Northern Ireland news

Illegally adopted man endured lifelong suffering, court hears

Tressa Donnelly Reeves (79), and her son Andre Donnelly leave the High Court in Dublin where they began a legal action against a Catholic adoption agency and the State, alleging he was illegally adopted 57 years ago PICTURE: Niall Carson/PA

A MAN who claims he was illegally adopted 57 years ago says he has suffered his entire life due to the actions of the state.

Andre Donnelly – who was renamed Patrick Farrell by his adoptive parents – and his birth mother Tressa Donnelly Reeves (79), say they were deceived for many years about Patrick's identity in legal action against a Catholic adoption agency and the state which began at Dublin High Court on Tuesday.

In 1961, his 21-year-old mother - who was referred to in court as Ms Donnelly – was sent by her devout Catholic family from England to Dublin to give birth to the illegitimate child through the St Patrick's Guild Adoption Society, which was run by the Sisters of Charity.

Ms Donnelly claims her baby was removed from her a week later and she was coerced into giving up the child for adoption on falsified papers by a nun and a priest.

Senior counsel Eanna Mulloy representing the mother and son described the adoption as: "The wilful duping of Tressa Donnelly to direct injury of Andre Donnelly [now Patrick Farrell]."

In an emotional testimony, Mr Farrell told the High Court he had suffered years of physical abuse at the hands of his adoptive father James Farrell, whom he believed to be his natural father until 2012.

"My father would have been very violent toward me, a few occasions come to mind but there was not a day I didn't get some kind of a punch," Mr Farrell said.

Mr Farrell recounted an occasion where, aged six, he entered the family kitchen and witnessed his father kneeling on his mother's chest and beating her repeatedly on the face before turning his attention to Patrick.

He also listed a number of injuries he said he had suffered at the hands of his adoptive father including 32 stitches to his knee after being hit with a cast iron farming implement, two broken front teeth for wearing his confirmation suit while playing with his brother, and two broken knuckles for losing a handball game.

"I had no one to turn to back then, and even though I've met my family now, you can't buy time, I'll never get the time again – I can't," he said.

After her son's birth Ms Donnelly returned to England, married and had four daughters.

She began looking for her son from the mid-1970s but the nuns at St Patrick's Guild told her there was no record of her ever being there or of the boy's birth and that she was mistaken.

She was told later that her son might have been adopted to an American family.

It was finally revealed by a nun in St Patrick's Guild that Patrick had been placed with James and Maeve Farrell from Carlow – who had "taken him as their own" and "no formal adoption order had been made".

A birth certificate registering his name as Patrick Farrell with an incorrect date of birth had also been issued.

Mr Farrell now has two different birth certificates with different names and birth dates.

Mr Farrell and Ms Donnelly claim the State and the agency consistently prevented them gaining information about each other to which they were entitled.

Ms Donnelly also claims she was forced to sign a false consent form, her baby was removed from her proper custody, he was wrongfully placed with a couple, and then she was lied to about his whereabouts.

The court heard Ms Donnelly wants acknowledgement and compensatory damages from the state for the deceit and the agony caused by the separation.

Mr Farrell alleges conspiracy, deceit and infringement of his constitutional rights.

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