‘I was told that if I’d been raped, I’d get over it – but I’d never get over terminating my pregnancy’


Patricia Devlin and an anti-abortion protester outside Belfast’s Marie Stopes Clinic. PIC: Sunday Life

Last year I carried out an investigation into how anti-abortion protesters were confronting women using Belfast’s Marie Stopes Centre. The article received a lot of feedback, with most shocked at the tactics used by some’pro-life’ campaigners. Following this month’s High Court case involving one activist challenging a harassment notice served on her by the PSNI, I thought I’d republish the piece, which appeared in Sunday Life, again.

A link to the camera footage is available at the bottom of the article.

Followed down the street and told my unborn baby had been ‘christened’ James, an anti-abortion protester pulls out a tiny plastic foetus doll from her pocket and tells me: “This is what your baby looks like”.

I was told I would become suicidal, that I would regret the decision for the rest of my life.

I was also told that if I’d been raped, I’d get over it – but I’d never get over terminating my pregnancy.

I’m not pregnant, but the vast majority of women who use Marie Stopes Centre in Belfast are.

They include women who have serious mental health issues,women who have fallen pregnant through rape or incest. And then there are the women who have a very much-wanted pregnancy, but who are faced with the devastating diagnosis of severe foetal abnormality.

I went undercover to experience what they do every time they visit the Great Victoria Street clinic.

And each time I went there I was chased down the street, had graphic images of dead foetuses pushed into my hands and was offered ‘help’ from pro-life group Precious Life.

My last visit laid bare some of the tactics used by anti-abortion activists.

I’d been clocked by the protesters, who have a permanent presence outside, entering the building just after 2pm. Two women stood outside with ‘abortion is murder’ posters, while another stood at the door with a clipboard.

When I left 40 minutes later, there were two women waiting at the door.

“You are going to be a fantastic mother, please don’t be afraid, we can help you with anything you need,” one said, as she walked after me.

“No matter how difficult it is you’ll never be able to undo this, this is going to be the happiest moment of your life.”

After declining her help, the protester, said: “Were you raped? We can help you, we can give you counselling, don’t be worrying.

“Whoever done that to you is going to be doing it to you all over again, because you are not going to get over the abortion, you will be able to get over the rape.

“And the beautiful love of your baby will help you do that, please take our information, please let us help you.”

I declined, once again, but it didn’t put this activist off. In fact, it made her worse.

“We’ve called your baby James, we’ve called him James,” she said.

“You can’t bring your baby back darling, you will go through a much harder time than this.

“All this is us reaching out to you, we want to help you.

“I love you, I know your pain. We’ve been through this before.”

Directing me to Precious Life’s new offices – a stone’s throw from the Marie Stopes Centre – I was told I could be taken there now, and given ‘help’.

“Those people up there (Marie Stopes) don’t care about you, all they want is your money. You can never bring your baby back.

“I had a girl in my house and she was so distraught that we were frightened for her taking her own life, and she said she wanted to take her own life, because she wanted her baby back, and we couldn’t do that for her.

“We offered her help and support after, but she said you can’t help me, all I want is my baby back.

“I have a counsellor that is down here and can speak to you now, and she can offer you every support, that you need mentally.”

By this stage, I’d been trying to shake-off this protester for five minutes. I’d attempted to cross the road using the traffic lights, I’d walked up and down the same stretch of footpath twice.

As this was all happening two PSNI officers were walking up and down the street.

The PSNI now keep a regular watch on the centre, following the high-profile conviction of Precious Life organiser Bernadette Smyth for harassment (later overturned on appeal) against the centre’s director.

The officers watched this woman follow me from the doors of the centre, as I tried to cross the street to get away, and as I continually declined her ‘help’. They did not intervene, but they did ask our photographer why he was taking pictures in the area.

Then, in a parting shot, the protester reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny plastic foetus doll.

“This is what your baby looks like,” she said. “Arms and legs and fingers and toes, its heart is beating – from 21 days, and you are actually going to be killing a human being, a baby. Your baby.”

I finally escaped her attentions, safe in the knowledge that I would not have to run the gauntlet again.

But many women – some desperate for help – don’t believe they have any choice.

You can watch the video here.

Abused, raped and forced to give birth at 12 years-old


Rape victim Anne – pic by Gary Ashe, Irish Daily Star

ABUSED at the age of two, gang raped by eight and giving birth to twins at 12.

This is the horrific story of a Dublin woman who was the victim of an Irish paedophile ring – which included her grandfather, dad and uncles.

Today Anne, not her real name, speaks about the endless years of abuse she suffered at the hands of the male and female gang of sex predators – and how she hopes to be reunited with the son she gave birth to after being raped.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him,” she said in an emotional interview.

“He is 14 now, and I hope and pray he is safe…but I don’t know. All I want is answers.”

Anne, who is now 27, says she was forced to give birth in secret after falling pregnant to one of her abusers at the age of 11.

Just months into her first year of secondary school, and shortly after celebrating her 12th birthday, she went into labour as she walked to class.

I wasn’t very good at going to school anyway, I knew how to skip out, so that’s what I did,” she said.

I could only go to the people who knew I was pregnant, my relatives who were also my abusers. And I was taken to a bedroom in one of their homes. “

Anne says that a number of people, including an uncle and two woman, were present in the Dublin house where she went through hours of gruelling labour, without pain relief or medical help.

She gave birth to a little boy, who she named Jamie.

He was healthy….crying straight away. Then I said to one of the woman, I need to push again.
This time the baby didn’t cry, he was stillborn.
She said: “I got to stay with them both for a little while, because they (abusers) started to panic. They didn’t know what to do, they kept saying, we didn’t know she was having two.
“Then they came back, and then they told me put the stillborn baby into a box, then in to a bag. Then they made me put him before him in the bin.
Breaking down in tears, Anne said: “They told me had to do it, because it was my fault I got pregnant.”

The next day, as the 12 year-old child stayed holed up in her abuser’s home, the baby boy was removed from her care.

Anne believes the child was illegally registered and brought up not that far from the house where he was born.

She does not know what ever became of the tiny, lifeless body of his brother.

I don’t know if my other son ended up in the bin truck or if he was buried in the garden of one of their (abusers) homes” she said. “Again, I don’t know. It is something I think about every day.”

Her shocking case echoes that of the Dalkey ‘House of Horrors’ horror, which involved Cynthia Owen who gave birth to a baby girl when she was a child.
The baby was stabbed to death and dumped in a laneway. No one has ever been charged in relation to that case.

The years of abuse finally ended when Anne turned 15.

I was no good to them anymore, I was no longer a child,” she said.

As she reached her late teens, she was eventually moved away from her abusive relatives, but still struggled with the effect of the abuse.

In 2014, after years of self harm and suicidal attempts, Anne opened up to a close female relative about her hell, and then bravely went to gardai.

The Minister of Justice has since ordered a full garda report into the alleged sex ring case.

The Garda Commissioner and Tusla child and family agency have also been notified.

The Star has also seen a letter from a gynaecologist who examined Anne in a bid to prove her pregnancy to gardai.
In the letter dated January 22, 2016, a gynaecologist wrote: “I would not dispute the fact that she could have been pregnant previously.”

One of her abusers, a convicted paedophile, passed away before Anne could report the abuse.

Despite the rest being questioned by gardai, they all still walk the streets.

I know for a fact there are other victims.” she said. “I know because we abused in front of one another.

We were even made to abuse each other. It was an open secret.”

Although Anne hopes that her alleged abusers will face justice, she says her main priority is finding the son who was cruelly stolen from her.

I want to find my son and be reunited with him,” she said. “If he is in a safe and loving home, I wouldn’t dream of taking him away from that. “But what if he is not? What if he is in danger?”

This story originally appeared in the Irish Daily Star in April 2016

I just want to look my mum’s killer in the eye and ask them,’why?’


Angie Smith

LAST week Antoinette Smith should have been celebrating her 56th birthday.

Instead her family were marking yet another year that the devoted mum had been cruelly stolen from their lives. It’s been just over 29 years since Antoinette, or Angie as she was affectionately known, disappeared after a night out in Dublin in July, 1987.

Her body was found almost a year later on April 3 1988, dumped in a drain by a turf-cutters’ road on Glendoo Mountain. She had been strangled.

Despite almost three decades passing from losing her bubbly mum, her daughter Lisa has not given up hope her murderer will be brought to justice.


Lisa, who was just seven when her mum died, told me in a previous interview: “We are hopeful that we will get justice one day. The fact that it is so long and people’s lives change…people’s behaviour changes, time changes people.”

And Lisa is right; someone, somewhere, knows something about what happened her.

Sometimes we only focus on unsolved cases like Antoinette’s on certain dates or anniversaries, when really we should always have them in the back of our minds. She may not have been your mum, sister or your friend, but she could have been.

And with the person responsible for her violent death still roaming the streets, it still could be.

Below is Lisa’s interview with me, published in the Irish Daily Star in July.

By Patricia Devlin
THE daughter of tragic Antoinette Smith has sent a defiant message to her mum’s killer, saying: “One day your time will come and you will be caught.”
Lisa (36) made the courageous comments on the 29th anniversary of her mum’s death.
The Clondalkin mum-of-two (27) disappeared after a night out with friends on July 11, 1987.
Her body was found a year later in a drain on Glendoo mountain. She had been strangled.
Despite almost three decades passing since her brutal death, no-one has ever been brought to justice.
Today daughter Lisa says the family have not given up hope, and say they believe they will see the person responsible put behind bars.
“We are hopeful that we will get justice one day,” she told The Star. “The fact that it is so long and people’s lives change…people’s behaviour changes, time changes people. So somewhere, out there, someone knows something. However small, someone knows something.
“And for me to get closure I need someone to be caught so I could look them in the eye and ask them, why? Just, why?
“They robbed me and my sister of a future, they robbed her of her memories of her children. They robbed her children of their mother guiding them through life. She never got to see us through school, see us playing football, go see us at school concerts.
“She was only 27 and when I think of all the big things I’ve got to do, my mam never got to do it, I just feel so sad.
“She never had a holiday abroad, she never even got to go on a hen do. When we had our big birthdays, like my 21st and my 30th, I kept wishing my mam was there. It just makes me sad. She has missed out on so much and we’ve missed out on so much and it makes me angry sometimes. It’s not fair.
“But the person that done this has now lived their life. They’ve probably got a family, they’ve seen their kids grow up, probably help them walk down the aisle, I’ll never get that.”
Angie had been partying with friends after going to see David Bowie at Slane Castle on July 11 1987, when she was last seen alive.

lisa smyth.jpg

Lisa and sister Rachel.

The mother of two young children Lisa and Rachel, then aged seven and four, left the La Mirage nightclub in Parnell Street in the capital at around 2:15am on the night she vanished.
She was wearing dark blue denim jeans, a denim jacket, a David Bowie T-shirt and a pair of navy-blue high heels (size 5). She was also carrying a Texaco sports bag which has never been recovered.

It was nearly a year later when her body was found, on April 3 1988, dumped in a drain by a turf-cutters’ road on Glendoo Mountain, near the Lemass monument outside Enniskerry. No-one has ever been convicted of her murder.”Being seven I had no real concept of someone dying, so the best way my family described my mum’s death to me was that, your mammy’s in heaven, look for the brightest star in the sky, that’s her. What do you tell two children who have no concept of it?
“It is fitting that they said look for the bright star, because that’s what she was.
“She was bubbly, funny, loved her make-up and heels, and her music – something she passed on to me.
“The last big memory I have of my mum was my communion. At least she got to see me in a white dress, but eventually if I do get married she won’t be there for that.”
In 2013 cold case detectives relaunched their appeal for information over Angie’s death.
They said investigators wanted to speak to two men who may have shared a taxi with the mum-of-two on the night she disappeared.

A taxi driver who contacted gardai is convinced he picked up Angie on Westmoreland Street in the city centre at about 3.30am.

He told detectives she was with two men – then aged in their early 20s – and they were dropped off near the Yellow House pub in Rathfarnham, at the foot of the Dublin Mountains.

The driver said the passengers had been in Abrakebabra on Westmoreland Street and were talking about going to a house party in Rathfarnham.

One of the men, who would now be in their 40s, was tall with dark hair and spoke with a soft Dublin accent. The other had collar length hair and was also from Dublin. It is understood these men have never came forward.

At the time brave Lisa and Rachel also made a joint public appeal in a bid to help the investigation into their mother’s death.

Lisa also took the brave decision to visit the spot where her mother’s body was found.
“It was horrendous,” she said. “To think that someone had so little regard for her. It was numbing and chilling because whoever put her there did not want her to be found.
“And for all I know I am walking past that person everyday. It’s scary to think they are walking around scot-free. And all we can do is appeal to people’s better nature for that one little bit that could fit into the jigsaw, that could seem so irrelevant.”

Re-appealing for the public’s help to catch the person responsible for murdering her mum, Lisa said: “We are still a grieving family, we were never able to grieve for her properly because it is still unsolved. Until we can get justice she won’t be able to rest.
“Please, if you have any information, however small you think it might be, it could be significant. It could trigger somebody else.

“I think I saw something suspicious, or an ex-partner or family member was acting weird back then. It was big weekend in Dublin as well. You had a major concert on and a  major event on in Croke Park which was the Ulster final, it could jog anyone’s memory.
“Someone knows something. Help us get our mum justice.”

Anyone with information can give it confidentially and anonymously on the Crimestoppers telephone line on 1800 25 00 25.

Lisa’s interview in the Irish Daily Star in July 2016.

‘I cried out for someone to come and take me away so many times, but no one came to rescue me’


Margaret McGuckin

By Patricia Devlin

WHEN Margaret McGuckin began a justice campaign for historical abuse victims in the north, she was told: “You can’t take on the church and the state.”

Seven years later she has not only helped clinch a cross-party supported public inquiry, but is close to getting government approval on a £20 million victim redress scheme.

If there’s one thing that those dark days inside Belfast’s Nazereth House taught her it was to never give up.

“What I have learned from this campaign is, sometimes mere words mean very little without action,” she told The Star.

“You have to keep pestering them almost daily to get them (the government) to move. And we are nearly there.”

It’s been over 50 years since the Belfast woman walked through the doors of the Sisters of Nazareth institution at just three years old.

Taken there with her sister and two brothers in 1958, the siblings were forced apart in what the 59 year-old described as “hell”.

“I can still remember the smell of orange wax and carbolic soap,” she said,

“We were treated like child slaves being made to scrub the floors, windows and walls. It was like something out of a Dickens’ book.

“It was hell – filled with coldness with no love. That is so difficult and confusing for a young child who has just been separated from her family.

“They wouldn’t even let me speak to my sister which might have helped.


Nazareth House, Belfast.

“Anytime I saw her through the railings in the segregated playground, we were pulled away from each other if we tried to talk or hold hands.

“My whole life there was just lived in fear — fear of the next beating, the next humiliation.

“I remember one day being beaten the whole way to a cupboard by one of the Sisters.

“When she got me there she kept beating me with a stick and telling me I was evil and a liar and the worst type of person that walked the earth.

“When I cried she battered me even more. She left me in the cupboard I cried out for someone to come and take me away so many times, but no one came to rescue me.”

At the age of 11 Margaret inexplicably left the institution, possibly because her father couldn’t afford to pay for her upkeep there. It was an early escape, but the damage had already been done.

“I wasn’t prepared for the outside world. I didn’t take to many people because I always felt so worthless and ashamed,” she explained.

“I always felt embarrassed and ashamed, like I was dirty and unclean. That was the scene set for the rest of my life.

“What happened to me in Nazareth House affected my job positions, my friendships and relationships with a wide range of people.

“I always felt unloved, ugly, rejected, dirty, evil, no good. I have hated myself so much because I was led to believe that I was a monster of some sort.

“I was made to feel worthless, that I was a bad person and I kept those beliefs with me my whole life.

“It is only recently that I have faced up to what happened me, and I can now look in the mirror and smile.”

Margaret, who helped form the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) group, said it was only in 2009 when the Ryan Report was published that she knew she had to confront her demons.

“I tried to close my ears to it. I didn’t want to be reminded of it and my family and friends never knew what happened to me. “Then I heard a girl who had been with me in the home speaking on TV about what she suffered.”

She made contact with the woman she saw on TV and when they met up, the floodgates opened.

For the first time in Margaret faced up to what happened in her childhood.

From that day she channelled her energies into making a change for victims of historical abuse.

“I used to walk around filled with so much anger and sadness, but there is more joy and laughter in me now,” she said.

“I look in the mirror now and I am smiling. I want other victims to feel the same.”


Margaret and a fellow campaigner at Parliament Buildings, Belfast.

Asked how she finds the strength to continue in her fight for truth and justice for survivors Margaret said: “Having met so many helpless victims of abuse who never dared speak up, including my brother Kevin and my new friend Kate Walmsley

“And what I would say to anyone out there who is suffering in silence, just like I did for many years, is speak up.

“Too many in authority don’t want to hear, or profess they don’t know what to do or how to deal with abuse victims.

“Tell someone who has been through it. They are the ones who will truly and genuinely care and support you.”



Margaret’s piece in the Irish Daily Star.

‘You are holding your baby and you are being told you are a filthy, selfish whore’



By Patricia Devlin

WHEN Terri Harrison discovered her period was late in February 1973, she knew she had to leave Catholic Ireland.

The plan was if I discovered I wasn’t pregnant I’d have a ball for about a month and then come home,” said Terri. “If I was then to hell with everyone else, I wasn’t coming back.”

Within weeks the 18 year-old from Drimnagh had arrived in London, landed herself a job on Oxford Street and discovered, officially, she was about to become a mum.

I had it all figured out,” the 62 year-old told The Star. “I had a friend who was gay, we were going to move in together, tell people he was the dad and his family would be delighted. We’d bring up the baby together and I was never, ever coming back to Ireland.”


A young Terri.

Terri didn’t come back to Ireland – willingly.

After a minor accident at a relative’s home which left her in hospital, her news didn’t stay secret for very long. Within days a priest and two nuns called to the London house where she was staying, bundled her into a car and put her on a plane to Cork.

On landing she was driven to the notorious Bessborough House mother and baby facility where she was told she would live for the foreseeable future.

She would have to work, would not be allowed to leave the premises and most importantly respect and obey the nuns who knew what was best for her and her baby. Unknown to Terri her unborn baby had already been accounted for before she’d walked through the doors.

The first test they gave you in that institution was not to check the health of the baby, it was to see if you had gonorrhoea. That was their priority, that you were clean and that they’d get megabucks for this baby.

I was carrying a very expensive commodity. I was even assigned a name – Tracey. My own wasn’t good enough.”

A few weeks in, strong-willed Terri had had enough of the oppression, humiliation and control.


Bessborough mother and baby institution, Cork.

I was about four or five months pregnant and the baby’s dad Liam came up to visit. Somehow we were allowed into the grounds and we made a run for it. We eventually got to the train station and travelled to Dublin. I visited my eldest sister and her husband sold me out and the nuns were called.”

A decision was taken to keep Terri in Dublin and she was taken to St Patrick’s facility on the Navan Road. A few months later she gave birth to a son, who she called Niall.

I was in labour for three days. They shut me in a room with no doctors, no nurses, and no pain relief. I was shaking that much in pain they had to tie my hands to the bed.

I had a condition called placenta praevia, which meant the after birth came out before the baby. I lost that much blood they had to wrap both me and him in tinfoil. 

“I remember holding Niall, or ‘cuddles’ as I called him, and after that I can’t remember much. I was in shock.”

Sadly the horrific birth was just the beginning of Terri’s nightmare.

“You are holding your baby, your brand new bundle of joy, and you are being told you are a filthy, selfish whore. How selfish of a bitch are you? To deprive this child of a mammy and daddy with a lovely home.

“When you were feeding your baby, you were only allowed to feed him laid out on your lap, you weren’t allowed to bond because their mammy and daddy wouldn’t be happy. And you know how they vetted the people who bought your baby? How often they went to mass and how much money they put on the plate.”

Despite watching other ‘inmates’ lose their children, Terri was convinced that somehow she would be able to take her son home. But when Niall was five weeks and four days old he disappeared.

I fed him at 6am that morning and went back up at around 11am. As I was going up the stairs another girl shouted up to me, ‘his cot is empty’. I went ballistic.”

Terri was sedated and taken to a room inside the institution. The next day she was handed a ticket to England. She left the institution shortly after, and returned to Ireland just a few months later.

She went on to rebuild her life and have three more children, but Niall was never stayed far from her mind.

When her son turned 18 she tried to make contact with him.

Sadly he has no interest in meeting Terri, knowing anything about her, their relationship, what happened when he was a baby, or what has happened since. However she hopes someday he will change his mind.

It gets worse as you get older because you know it is getting closer to the day you will leave this planet,” she said.

Today Terri continues to help survivors like herself who are still struggling from the horror of Ireland’s mother and baby hell. Next month she will help launch the newly formed United Survivors group of which she is a founding member. 

The campaign group aims to not only achieve truth and justice for victims, but also put an end to the offensive labelling some survivors still endure today.

“Labelling me in 2016 does nothing to help educate people or change attitudes.” she says.

“I cringe, and I mean seriously cringe, when someone labels me a birth mother because I never was one. I don’t even know what that means.

“Another one is to call them a mother and baby ‘home’. They didn’t exist. They were slave camps, prison camps. I’ve researched ex-prisoner of war camps, and they were the exact same as us. No rights whatsoever.
“I’ll give you an example; down the road in 1973 there was Mountjoy Prison.

“Me in Mountjoy; one bang on the cell door and you get painkillers, health care, legal help.

“Me in the institution; none of it existed. The gates closed, the doors closed.

“But one thing I have always said is I was never anyone’s victim. I was a target carrying a very expensive commodity.”

terri star.jpg

Terri’s interview in the Irish Daily Star published on 19/10/16


Child number 1629 – David’s story


David Kinsella

By Patricia Devlin

This month I spoke to a number of survivors of Ireland’s horrific mother and baby institutions.

One of those was David Kinsella, a Dublin man who was born in the notorious St Patrick’s facility on the Navan Road.

The 58 year-old’s story is incredibly heartbreaking. Set aside the abuse he suffered from the very day he was born, he never got the chance to meet his mum as she passed away before he was given her details. On the same day he found out that his mother had died, he discovered he had siblings, including a sister called Emma, in the UK.

After speaking together on the phone Emma jetted in to Dublin to meet her brother. She told him that their mum Elizabeth had taken David’s existence to the grave. They laughed and cried together before parting ways.

A few months later David received an email from Emma saying she’d spoken to his other siblings and because their lives had ‘evolved’ without him, they wished to continue that way.

Another heartbreaking rejection that this incredible man didn’t deserve.

That was 11 years ago and David still holds on to hope that he will build a relationship with his siblings. Just last month the father-of-six sent Emma one last email in a bid to build bridges.

Said David: “I said to her that I will always be grateful for her coming to meet me and telling me a little about our mum. If she does wish to contact me, she can. My door is always open. At the end of the day life is short, we all age and we all die.”


Here is David’s full interview published in the Irish Daily Star earlier this week.

A Dublin man who was born into a notorious mother and baby institution in the 50s says he believes the State used him as a medical trial subject.

David Kinsella, 58, a trained trauma and addiction therapist, was given countless vaccinations from the day he was born until the age of four at the now defunct St Patrick’s ‘home’, Dublin.

The father-of-six has made the claims after scouring his medical records from his time at the Catholic church-run facility.

They were obtained after a 40 year search for his biological mother, who sadly passed away before David had a chance to meet her.


David’s mum Elizabeth

Speaking to The Star yesterday Mr Kinsella said: “I believe I was a medical trial subject for them where I was getting additional injections, vaccines, that I should not have been getting. And that’s evident in my medical records.

The amount of vaccine notes in my records is substantial. There was one year I got the same vaccine twice.

I was given the BCG vaccine on the 12th of December 1958, when I was 4 months old. And on the 18th of December, four days later, I’m anointed and confirmed. In grave danger of death, my records say.

My adoption was delayed three or four times because I was hospitalised six times according to records.

On one of the occasions I ended up in St Kevin’s Hospital, St James’ now, for seven months.

According to the records I had to get a full blood transfusion and I also had deteriorated iron malabsorption, which can come from malnutrition.

And I do believe that unknown to my adoptive parents, it (vaccine trials) continued on until I was in primary school.

I recall a doctor regularly calling to my adoptive parents house, where I was held down and forced to get big drops into my eye and more injections.”

David was born into the notorious Catholic church run institution in 1958.

His mother Elizabeth, an unmarried 31 year-old woman at the time, left St Patrick’s for England around 18 months after he was born.

She went on to marry and have four more children but never told them of David’s existence.

She sadly passed away at the age of 61 after a battle with bowel cancer and was buried in Basingstoke, England.

David joined his new family in Clondalkin at the age of four, but did not discover he was adopted until the age of 11.

When he turned 18 he sought to find his birth mother but was told by the then Eastern Health Board there were no records.


St Patrick’s institution, Dublin.

Overcome with feelings of emptiness and what he calls genetic bewilderment, David spiralled into alcoholism and prescription drug abuse from his late teens to mid-20s.

He bravely underwent rehabilitative therapy at the age of 25, before setting out again to find his biological mother, this time through St Louise’s adoption authority. Again he was told no records existed.

It was only when I tried for a third time under the HSE in 2003 that a social worker, a lovely lady who was dedicated to my case, helped me,” said David.

I’ll never forget the day that she rang me in my office on November 7, 2005. She said, ‘David I have good news and bad news for you.

Ethically I’d rather meet you in person but in this instance I have to talk to you on the phone because I have someone else on the other line from England. She’s a sibling of yours and she wants to fly in next Friday and meet you.

The bad news is your mum died at the age of 61 from bowel cancer in Basingstoke in London.”

After coming to terms with the bitter-sweet revelation David met his younger sister Emma the following week.

We spoke for hours and we cried,” he said.

She said to me, ‘sadly David your existence was taken to the grave’.

She knew nothing about me nor did any of my other siblings.

Emma said she can’t fathom how mum could leave a child. My reply to her was that the fear inside St Patrick’s was greater than her maturity.

I also have a very strong belief that the nuns there, as they did with many other mums, told my mother that I had passed away after I was anointed and confirmed. In fact, I am 99.9 per cent sure they did. Sadly I’ll never know for sure.”

The joy of meeting his half-sibling helped David overcome his grief from losing the mum he never met.

Unfortunately a few months later Emma dealt him another heart-rending blow.

“I received an email from Emma saying that she’d spoken to my other siblings and because their lives have evolved without me for the last 40 years, they wished to continue that way,” explained David.

“She said she didn’t know if we would get in touch again and wished me well.”

Today David refuses to let the rejection he has suffered in the past from helping other victims like himself.

As one of the founding members of the newly formed United Survivors group, the 58 year-old is spearheading a campaign for an official government apology to the victims of mother and baby facilities here.

We also want to give victims the strength to fight for justice and speak out,” he said.

He also revealed that after 11 years of no contact, he has sent his sister one last email in the hope of building a relationship with her.

Said David: “I said to her that I will always be grateful for her coming to meet me and telling me a little about our mum.

If she does wish to contact me, she can. My door is always open. At the end of the day life is short, we all age and we all die.”


David’s story in the Irish Daily Star 18/10/2016

Branded a fallen woman, but Mary was just another victim of Catholic Ireland.

By Patricia Devlin

WHEN Francis Timmons held his dying mother’s hand, he felt like the luckiest man on earth.
For not many children who survived the horrors of the 1970’s Irish care system were as fortunate to be with their mothers.

“To be beside her when she was dying and to hold her hand…I was very lucky I was there,” he said. “I speak to so many people who never had and never will meet their parents.”

Mary Timmons sadly passed away in January 2014, two months before her son was elected to South Dublin County Council.

Until her death she had wrongly carried a guilt that had been instilled in her by the church and the State. That she was an unfit mother because she was unmarried.


Mary Timmons

Mary wanted her children, but she was told because she was unmarried she wouldn’t be able to look after them,” said Francis
And losing us had a huge and devastating effect on her life. She ended up in the Simon Community for 40 years.

Nowadays she would have had all the support she needed. She would have been encouraged to keep her kids. She was judged.
“Luckily we did get to see her now and and again and she always said to us, ‘I’ll be coming to get you soon’. But she was prevented from doing so.

And years later, even when she was dying, she had this huge guilt.
I remember I was holding her hand and she looked at me. I just said, ‘you done absolutely nothing wrong’
And she didn’t. It was her family, the State, the Church – they all judged her.”

The Clondalkin councillor, 45, grew up in the Blackrock-based Madonna House mother and baby institution ran by the Sisters of Charity in the 1970s.
He was later moved to a foster home where suffered horrific abuse – now the subject of a Tusla-led investigation.
Two of his brothers were also placed in Dublin-based institutions.

Basically what the Church and State did in our situation was they ripped us apart,” said Francis.
They literally took our hearts out, jumped on them, put them back in and expected us to get on with life. It caused a lot of problems.
I grew up with one brother, and the other brother had a few different foster families and it was a strange relationship because we didn’t get to see each other that often.

One of my earliest memories in Madonna House was going off with my other brother and leaving one behind. It’s painful to talk about.
And that’s one thing I felt guilty about. They were awful places and to leave someone there that you care about was hard.”

Sadly some of the foster homes children were being sent to weren’t much better. Francis, who only recently opened up about the abuse he suffered, still struggles.

“You try to shut a lot of it out as time goes on because you want to sleep at night time,” he said. “I almost drank myself into oblivion. I spent a lot of 20s just drinking and getting very, very drunk. It was the only way I could get a proper night’s sleep.

“And there were times when I just wanted to die, I didn’t want to live. I never tried suicide but I did think I’d be better off out of this.
“I thought I would never get out of Madonna House. I was so relived when I did then I went on to suffer the abuse in foster care, I just thought I’d be better out of the world altogether.”


Councillor Francis Timmons

Since taking his seat the independent politician has been a leading light for abuse survivors where he has tabled countless motions on their behalf.

He is also one of the founding members of the new United Survivors group, which is calling for a State apology to all victims and survivors of mother and baby institutions.
The group is calling on the support of politicians including TDs and Senators to back its bid for justice.

We aren’t looking for sympathy, we are looking for people to know this affects just as much people today as it did then.
The last Magdalene laundry shut in 1996 this is relatively only a few years ago. We aren’t going back 100 years.
What we need from the Minister and the government is that this isn’t a thing that just affected us for a few years in the 70s, this stretches up to the present day.

“One thing I say now is, I am nobody’s victim. I am a survivor because I am here to tell the story.
All we want is truth and justice and a day where we can all go to bed and get a proper night’s sleep.”


My interview with cllr Timmons in the Irish Daily Star 17/10/2016