Professor Éamon de Valera, Jr, the son of former President of Ireland Éamon de Valera, is accused of organizing illegal adoptions in Ireland in a new RTÉ Investigates documentary.
“Who Am I: Ireland’s Illegal Adoptions” debuted in Ireland on March 3 and touts further evidence against de Valera, Jr which “demonstrates the extent to which some of the country's most elite and powerful individuals acted in contravention of the law.”
RTÉ Investigates reports that de Valera, Jr, the high-profile consultant gynecologist at the National Maternity Hospital on Dublin's Holles Street, arranged for the children of unmarried mothers to be adopted by couples, usually those who could not themselves conceive children, over several decades.
One case that de Valera, Jr is accused of having facilitated involved the adoption of four children by one family over the space of five-and-a-half years.
While the issue of illegal adoptions in Ireland is hardly new, the emotions are still rightly raw and plenty of people are only recently learning that they too may have been illegally adopted.
In January, the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was published, nearly six years after the Commission was first launched.
The Commission's report, which analyzed 14 Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland, shows that between 1922 and 1998, 1,638 children were placed for foreign adoption.
The vast majority, 1,427, were placed for adoption out to the United States.
Featured in the new RTÉ Investigates documentary is Brian Webster, who was raised in New York City in what he describes as a "typical Irish-American family."
Webster, who now lives in Tipperary, told RTÉ Investigates that he was 11 years old before he was aware of any link to Ireland. His parents, Mary and Tom, were applying for his US citizenship. When he was signing the papers, he noticed that his place of birth was marked as Dublin, Ireland.
His parents dismissed his inquiries, telling him that they just happened to be in Ireland when he was born, an explanation which Webster believed for close to 50 years.
However, last year, TUSLA contacted Webster to meet with him:
“She said I believe that your parents were not your parents” Brian Webster outlines a shocking revelation from TUSLA #RTEInvestigates – Ireland’s Illegal Adoptions, Wednesday, 9.35pPosted by RTÉ One on Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Webster soon came to learn that he was actually born to a young unmarried girl in a private nursing home in Dublin, who signed what she believed to be a formal adoption consent two weeks after her son's birth.
RTÉ Investigates reports that Webster's adoption was actually arranged by the St Patrick's Guild to have him illegally placed abroad.
Upon his meeting with TUSLA, Webster was given just four pieces of paper. The information revealed he was actually born on April 13, 1961 - a full three weeks earlier than what he believed was his real birth certificate says.
He additionally learned that he originally had a different name, Philip Joseph.
"Somebody agonised over saying that's a Philip, that's a Philip Joseph," Webster told RTE Investigates. "And then my parents decided that I would be Brian – that I looked more like a Brian, I guess."
He added: "It's like having two identities. It's kind of weird. It's just very, very weird. You know, it's not normal. It's just not normal."
Much of the information on Webster's adoption form, including identifying information about his birth parents, was redacted. When he questioned this, he was told that GDPR legislation prevented TUSLA from sharing "third party" information.
(Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman told RTÉ Investigates that legislation to allow access to birth information, including birth certificates, will be prepared by the end of March or early April.)
Webster said: "It's very simple for somebody to just get a piece of Tippex and white something out, but they don't actually realise that what they're whiting out is vital information for somebody
"I'm not going to interfere in anyone's life. I just want to know a little bit about me. I've grown up being Brian Webster, and that's who I am, and that's not going to change," he said.
"But who was I? Who was I before I was Brian?"