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Redacted Lives: Mother and Baby Home survivors share if they found who they were looking for

In the penultimate episode in the series mothers and adopted people share the outcome of their searches.


THE FIFTH EPISODE of Redacted Lives, a six-part documentary series by The Journal about mother and baby homes, is out now.

The series follows the experiences of mothers who ended up in institutions because they became pregnant outside marriage, as well as people born into the system.

Tens of thousands of pregnant women and girls were sent to mother and baby homes in Ireland throughout the 20th century. Their children were usually adopted or sent to industrial schools – often without their mother’s consent.

Mother and baby homes existed in many countries but the proportion of unmarried mothers sent to institutions here is believed to have been the highest in the world.

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

These people were silenced for decades – and when the State finally said it would investigate the system via a Commission of Investigation, many survivors felt that their experiences were dismissed and disregarded.

I Hear You’ve Been Looking For Me

If or when they re-entered society, women sent to mother and baby homes were not expected to talk about what happened to them, let alone attempt to reconnect with their children. Many did, however, with mixed success.

So far in the series we’ve heard from three mothers who passed through the system: Terri, Maria and Monica. We also met Mary, who was born into the system and ended up in an industrial school.

In the penultimate episode, I Hear You’ve Been Looking For Me, they tell us if they have found who they’ve been looking for.

We also hear from adopted people who tried to find their parents or siblings – and the jubilation and heartbreak that journey can bring.

IMG_7408 Maria Arbuckle Órla Ryan Órla Ryan

Maria Arbuckle, like many women, spent decades looking for her son. As we heard in episode one, after many failed attempts to find Paul, there was a breakthrough in 2021.

An inquiry into mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland uncovered his details. Maria wrote her son a letter and sent it to a social worker, who in turn gave it to Paul.

A social worker had also been in touch with Paul, to tell him they had found his mother. However, before he actually received Maria’s letter, he looked her up online.

He found media interviews she had done over the years, and saw Facebook posts where she talked openly about her search to find him.

Paul, who now goes by a different name, didn’t want her to wait a minute longer.

Maria told us: “That night, I get a friend request on Facebook. And it’s a woman from Derry. So first thing was, in my head I thought, ‘Is this his partner?’

“And then because she was from Derry, my home town, I thought, ‘No, it’s probably something to do with the mother and baby homes’. Somebody is looking for advice off me.

So I accepted the friend request and I woke up the next morning to a message saying, ‘I hear you’ve been looking for me. I’m Paul Raymond Arbuckle, your son’.

Over the next few days, Maria and Paul exchanged messages. He invited her to come to his house that weekend.

Maria recalled: “We went into his house and I remember he stood on the stairway for a while. We were in the kitchen, but we could see his legs on the stairway.

“I was thinking, ‘He’s not going to come down. He’s not going to come down’. And then he came down.

And the first thing we did was hug and this hug went on for, it seemed like forever. I wasn’t holding a baby anymore, I was holding a big grown man.

Hear more about Maria’s story, and the outcome of the other searches, in episode five.

Redacted Lives was created by the award-winning team of News Correspondent Órla Ryan, who has written extensively about mother and baby homes, producer Nicky Ryan, from the critically-acclaimed Stardust podcast, and executive producer Sinéad O’Carroll.

New episodes will be released every Thursday. Subscribe to the 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.

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