New Irish government Minister Joan Burton has revealed she was adopted as a child and only recently obtained a new photograph of the birth mother she never met.
The Labor Party deputy leader was a shock appointment as Minister for Social Protection when the country expected her to land a role in the new look Department of Finance.
The Dublin West deputy shrugged off the controversy on Irish radio this weekend and she revealed how a well-wisher sent her a photo of her late birth mother on the day the cabinet postings were announced.
Burton was put up for adoption shortly after her birth in 1949 and tried to trace her mother some years ago only to discover she had died.
Pressed about her disappointment over the Ministerial appointments in an interview by state broadcaster RTE’s Charlie Bird, Burton revealed how the arrival of the photo in that morning’s Mail put it all in perspective.
“I received a little personal note and a photograph just before I walked over to meet Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore to be told about my appointment,” outlined an emotional Burton.
“I opened the note during the course of the first Dail session and found a picture of my birth mother. I had that letter in my hand when I met Eamon, and that was personally extremely emotional.
“It was the first picture I had seen of her as a woman in her late 40s or 50s. I had seen photographs of her when she was much older but I had never seen her as a woman in her 40s. I felt in a way that this photograph was a talisman.”
Burton went on to explain how her adoptive family had moulded her into the strong woman she is today but she had also felt driven to try and trace her birth mother.
The Minister added: “I was adopted by the Burtons into a very big Dublin family. My dad was an iron moulder, as his dad had been before him, in the foundry works in Inchicore and my adoptive mother Bridie was a great champion of me.
“I wanted to find out about my background. I had tried down through the years, when I married and when my daughter was born to try and check up and maybe, I thought, just send a message: ‘I’m ok. I did ok. I hope you are all ok’ but it wasn’t possible to do that. That was what Ireland was like in the Seventies and Eighties.
“The culture changed a bit in the Nineties so I took the opening and I did a bit of chasing and found that my birth mother had died by then unfortunately but I found lots of relatives in Ireland and in America, so it was a big voyage of discovery.”
Burton went to explain her own feelings about the apparent snub by Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his deputy Eamon Gilmore, her own party leader, and insisted she was comfortable with the outcome.
“I am very honored and awed to have been included in the Cabinet,” she insisted after taking over the reins as Minister of Social Protection.
“I was qualified - I am qualified - to be a minister in any department in the Government.
“My mindset was that I was going to be in the Cabinet, and whatever it was, I was going to do a good job. I’d been immersed completely, as everybody knows, in the banking and the finance situation.
“The difficulty for me was, having been so concentrated on the economy and on the banks, and on the structures and renegotiation of the bail-out deal, I then had this challenge.
“But I was asked to be a member of the Government, and I accepted.”