wrote the letter.”

Mary said certain details in the letter are incorrect – one nun’s name is off by one letter, for example – mistakes she would not have made if she wrote it herself.

There are also “really old style” phrases such as “God bless” that Mary said she never used, but her mother did. Both women had similar handwriting, she added.

Mary believes that some nuns may have requested this type of letter from the woman in question or her family, possibly even giving a template of what to say.

Chapter 24 of the Commission’s final report focuses on the Dunboyne institution. One section of it states that one teenage girl “was in Dunboyne for six months in the early 1980s”.

The document notes: “She was aged 15. She said they were told to go by first names and that second names were not mentioned. She said that she was pressurised into adoption. (There is a thank you letter from her in the Dunboyne institutional records).”

‘Ye deserve a medal’

The letter in Mary’s file, seen by The Journal, mentions how she went through a difficult period after giving birth but is “quite settled now”.

The letter states: “I suppose you are still packed about above (in Dunboyne) and still doing your night trips to Holles Street.”

Holles Street was the maternity hospital in Dublin where women from the institution were brought for checkups and to give birth. Mary says she and other women were segregated from the married women in the hospital because they had “sinned” and were “shameful”.

One particular line of the letter stands out to Mary. The writer tells the nuns: “I think ye should all be presented with a medal for your fantastic work which I think done me a great deal [sic].”

Mary told us she would never say such a thing to people who were instrumental in her not being able to keep her daughter.

She is also purported to have signed off with “God bless” – a phrase she says she would never use.

The writer of the letter states: “I had [my daughter] for about three months when I ran into a lot of difficulty because I hadn’t got a job or really I suppose what it takes to keep a baby.”

They add: “I just couldn’t give her up without trying first.”

Screenshot 2021-07-28 11.16.53

The letter also mentions that Mary is due to take a full-time job in the near future but until then is doing a part-time job “minding two children for a married couple who are both working”.

When trying to keep her daughter, Mary was repeatedly told she did not have the financial means or job security to look after her.

Mary has been unable to reconnect with her first-born daughter (who is now in her early 40s) to date, despite numerous attempts over the years, but she remains hopeful they will meet again one day.

*Name changed for privacy reasons