State object to ‘extensive fishing campaign’ for adoption documents

The state has argued before the High Court that it should not be obliged to conduct an “extensive fishing expedition” to provide documents relating to all alleged illegal adoptions carried out by the St Patrick’s Guild over a 10-year period.

The state has agreed, however “late”, to provide all relevant information so that living representatives of the Religious Sisters of Charity, who run the St. Patrick’s Guild adoption service, can make a meaningful defense in the particular case, is being considered, said Fred Gilligan, representing the state.

This includes all data, documentation and information relating to the plaintiff’s birth, alleged illegal adoption and other information passing between him and Tusla, as set out in the statement of claim.

The discovery motion against the state was brought by another defendant – a representative of the Religious Sisters – in an action initiated by a woman who claims she was illegally adopted in the mid-20th century.

The woman’s case is against St Patrick’s Guild (in voluntary liquidation), four former representatives of the Religious Sisters of Charity, Guilford Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4, Ireland and an address by the Attorney General.

It is seeking damages for, among other things, actionable conspiracy, deceit and willful violation of its constitutional rights.

The woman also seeks court declarations that the state and attorney general failed to prove their true family members’ rights as a child and an adult to society.

wide disclosure

The state was objecting Friday to the widespread disclosure of documentation held in several government departments about St Patrick’s Guild’s “touching or relating to any alleged illegal registration” and/or adoption records between 1946 and 1956.

It was also objecting to providing “all and/or any other” documents falling outside these categories, which “however, to the knowledge of the State, may be relevant to the issues” of the proceedings.

Mr Gilligan said adopting another child during that period “is not relevant to this case” and that the state should not be obliged to conduct an “extensive fishing expedition” for search purposes.

While the plaintiff’s case alleges that the state oversaw the illegal adoption regime, they said the case against the representative of the religious sisters pertained only to this particular adoption.

The Religious Sisters’ representative for the Nessa Cahill SC said the documents sought were relevant and necessary to provide a “meaningful defense” to their client and to assess compensation and liability.

She said the St. Patrick’s Guild handed over all of its records to the child and family agency Tusla in 2016, and that her client has no means of access to them.

It argued that there was an “absolute disparity” between the state and every other party regarding the portion of the document and that it did not accept the request for discovery that was an “unnecessary burden”.

She said that whatever she had sought had already been compiled in the report of the Commission of Inquiry for the purposes of Mother and Baby Homes.

She said she would move a separate motion at a later date to remove the names of the two other representatives from the proceedings as they have died since the commencement of the proceedings.

Her client, who is not being prosecuted in a personal capacity, is now over 100 years old and lives in a nursing home outside this jurisdiction.

Mr Justice Sanon Allen said he would rule on the discovery motion at a later date.