Movie legend Judi Dench has been called to help highlight the plight of Ireland’s ‘stolen babies’ as her surprise hit “Philomena" hits new heights at the box office.
The low budget movie features the story of the ‘brutal separation’ of an Irish mother and her child and has become a word-of-mouth hit according to the Observer newspaper.
The paper says Philomena’s trenchant message is ‘having an impact on the personal lives of many families in Ireland; families who believe that they were also the victims of church dogma - their babies taken away because their unmarried mothers were judged immoral.”
Dench is expected to receive an Oscar nomination for her role as Philomena in a storyline which echoes many real life cases when the so-called ‘stolen babies’ were offered by nuns and Catholic institutions to couples living as far away as America.
The Observer reports an increase in the number of calls and social media interactions with adoption rights organisations since the movie’s release in Europe.
Campaigners say the movie will highlight a scandal ‘even bigger than the enslavement of teenage girls in the Catholic church-run Magdalene laundries, or the abuse of boys in Ireland’s notorious industrial schools’ according to the report.
And groups campaigning on behalf of the children have called on Dench to support their demands for an Irish state inquiry into the Church’s ‘third scandal’.
Her co-star Steve Coogan has vowed to add his support. He said: “I will absolutely do anything to help them. The church reaction has been same old, same old. I am happy to wade in.”
Ireland’s Adoption Rights Alliance has reported a threefold increase since the film was released in calls from children who were adopted.
Co-founder Susan Lohan, who was taken away from her mother in 1965, told the paper that the so-called ‘banished and stolen babies’ would be delighted if Dench spoke out for their campaign for justice.
She said: “We would like her to announce to the worldwide TV audience that the practice of unlawful containment of unmarried women and girls in these mother and baby homes has never been investigated by the Irish state.
“There was no apology nor has redress ever occurred. Incredibly, the Irish state continues to fund its partner in crime, the Catholic Church, to hold the birth and care records of over 50,000 children. The state colludes with them to prevent the ‘taken children’ from discovering their identities.
“We desperately want Dame Judi to highlight that, if Anthony Lee were looking for his mother Philomena today, he would face the same problems as shown in the film.
“Because the bad guys in this story, i.e. the religious orders of nuns, have only recently dumped their records with an under-resourced Health Service Executive, which has no resources to safeguard the records, never mind quantify or identify the data held within.”
Lohan also told the Observer that the full scale of this scandal will eventually eclipse all other scandals involving the Catholic Church.
She added: “The issue in Ireland is nuclear. It will dwarf the numbers involved in the Magdalene laundries. It also implicates so-called pillars of Irish society such as politicians, public servants, solicitors, nurse, doctors, midwives and social workers. The so-called nice middle-class people who knew about, who arranged, who funded and who were directly involved in forced adoptions.
“The movie has crystallised our own grief at the loss of our mothers and our anger at the state’s and the church’s ongoing campaign to prevent us from reuniting with our mothers.”