Personal Stories

Here we have biographical stories of those who suffered the process of illegal adoption in Ireland. If you are someone who has been affected by this and you want to tell your story, please contact us and we will do our best to help.

 

Donna’s Story

Born in 1948 as Mary Anne Dolohan, Donna lived out the first two years of her life at St Patrick’s, the since destructed Mother and Baby home on the Navan Road. Her mother, Maureen Dolohan, was sent there after learning she had become pregnant and was without a husband.

In 1951, Donna was adopted by a couple from St Louis, Missouri, and thus became an American citizen shortly after.

“I always knew that I was adopted,” says Donna. “I found a suitcase, a little brown one, that I brought over from Ireland. I saw my name on it, and that’s how I knew that my name was Mary Anne Dolohan.”

However, the inherent secrecy of the adoption process wasn’t confined to Irish boundaries. “I asked my Mother about it but she just didn’t want to know. So, being curious, I went back to find the suitcase and all the tags and labels had been removed. It was obvious that they didn’t want me to know too much because they were afraid of losing me.”

Donna’s adoptive parents’ fear that she would be snatched away from them wasn’t based on neurosis. Up to 2,000 Irish children were illegally adopted by American families, which according to Donna, was “mainly because they were wealthy.” She says that “the Americans were the ones who had the money, who could afford the children’s passage out of the homes and over to America.”

Donna began her search for her mother around 1972, and despite her husband Dan being a State Police Chief, her investigation turned up nothing but dead ends for close to 25 years.

“We first used a search agency that was run by a woman on her own that went to Ireland every summer. Then we contacted another woman who performed a lot of genealogy searches, but she couldn’t find anything either. Everyone came to a dead end under the name ‘Dallaghan’.”

Unbeknownst to Donna, her mother Maureen had written her name on the Surrender of Rights document as ‘Maureen Dallaghan’, when in fact, her real name had been ‘Maureen Dolohan.’

After years of fruitless searching, Donna and Dan had given up all hope of tracing her roots until Dan’s brother, Pat, and his wife, Bobby, announced that they were to take a trip to Ireland. Donna gave the couple all the information she had – the years she and her mother were born, alongside what was a fake surname – but the trip did not spur confidence in her. “I just thought ‘Oh, here we go again. Nothing’s gonna come of this.’ Because nothing had before, and I didn’t know what they could do that we hadn’t already done.”

Pat and Bobby set off for their journey and used Dublin as their point of departure. They met with one Sister Imelda, who, Pat writes, was “very secretive in any information she gave us. She told us to go very slowly, because if we made one slip doors could be shut in our faces.”

It was further along on the trip that Pat and Bobby discovered they were in the possession of a fake surname, made apparent by the dregs of information slowly fed to them by Church officials and locals.

Donna cites the secrecy and prejudice of a Church-run society as the reason for her mother deliberately falsifying her name, and maintains that if there had been transparency regarding the adoption records, many people would have easily found their parents had they wanted to.

“Maybe having been told the truth all those many years ago would have given me a chance to meet my dear Mother.”

Donna never met Maureen as she died when she was just 42 years old, many years before Donna uncovered her true past.

“Meeting her was all I truly wished for, to hug her and to tell her how much I loved her. I’m sad because I think this injustice towards mothers and their babies will never be resolved,” Donna adds.

 

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