Sunday, May 19, 2024

Paddy Keegan praises Tusla but blames Catholic Church for delays

A NAVAN man who has spent a lifetime searching for information on his mother, finally believes that he has all the information possible.

Patrick Keegan of St Patrick's Tce, Navan, who grew up in St Vincent’s Orphanage in Drogheda and the notorious Artane Industrial school, says although he is unlikely to find out who his father is, he has finally received all the information available on his mother.

In the last few weeks, he has received a wealth of documents detailing the time of birth, the date of his baptism, his godparents and grandparents, as well as similar details for his late brother, John, who had also spent many years searching for information on his history.

"Tusla did everything in their power to get the information on me, but I blame the church for the delays I experienced over the decades,"he said.

Now happy with the information he has received, Paddy is sharing the details with his brother's family in Australia.

Paddy's biggest regret is that while he finally got to meet his brother more than 20 years ago, he believes if the religious authorities he had sought information from had been honest with him he might have had a much longer time to get to know his brother, who was 17 years older than him.

Paddy (76) first began his search for his mother's identity in the 1970s.

Paddy was born in the Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home in Co Tipperary on 16th March 1948. His mother was Mary Ann Keegan of Morele, Emo, Co Laois, where her family had a farm. She had been admitted to the home in 1947.

Documents show mother and baby got to spend a few weeks together until 9th July 1948, when Paddy was fostered to a Mrs O’Sullivan in Offaly and Mary Ann was admitted to the Magdalene Laundry in Sean McDermott Street, in Dublin where she remained until the day she died, just ten years later at the age of 47 from TB.

Paddy was fostered by Mrs O’Sullivan until he was four, then spent six years in St Vincent’s Orphanage in Drogheda until he was 10-years-old, when he went to Artane Industrial School where his experiences were so awful, he still finds it hard to talk about.

When he began his search, unlike, an adopted child, Paddy was able to find out who his mother was and where she was from, only to discover she had died.

He spoke to a nun called Sr Sarto, who gave him the information about his mother, along with a photo.

He found his mother’s brother and sister-in-law who initially denied the connection but later acknowledged the family ties. It was only when he attended the funeral of his aunt in the 1990s that he discovered he had a brother.

“A priest told me that 12 or 13 years earlier another man had come looking for information about his mother.

“He told me he was my brother and had a letter from Sr Sarto.

“She never mentioned him to me. If she did, we might have met a lot earlier and been able to spend longer together,” he says.

Paddy eventually tracked down his brother in Australia.

“It was wonderful to have so much family around. I had nieces and nephews calling me Uncle Paddy.” he said. “It felt great.”

Sadly John has since died, but Paddy is still in contact with his nieces and nephews in Australia.

"I have shared all the additional information I received about John, with his family in Australia."

Paddy (76), has since lived a happy and successful life, but his extremely difficult childhood is something that will always haunt him.

“It was difficult growing up without anyone - I never had anybody that cared about me as a child,” he recalls.