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Mother in baby mix-up scandal reports case as kidnapping to gardaí in her search for truth

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 10/06/2019 Shane Phelan
a person standing posing for the camera: Helen Maguire and her daughter Christine Skipsey pictured at her home in Westmeath. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM © INM Helen Maguire and her daughter Christine Skipsey pictured at her home in Westmeath. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

The woman at the centre of the St Patrick's Guild baby mix-up case has reported the matter to gardaí as a kidnapping.

Helen Maguire (71) gave her newborn baby to the Catholic nuns who ran the adoption society for safekeeping in the 1960s.

But DNA tests revealed last year that Christine Skipsey (52), the child she was handed by the nuns, was not her biological daughter.

Ms Maguire told the Irish Independent she made a formal complaint to gardaí at Mullingar garda station several months ago.

She said gardaí informed her recently they had made little progress in the inquiry and had not found her birth daughter.

However, according to Ms Maguire, Tusla has identified a woman it believes to be her birth daughter and arrangements have been put in place for them to meet in the near future.

It is believed Ms Maguire's birth daughter was adopted by a married couple in Dublin, but it remains unclear if the mixing-up of the babies was a mistake or deliberate.

Even if a Garda inquiry does make some headway, it is thought highly unlikely criminal charges will result from the complaint as the nuns who ran the guild are now all said to be dead.

The adoption society, which was run by the Religious Sisters of Charity, is currently in voluntary liquidation.

Ms Maguire, originally from New Inn, Co Tipperary, was an 18-year-old single mother when she gave birth while living in London in November 1966.

The birth was initially kept secret from her parents and she needed somewhere to leave the baby for safekeeping when she journeyed home to visit her family that December.

According to Ms Maguire, 'singing priest' Fr Michael Cleary, a chaplain to the Irish community in London at the time, suggested St Patrick's Guild at Temple Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin, and made the necessary arrangements. The priest believed she would give the baby up for adoption.

However, Ms Maguire said she refused to sign adoption papers she was presented with by the nuns.

When she returned to collect her daughter six weeks after leaving her at St Patrick's, Ms Maguire was briefly suspicious.

The baby she gave birth to had dark hair, but the child she was presented with had blonde hair.

She said the nuns reassured her that all children were born with dark hair and that the baby was hers.

It would be another 51 years before she discovered she had been given the wrong baby.

The religious order has yet to issue a statement on the case, first revealed in Saturday's Irish Independent.

A spokesperson said last Thursday it would not be in a position to respond to a number of queries until this week due to the unavailability of certain personnel.

The former adoption society the order ran is set to be at the centre of a number of lawsuits over false birth registrations.

It was revealed last year by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone that at least 126 babies adopted from St Patrick's were falsely registered as the biological children of their adoptive parents.

That number has since risen to 148, and relates to people who were born between 1946 and 1969.

A lawsuit could also be brought by Ms Maguire and Ms Skipsey.

Both were devastated when they received the DNA test results and have been searching for answers ever since.

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