A number of Mother and Baby Home Residents including Ms Philomena Lee have brought High Court challenges with a view to quashing elements of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
On the 12th of April Mr Justice Simmons in the High Court granted leave for Ms Lee’s legal team leave to issue proceedings. Four other similar cases were also granted leave and all five cases have been adjourned until the 11th of May. Ms Lee is now 88 and resides in the UK. At 18 she became pregnant and gave birth to her son in Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby Home, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. When her son Anthony was 3 years old, he was adopted by a couple from the United States.
The book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” was written about her search for her son and the book was later made into the movie “Philomena”. Ms. Lee’s son died before she had an opportunity to be reunited with him. In 2014, Ms Lee and her family established the Philomena Lee Project to assist other families that were similarly affected.
Ms Lee states in her challenge that though she is not actually named in the commission’s report she is in fact readily identifiable and as a result, she should be entitled to have a chance to make submissions on the elements of the report that relate to her case before the report was completed. She further claims there has been a breach of her European Convention rights and her Constitutional Rights.
In a document submitted to the court, it was noted, by Ms Wendy Lyon, solicitor for Ms Lee, that Ms Lee’s evidence was that she was not provided with the appropriate opportunity to consider a document she was required to sign to give up her rights to her son, this contradicts the finding of the commission that there was no evidence to support the opinion of some of the women that the consent they gave for the adoption of their children was not full, free and informed.
Last March Ms Mary Harney, who was born in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork in 1949, was also granted permission to bring an action with a view to quashing certain elements of the Commission’s final report. Similar to Ms Lee, Ms Harney claimed there was a breach of her statutory rights when she was not given an opportunity to make submission’s on the draft report prior to the publishing of the final report.
A case is also being brought by Ms. Mari Steed, the US coordinator of the Adoption Rights Alliance, who was born in Bessborough’s Mother and Baby Home in Cork. Ms. Steed is seeking to have quashed the finding of the Commission that there was no evidence that the vaccine trials carried out in the institutions caused harm to any child.