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Judi Dench pays tribute to Mother and Baby Homes survivor Philomena Lee

The Oscar-winner portrayed Lee in the 2013 film Philomena, which documented her 50-year search for her forcibly adopted son, Anthony.
Jan 14th 2021, 8:00 PM 42,018 13

JUDI DENCH HAS paid tribute to Mother and Baby Homes survivor and campaigner Philomena Lee, describing her as a “remarkable person”.

The Oscar-winner portrayed Lee in the 2013 film Philomena, which documented her 50-year search for her forcibly adopted son, Anthony.

Dench was commenting after the release of the Commission of Investigation’s report into the lives of women and children at Mother and Baby homes between 1922 and 1998.

She told the BBC: “I was lucky enough before filming to meet Philomena.

“I got to know her,  a very, very remarkable person.”

The homes, operated by the Catholic Church and funded by the State, were subject to a five-year investigation, the results of which were published this week.

Dench said today: “I feel as if I know the very tip of the iceberg of all this.

“I can’t imagine, to get an apology all this time later from the Taoiseach.

“I suppose it goes a little way to the heart-rending pain of all those mothers who never knew what happened to their children, and have spent their whole lives, not knowing.

“In Philomena’s case, she searched for Anthony and eventually found him after terrible years of pain and not knowing.

“I just can’t imagine.

“I suppose, an apology goes some way to somehow putting things slightly at rest after such a long time.”

The film Philomena, in which Dench starred alongside Steve Coogan, shone a light on the long search for answers many survivors have had to endure.

She said: “I hope it drew attention to what happened… and the plight of so many women.”

She said survivors had been calling for “some kind of recognition of the pain that they suffered for years and years and years.

“And still not knowing where their children went.”

file-photo-philomena-lee-has-called-for-mother-and-baby-homes-survivors-to-be-paid-compensation-ahead-of-the-publication-of-the-report-tomorrow-end Philomena Lee at the graveside at Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, at a private memorial for her son Anthony Lee (Michael Hess) who was lost to her by forced adoption in the mid 1950s. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Lee, originally from County Limerick, lived with her son Anthony in a Mother and Baby Home until he was three years old, when he was adopted by a wealthy American couple and renamed Michael Hess.

Speaking to RTE on Tuesday, Lee said: “I used to teach him little songs and things.

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“Three and a half years and then just to be snatched away.

“They told me, ‘Your son is going to be adopted’, just like that.

“When he was adopted, I cried the whole weekend.

“They took him away a week before Christmas.” 

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