‘I know I am not the only one he has raped’ – woman left for dead after horror attack at 8 years old breaks silence

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Simone

aged 8

By Patricia Devlin

A WOMAN left for dead in a sickening sex attack when she was just eight years-old has broken her silence for the first time.
Brave Simone Cunnane from Newry, Co Down, has waived her right to anonymity to tell the Sunday World: “I know the identity of the stranger who raped me.”
The mum-of-two, 31, says she has now made a formal complaint to police, who are investigating her claims 24 years on.
The revelation comes after news a man in his 40s – also from the Newry area – was recently arrested in relation to the 1994 attempted murder.
In a child sex attack that shocked the nation, Simone was playing with a pal close to her Loanda Crescent home when a man lured her into nearby woodland.
He tied a rope around her neck, subjected her to a prolonged sex assault and then hung her from a tree.
The monster then hit her over the head with a brick and raped her as she lay unconscious.
Believing she was dead her attacker fled, leaving the bloodied youngster tied up and alone.
Miraculously she survived and broke free before raising the alarm.
Today she tells her story for the first time and reveals how she is helping other women who believe the same predator attacked them.
“This man was a stranger up until not that long ago,” she told the Sunday World in an exclusive interview.
“For legal reasons I can’t go into further detail about how I came to discover his identity, but I can say that I know he not only has attacked me but others as well.
“And that is why I am speaking out, because I want to help these women and tell them they aren’t alone, and there is help.”
Recounting the day she was attacked on June 10,1994, Simone told how she had been on her way to play football with a friend.
“It was a Friday around 4pm and we left my house to get sweets and made our way to the (Barcroft Community) centre.
“It wasn’t opened, we were about 10 minutes early so we sat outside close to some trees and this is when the man approached us.
“He was smiling and told us he’d lost his wee brother and that sometimes he played in the woods and would we help find him.
“I told him, ‘I’m not allowed in the woods’. But my other friend said sometimes he would play there, so stupidly he went with him.
“I went too and once he got us into the woods he told my friend to go in one direction and then told me that I had to follow him.
“He led me to an overgrowth area and we were sitting on a small muck pile when he reached into his pocket and took out this rope.
“It was tied like a noose and as he took it out he said, ‘my brother give me this before he left’.
“The next thing he had it around my neck and was tightening it. I was choking and I tried to pull it away with my fingers.
“Then I started to shout and he put his hand over my mouth, told me to shut up and that he had a knife.
“I begged him, ‘please, don’t do this’.
In the woodland, set within Daisy Hill Nursery, Simone was subjected to a relentless series of sex assaults.
“He did things to me and he made me do things to him,” she said.
“He then told me to stand up, he had the rope on me still, and he took me towards a tree where there was a bit of an embankment.
“With the rope that was on my neck, he tied the other part of it to a branch and pushed me off the embankment and I was swinging from the tree.
“As I was grabbing at my neck to try to get the rope off I could see him standing in front of me, smiling.
“At some point I must have went unconscious and the tree branch snapped. This is when he hit me on the back of the head with the brick.
“I have a scar on the back of my head still from it. I was told after that he raped me when I was lying there, unconscious.”
Simone woke up sometime later, covered in blood and mud.
“He must have pulled me back up and tied me to the tree,” she said.
“There was muck in my mouth, all over my face, and I was being sick, vomiting.
“There was blood all over me and I remember looking down and seeing all these knots – he had tied loads all over the rope. I was in a panic, I didn’t know if he was still there, or if he was still watching me.
“I was able to get my foot out and eventually I got free.”
The eight-year-old made her way through the woods and into the garden of a family home where a man was watering his flowers.
He spotted the distressed child and went to her rescue.
“I must have collapsed and when I woke he was lifting me up and I remember saying to him, ‘please don’t hurt me, too’.
“His wife wrapped a sheet around me and I can remember hearing them talking about taking me to hospital.”
It was around 7pm when a traumatised Simone was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital where doctors and nurses sprung into action and called police.
Her devastated parents, who were out looking for their daughter at the time, raced to her bedside.
Simone was examined and interviewed by police who took away her clothes and a number of items from the scene of the attack.
But despite a high profile investigation and numerous appeals over 23 years, no-one has been convicted of the despicable attack.
In February 2013, police re-opened the attempted murder investigation.
Detectives released two computer generated images of the suspect.
Last week a PSNI spokesman confirmed that a man on January 30, a man was arrested as part of the police investigation. He was released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Simone, who last week bravely returned to the scene of the attack, said: “I always did believe the person responsible was from the area.
He knew where he was going, it was pre-meditated as he had everything with him.
“What is disturbing is that since that day the man who attacked me has been walking the streets. I know I am not the only one he has attacked.”
Simone, who received support from sexual abuse counselling charity Nexus, has been contacted by numerous women who say they believe the evil predator also attacked them.
She is now now working with Women’s Aid and Nexus to run a support group for those women.
“I went to a lady called Fiona in the Newry Women’s Aid office and explained to her my story.
“I told her how there other girls had come forward to me believing they have been attacked by the same man.
“So we came up with the idea that these women, and anyone else who might come forward, can go to Women’s Aid and get support, and counselling with Nexus.
“Some of these people are ready to go to police and some are not. But the support is there for them,”
Anyone who wishes to make contact with the group can phone Fiona at Newry Women’s Aid on 028 3025 0765.
ENDS

Irish nuns sold ‘dead’ babies to America

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By Patricia Devlin

A SHELVED report which revealed concerns nuns falsified the deaths of babies before selling them to parents in the USA was seen by two Ministers, a former HSE chief has claimed.

Former Children and Family Services assistant director Phil Garland says the explosive 2012 report was passed to then Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Health Minister James Reilly.

But despite recommendations for a State inquiry, no action appears to have been taken.

Breaking his silence for the first time on the reports he helped compile, Mr Garland told The Star: “The HSE and the government weren’t interested. And they still aren’t.”

The sensational “draft reports” surround both Bessboro institution in Co Cork and Sacred Heart Mother and Baby facility in Tuam, Co Galway and reveal how:

  • the church was defrauding the government, women and adoptive parents of cash
  • doctors, social workers and workers still employed in HSE helped ‘traffick’ children
  • bishops sent written requests for babies to be made available for adoption
  • Over 1000 records were unearthed by civil servants including letters and photographs.
  • chiefs believe actions uncovered ‘could be criminal’

Mr Garland told The Star: “I know this information went to the very top of the HSE and to the then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald. The departments and the Minister just weren’t interested.We wanted this to go much much further. It didn’t and I don’t know why.”The allegations transpired after the discovery of a “large archive” of files by a HSE worker in Co Galway in 2012.Health chiefs were immediately notified how the records, which included photographs and documentation, pointed to posisbly criminal activity operating in institutions during the 40s, 50s and 60s.The evidence uncovered was so strong it led HSE Chief Dr Declan McKeown to warn: “This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other.”

Two “draft” reports on “deep concerns” were then written by the then Consultant Public Health Physician.

They included recommendations for a State inquiry to then Health Minister James Reilly. 

The documents include an email sent on October 12, 2012, by Dr McKeown to Mr Garland and another HSE colleague.

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Bessboro/Bessborough institution, Co Cork.

He said a social worker trying to “piece together” the information, which included photographs and documents, had collated a database of “up to 1,000 names”.

He added he would draft an “early warning” letter for the attention of Philip Crowley, National Director Quality Improvement, “suggesting that this goes all the way up to the Minister.”

The email goes on: “This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the church and state, because of the very emotive sensitivities around adoption of babies, with or without the will of the mother.

“A concern is that, if there is evidence of trafficking babies, that it must have been facilitated by doctors, social workers, etc. And a number of these health professionals may still be working in the system.

“It is important to send this up to the Minister as soon as possible: With a view to an inter-departmental committee and a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and state inquiry. “

On the same day a more detailed account of the concerns raised in the records was again sent via email to Dr Davida De La Harpe and Mr Garland.

In this paper, labelled “strictly confidential”, Dr McKeown said that there were serious concerns surrounding the infant mortality rate in the Co Cork home.

Death records over a 19 year period showed that a quarter of all babies born at the institution were recorded as having died within the first 12 months of their life.

However Dr Mc Keown said evidence was pointing to the belief that until the introduction of adoption legislation in 1950, nuns in Bessboro were falsely recording baby deaths.

It has been mooted that this combination of evidence may point to babies being identified for adoption, principally to the USA, but has been recorded as infant deaths in Ireland and notified to the parents accordingly.

“This would have been possible before the introduction of adoption legislation. However it will take a more detailed study of practices and the accounting in Bessboro before this theory proven or disproven.”

The documents also touched upon evidence of similar – and more serious – practices taking place in Tuam.

“In common with Bessboro there is some evidence of coercion in that women were forced to stay in the home with their babies until well past the point that they were fit for discharge.

“During this time parents were charged with the upkeep of their children but it appears now that adoptive parents were also charged for the upkeep of the same baby.

“Babies were offered for adoption from the Bessboro and Tuam homes at up to three years of age. The trauma involved in this is revealed in an archive of photographs of children who were sent for adoption to the USA.”

It concluded: “In both of these cases, there are issues of concern in relation to historic patient safety, medical care, accounting irregularities and possible interference with birth and death certification which requires further investigation. 

“Children, if not the mothers who passed trough these systems are likely to still be alive and at the very least any knowledge of their histories should be fully investigated and made available to them if they so choose.”

Mr Garland, who says he believes the archive is still in the property of the HSE, left his Assistant Director position shortly after the reports were made in 2012. But he says he remains troubled that no action seems to have been taken four years on.

His claims are the latest cover-up scandal to rock the HSE in a matter of weeks.

Just last week the health authority was force to apologise after an independent report found it failed to properly investigate abuse claims surrounding a Waterford foster home over a prolonged period despite two internal reviews.

RESPONSE

I contacted a number of government departments over these allegations. Here is what each had to say in full.

HSE (Health Services Ireland)

 “All information gathered HSE-Health Intelligence Unit during the course of their research has been passed to TUSLA.

 “Any records relating to children and families in Ireland, both past and present are now owned by Tusla. The Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters) was established in 2014 under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 by Order of Government under the stewardship of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The Commission’s work is on-going and any individuals who were resident in or who worked in any of the Mother and Baby Homes or County Homes which are the subject of the investigation should contact the commission with any relevant information.”

The Department of Health

“The  HSE provided a draft report which included the material in regard to Bessborough Mother and Baby Home and which indicated that conclusions must remain conjecture until a more forensic examination could be undertaken.     This  draft was provided to the Committee Secretariat and to the two Departmental  representatives on the Committee.  As these matters were outside the remit of the McAleese Committee,  the HSE subsequently advised that these wider issues would be examined separately  by the HSE.   There is no record of the draft report being received by the Ministers.

“In 2014, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs established an Inter Departmental Group  in response to revelations and public controversy regarding conditions in Mother and Baby Homes. This controversy originally centred on the high rate of deaths at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co. Galway.   The Group was to map the important dimensions of the issue, and to assist in developing appropriate terms of reference for a Commission of Investigation.   The Commission of Investigation into  Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was then established in February 2015 to provide a full account of the experiences of women and children who lived in mother and baby homes over the period 1922 -1998.”

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

“The information at issue was examined by the Health Service Executive (HSE)
as part of its response to the Committee to establish the facts of State
involvement with the Magdalen Laundries. In the course of this work the HSE
provided a draft report to the Committee secretariat and to the Department
of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.  This draft
report included a separate appendix based on records from the former
Bessborough mother and baby home. The author of this draft report
acknowledged that its conclusions remained a matter of conjecture until
such time as a more forensic examination of the home’s records could be
undertaken by the HSE.

“The draft HSE report was not brought to Minister’s attention at that time.

“As these matters were outside the direct remit of the McAleese Committee,
the HSE subsequently advised that these wider concerns would be examined
separately by the HSE. The Department advised the HSE that any findings of
concern from this separate process should be appropriately communicated by
the HSE.  This Department is not aware of any subsequent reports supplied
by the HSE in this regard.

“The Department of Children and Youth Affairs became actively involved in
responding to the concerns relating to Mother and Baby Homes following the
publication of information on the former Bon Secours Home in Tuam around
mid-2014. The Inter Departmental Group Report on Mother and Baby Homes,
published in July 2014, cites a number of reports from relevant authorities
which expressed concerns with undesirably high death rates during and
following the times these institutions were in operation. It also
references academic literature which clearly indicates that conditions in
these institutions were the subject of attention, report and debate since
the early years of the State. Therefore, it would not be accurate to
suggest that concerns in relation to conditions in mother and baby homes
were unknown or ignored prior to 2012.

 

‘Brainwashed into believing our mother abandoned us for 18 years’

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LAST month I got speaking to two very brave brothers who decided to share their desperately sad story of how their father brainwashed them against their own mother.

JP and Brendan Byrne, both from Dublin, are the only authors in Ireland (that I am aware of) who have tackled parental alienation in this way. Their story tells how as young boys they were cruelly manipulated by their father into believing their mother didn’t love them and that for 18 years she had abandoned them.

By the time they realised that wasn’t the case they were grown men, and their mother had missed out on the most precious years of their lives.

A small piece of the below article was published in the Irish Daily Star today, but even reading my more indepth, original version won’t do JP and Brendan’s story justice. You have to read their fantastic book, Don’t Hug Your Mother, which include’s older brother JP’s diary entries from when he was a child. The story is heart rendering and shows just what damage can be done by this form of abuse which is illegal in Brazil. It’s also widely recognised in the US.

If you are from the UK and Ireland you can biy it here . JP and Brendan also have a great blog and are on Twitter ( JP / Brendan).

 

By Patricia Devlin

TWO Dublin brothers have told how they were “brainwashed” into believing their mother had abandoned them as children.

JP and Brendan Byrne, who are originally from Tallaght, said they only uncovered their father’s “web of lies” 18 years after their parent’s split up.

They’ve revealed their shocking story in a new book called Don’t Hug Your Mother, which shines a spotlight on parental alienation in Ireland.

Speaking following its release Brendan said: “We were led to believe our mother didn’t want anything to do with us, that she didn’t love us and just upped and left. 

“The truth was we were being manipulated and used as weapons, and it cost us our relationship with our mother.”

The emotional book, which is compiled with the help of JP’s childhood diary entries, recounts how the brothers’ relationship with their mum was wiped out in the space of a year.

“After our parent’s split up, we only saw our mother for a few hours every other weekend, and when we did our father would give us a list of instructions before we’d go.

One of those was, ‘if she goes to hug you, duck out of the hugs’. Obviously that was very hard for me.

I was only nine or ten and I was particularly close to her and felt I needed her at that time, a hug was something I would have wanted.

We were told not to accept presents or money from here, and if she said anything nice to us not to reply.

As time went on we were dressed in clothes that our mother wouldn’t have put us in, our hair was done in a different way, and we were told to tell her that this was the way my dad’s new wife Natalie dressed us.”

Contact eventually ceased between the mother and her sons.

It was only 18 years later when both men were in their 20s that they realised the extent of manipulation they were under as children.

JP and Brendan confronted their father but instead of receiving an apology he cut all of contact with them.

He sent me a text message saying, ‘I just said goodbye to your brother, it’s time to say goodbye to you as well,” said Brendan.

To be honest I was kind of delighted. He was such a manipulator that I would have felt guilty if I was the one ending contact. I just thought, ‘I’m free’.”

With the help of their older brother Seamus, JP and Brendan tracked down their mother in 2008.

They had an emotional reunion on the platform of a Co Wexford train station.

She was there with my aunt and we went over like two boys going for inspection,” recalled Brendan.

She actually mixed us both up because she hadn’t seen us in so long. It was just great to see her.”

He added: “She missed our childhood, she’s missed how I got to this age and it wasn’t a great ride either to get to that stage because of our father. It shouldn’t have happened.”

Parental alienation involves the unwarranted rejection of one, previously loved, parent by a child following a separation or divorce.

Last year the Parental Alienation Awareness Association of Ireland said there was a lack of understanding of how serious this form of abuse can be and how much damage can be caused to children as a result. The group have called on the government to make alienation a criminal offence.

Brendan added: “It’s taken us a long time to untangle the web of lies by our father. Hopefully our story can help others.”

Don’t Hug Your Mother is available now to buy on Amazon.

ENDS

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

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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

 

Child number 1629 – David’s story

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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.”

Heartbreaking.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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