Kilkenny's Evanne Ní Chuilinn will explore the long and often difficult story of adoption in Ireland in a new TG4 documentary airing next week.
In this 70-minute authored documentary, Evanne, who is a broadcaster, mother and adopted child, meets with law-makers, activists and people who have gone through the adoption process as children and parents and uncovers the human stories behind adoption in Ireland.
“The time is right for this because the government is trying at last to grapple with the problems that the practice of adoption in this country has created over the years," she says.
Adopted from one of Ireland’s notorious Mother and Baby Homes in the early 1980s, Evanne embarks on a very personal mission to fill the gaps in her own information and to try and find out where she was for the first four months of her life before she arrived at her parents’ home in the arms of a social worker. However, she discovers that accessing basic information about yourself is far from straight forward when you are adopted.
Evanne discovers that legislating for adoption is wrought with controversy. But in the conflict between information and tracing rights for adoptees versus the right to privacy of birth parents, Evanne is in no doubt as to where she stands.
“We should all have access to basic information about ourselves. It is not a danger to anybody," she said.
Evanne’s emotional journey takes her around the country, from where she grew up in Kilkenny to the site of the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, as she strives to find out more about the dirty history of Ireland’s past adoption practices.
She meets with fellow adoptees and birth parents who share their stories with her. Sheila O’Byrne, pregnant at 20, ended up at the same Mother and Baby home Evanne came from. She shares with Evanne the stigma she suffered as a result of her pregnancy and following the birth of her mixed-race baby.
Joe Mangan was boarded out to a Donegal farming family as a seven-year-old before adoption law even existed in Ireland and was consistently lied to over the thirty years he spent trying to find out who is mother was. By the time Joe finally managed to get the truth it was too late. Catherine O’Sullivan has been told her birth mother doesn’t want any contact with her but is desperate to find her siblings, access her own medical information and to find out where she comes from. She feels she has no choice but to resort to unregulated DNA testing to get the answers she’s been seeking for decades.
As Dolores Quinlan approached her 50th birthday, she was shocked to discover that she had been adopted as a baby and horrified when she found out that this ‘adoption’ was illegal and that all of her birth records had been falsified. She is now fighting to have her correct identity recognised by the State.
Evanne challenges the Chair of the Adoption Authority of Ireland, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, to explain why it is that Ireland is having so much difficulty legislating for rights that adopted people in other countries have enjoyed for years. But she is forced to consider her personal bias after meeting psychiatrist Professor Patricia Casey who explains why she comes down on the right of a mother’s privacy in this debate.
Uchtú: Evanne Ní Chuilinn will air on TG4 at 9.30pm on March 3.