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redacted lives

'Pregnant from Ireland' - A term many people didn't know until recently, even the women themselves

Redacted Lives, a new podcast series about mother and baby homes, was released this week.


The first episode of Redacted Lives, a new podcast series about mother and baby homes, was released by The Journal this week. The six-part documentary series explores the experiences of people who passed through the system.

Children born into these institutions were usually adopted or sent to industrial schools – often without their mother’s consent.

Many women have tried to find their children over the years, but to no avail. Adopted people have also struggled to find their parents, or information about their early life.

Redacted Lives gives these people the chance to tell the real story of mother and baby homes, and explores how the State continues to deny survivors access to information, proper redress and ownership of their true identities.

THE FINAL REPORT of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes introduced a certain abbreviation to many people for the first time: PFI.

It stands for ‘Pregnant from Ireland’ and was the term used to describe some pregnant Irish women who were living in the UK in the 20th century.

Crucially, the term PFI was only used in relation to women who were unmarried.

From the 1920s onwards, there were reports of a high number of pregnant women moving from Ireland to Britain – or Irish women getting pregnant while already living there.

In some cases, these women were turning to Catholic charities for support.

WhatsApp Image 2022-11-08 at 14.40.39 Terri Harrison pictured with her eldest daughter, Elaine, in 1975 Terri Harrison Terri Harrison

Clergy in the UK told Irish authorities they needed to address the situation, and the solution was to simply bring them back to Ireland.

In 1931, the Irish Government helped set up a scheme where they pledged to cover half the cost of repatriation.

The number of so-called PFIs brought back from the UK to Ireland increased over the following three decades.

According to the Commission’s final report, this figure peaked in 1967 – when 213 women were sent back to Ireland.

Members of the clergy wanted these women returned to Ireland for a number of reasons – including to ensure they would not have an abortion, or to stop their children from being adopted by a non-Catholic family.

Tracey 1735

Terri Harrison emigrated from Dublin to London in 1973, when she was 18.

She was drawn overseas by the promise of a new and better life, like so many young Irish people down through the years.

Terri’s experience is one of several stories we explore in our new podcast, Redacted Lives. The first episode can be listened to here.

Shortly after Terri moved to England, she discovered she was pregnant.

The news was a shock but she planned to keep her child and raise them herself. She had no intention of having a termination, or putting her baby up for adoption.

Terri had a job and didn’t want charity from anyone. She knew her parents wouldn’t agree to her keeping her child so she had no intention of telling them – but they soon found out.

_MG_7069 Terri Harrison holding a photo of her son Niall Órla Ryan Órla Ryan

Terri was starting to make plans for her and her child’s future when, unbeknownst to her, someone reported her as a PFI.

Terri had been staying with her aunt but made arrangements to move in with a friend once she found out she was pregnant.

One day she went back to her aunt’s house to collect her belongings. When she arrived, three people were waiting for her.

“There were two nuns and a priest in the kitchen. The minute I opened the door, I could smell the atmosphere. I knew something wasn’t right, and there were no children, where were the children?

“You know, the kids would run up to me. So somebody was minding the children to make sure they weren’t there, I suppose, to see what happened.

“I was screaming, hysterical, begging ‘please, please stop him, somebody stop him’. When he eventually got me in the back of that car from my aunt’s to Heathrow, I started to become invisible,” she told us.

Terri was brought to Heathrow Airport, where she was flown back to Ireland and taken to Bessborough mother and baby home in Cork.

It was in this institution that Terri became Tracey 1735 – one of tens of thousands of women incarcerated in Ireland for becoming pregnant outside marriage.

Listen to the rest of Terri’s story in episode one of Redacted Lives.

New episodes will be released every Thursday. Subscribe to the six-part series wherever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe now on:

If you passed through a mother and baby home or another institution and want to share your story, you can contact us in confidence by emailing

Redacted Lives is presented by Órla Ryan and produced by Nicky Ryan. Sineád O’Carroll is the executive producer.

Daragh Brophy and Christine Bohan were production supervisors.

Taz Kelleher is our sound engineer, and design is by Lorcan O’Reilly.

With thanks to Laura Byrne, Susan Daly, Adrian Acosta, Carl Kinsella and Jonathan McCrea.