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Fionn Davenport: 'A traumatic lie denied my mother the right to be a mother'

Travel writer and broadcaster Fionn Davenport has said his birth mother was denied the right to b...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.40 13 Jan 2021


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Fionn Davenport: 'A traumatic...

Fionn Davenport: 'A traumatic lie denied my mother the right to be a mother'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.40 13 Jan 2021


Share this article


Travel writer and broadcaster Fionn Davenport has said his birth mother was denied the right to be a mother through 'a terrible, traumatic lie'.

He was born in the St Patrick's Mother and Baby Home on the Navan Road in April 1968.

And he told The Hard Shoulder his mother was told she could not change her mind about her plan to put him up for adoption.

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"My birth mother was 19-years-old and had gotten pregnant - she arrived into St Patrick's in January of 1968 as a kind of 'no other option', other than maybe disappear off to England.

"That's important - even relatively late on as the '60s might have been compared to say 20 years before - that there was still that sense of 'Well, there wasn't many options available to young girls or women who got pregnant'.

"She arrived there, and within a day or so she signed a form in which she expressed her desire to give the baby up for adoption".

Fionn said his mother was lied to about the adoption.

"When I was born, after a couple of days, she changed her mind and said that she wanted to keep me.

"And she was told, in no uncertain terms, that she didn't have the right to change her mind".

"At the heart of this all is a terrible, traumatic lie: and that lie is that my birth mother had the right to change her mind."

He explained: "Under the Adoption Act 1952, a mother has up until the baby is six-months-old to make final determination about whether she does in fact want to give up her child for adoption.

"And this terrible irony is such that my adopted mother admitted to me years later that her greatest terror was those first few months after they brought me home.

"They were told 'Well, the mother can still change her mind up until six months'".

Fionn said his birth mother was denied the life that she wanted.

"But the fact that my birth mother, who's name is Jane... was denied a life that she was perfectly entitled to is a trauma from which she certainly never fully recovered".

Fionn said his mother went on to live her life, "but at the same time she has no other children - I am her only child".

"And because of this lie, she was denied the right to be a mother".

She stayed in the home for another two or three months and then left.

Fionn said his mother was "put to work" in the home.

But he said as his mother had a slight English accent - having spent part of her life in England - she was separated from other women.

"The nuns felt that she was 'a proper girl' - so rather than put her to work in the laundry, where all the other girls [were], she was put to work helping around the nursery".

But he said speaking to his mother about it years later, "she expressed real dismay about that division: about her being separated from the other girls".

On finding his mother, he said: "We reconnected 35 years later and over the course of time, after our reconnection, we started to exchange our stories".

'Unfettered access to records'

Fionn said he always knew he was adopted - and was told his mother was not in a position to give him the life that she wanted to, and so "made the ultimate sacrifice" and gave him up for adoption.

He said it is "a lovely story" which he told himself and anyone else who wanted to listen.

"I was also discouraged from asking questions - in part because my parents didn't know the answer, but also because there was no one there who actually did know the answer".

And Fionn added that there is one thing that he and others affected by the Mother and Baby Home scandal want.

"The one thing that we want more than anything is unfettered access to the records that pertain to us.

"I'm not interested in anyone else's records, I'm interested in my own.

"And the idea that somehow the State would put barriers in the place of me getting those records is absolutely anathema to me".

He said these issues seem to have been resolved in favour of the survivors having access to those records.

"But the idea that somehow I would have to petition Tusla, or a social worker, or a care worker and have them make a determination about whether I am entitled to access records that pertain to me is - in a sense - a repetition of the same trauma and pain that I've been living with my whole life".

'What exactly is he apologising for?'

He said while the Mother and Baby Homes report is "an important step in shining a light on a darkness that frankly I think all of Ireland has existed on", he feels the apology from Taoiseach Micheál Martin is too soon.

In the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Martin apologised on behalf of the State for the "profound generational wrong" against women and children in Mother and Baby Homes.

Mr Martin said the country embraced a "perverse religious morality and control", and highlighted the churches' 'dominant role' in the institutions.

He said the State failed the mothers and children who were sent to the homes.

Apologising to victims, he said: "On behalf of the Government, the State and its citizens, I apologise for the profound generational wrong visited upon Irish mothers and their children who ended up in a Mother and Baby Home or a County Home.

"As the Commission says plainly - 'they should not have been there'.

"I apologise for the shame and stigma which they were subjected to and which, for some, remains a burden to this day."

But Fionn asked: "What exactly is he apologising for?"

"This is a crime - and I use the word advisedly - but this is a crime so huge and so big across multi-generations, that to absorb its true meaning and its true impact is going to take time".

"In order for an apology to have real weight or meaning, it has to come with a commitment to never again repeat the crimes for which the apology is being issued".

Main image: Fionn Davenport. Picture by: Facebook

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Read more about

Adoption Act 1952 Fionn Davenport Mother And Baby Homes St Patrick's Mother And Baby Home The Hard Shoulder Tusla

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