Abuse justice plea from son reunited with mother after almost 50 years

Eunan Duffy only discovered he was adopted in February 2016
Eunan Duffy only discovered he was adopted in February 2016

A man who was forcibly removed from his mother as a baby by the Catholic Church has begged for justice for the victims of abuse at former mother and baby homes.

Eunan Duffy was taken from his mother against her will minutes after his birth in 1968 in the former Marian Vale mother and baby home in Newry, run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, and put up for adoption.

Mr Duffy only discovered he was adopted in February 2016. He immediately launched a search for his birth mother, believing she had willingly given him up.

Unknown to him, his mother had never forgotten him and had spent her life hoping he would get in touch.

After six months of searching Mr Duffy finally traced her to London where they were reunited. Mother and son have been in regular contact ever since.

The homes, or laundries, were intended for “fallen women”, unmarried mothers and those with learning disabilities or who had been abused.

Women and girls were made to do unpaid manual labour in the laundries run by Catholic nuns in Ireland between 1922 and 1996.

The institutions, which were run by the Catholic Church and in some cases the Church of Ireland and the Salvation Army, housed women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage.

Some of the girls who were sent to the homes were as young as 13, but most were older teenagers.

After giving birth their children were put up for adoption, often against the mother’s will.

Mr Duffy has joined demands from other birth mothers and children that a criminal investigation should be launched into abuse at former mother and baby homes across Northern Ireland.

The 49-year-old from Portadown also claimed that the group’s calls at Stormont for an inquiry into the abuse has fallen on deaf ears and accused politicians of “political inertia”.

“There are hundreds of people out there like me and like my birth mother. The authorities, public servants and politicians who are ignoring our calls for justice should be ashamed of themselves.

“Too many people want what happened to be dumped in the history dustbin. Shame on them.”

Mr Duffy added that the forced adoptions should be treated by police as human trafficking: “We know that people in the north were moved to the south, or to England. In the south many were moved to the north and in England many were moved here. It was the human trafficking of babies.”

As well as a criminal investigation, the campaign group Birth Mothers and Their Children for Justice NI have called for a dedicated inquiry into what went on inside the institutions from 1921 to 1996.

They also would like compensation for victims and believe that the religious orders should pay the compensation. In addition they want all records and documents relating to all women and children who were resident in one of the homes to be released in full.

Mr Duffy said: “We need a much better family tracing system. At the minute adoptees are being put on a seven or eight-month waiting list ... it is just adding to the hurt and distress.

“There also needs to be much better post-adoption counselling. The lack of these facilities is an absolute disgrace.”

The group can be contacted by email at Birthmothersforjustice.n.i@hotmail.com or by phoning Eunan on 07718645924, Oonagh on 07927943248 or Michelle on 07513874371.