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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# redacted lives
'Who paid for my flight? Who gave permission to take me out of England?'
Terri Harrison, who was taken from England to Ireland against her will in the 1970s because she was pregnant, wants answers.

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The fourth 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.

TERRI HARRISON WAS among the hundreds of survivors who gave evidence to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Like many others, she viewed the State inquiry as a chance for Irish society to find out what truly happened in these institutions.

Terri was living in England in 1973 when she found out she was pregnant. She was unmarried but had a job and planned to keep her baby.

She didn’t know if her child was a boy or a girl, so she nicknamed them Cuddles.

IMG_7057 Órla Ryan Terri Harrison pictured at her home in Dublin Órla Ryan

Terri was starting to make plans for their future when, unbeknownst to her, someone reported her as a PFI – which stood for ‘Pregnant from Ireland’ and was a term used to describe unmarried Irish women who were pregnant and living in the UK.

Terri is one of the survivors featured in The Journal’s podcast series, Redacted Lives. In episode one, listeners heard how she was forced back from England to Ireland by a member of the clergy.

Listeners also heard how Terri escaped Bessborough mother and baby institution, only to be sent to another: St Patrick’s in Dublin.

In episode four of the Redacted Lives, Terri discusses giving evidence to the Commission of Investigation.

She gave her testimony shortly after the inquiry was set up in 2015.

Terri spent weeks preparing what she would say, anticipating the questions she would be asked, and getting her thoughts in order.

She was nervous, but ready to share her story.

“It was a dream come true for me. Finally, somebody was going to listen to me, finally somebody was going to ask me questions that mattered.

I’d waited 41 years for somebody to ask the right questions like, ‘How did I get out of England? Who paid for my flight? Who gave permission to take me out of England?’ I want answers.

She told us how giving evidence to the Commission was very difficult for her and other survivors.

“Some of them, I scraped off the ground nearly [after they gave evidence]. They went in as one person and came out as another. And for what? To tell a sad story. To relive something like that is, you never get over it.”

Terri was forced into two different institutions and her son, Niall, was adopted without her consent.

So when the Commission of Investigation ultimately found “no evidence that women were forced to enter mother and baby homes by the church or State authorities” and “little evidence that children were forcibly taken from their mothers”, she was deeply hurt.

Listen to more of Terri’s story in episode four, The Commission.

New episodes of Redacted Lives 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 redactedlives@thejournal.ie.

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.

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.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in these episodes, you can contact the Samaritans by calling 116 123.