Birthmother Abuse by Tusla, Gardai and Family Court is the hidden, rotten underbelly of Irish society where victims can be jailed for speaking out about what’s being done to them

Tammy was a victim of domestic violence that resulted in her former partner being jailed.

Tusla took her children into state care on the grounds that she had failed to protect them from violence.

When Tammy became pregnant again by a new partner, Tusla issued an ultimatum, either her newborn baby would be taken into state care if they continued to live together or if they separated, the father would be given custody of the newborn baby on condition that he supervise her access.

Tusla closed the case when a court order was granted on their recommendation giving custody of the newborn baby to the father.

The father immediately cut off all access to her baby and the social workers told Tammy that it is no longer any of their business because they have no concerns about the welfare of the child despite several reports to them from concerned neighbours about the child being exposed to alcohol and possible drug abuse.

The social workers involved have advised Tammy to pursue the matter of access to her child through the courts.

Yana is a professional lady working in Ireland for twenty years. She was in her early forties and was thrilled when she became pregnant with her first child. Her Irish partner was not pleased and abandoned her.

She continued to work and raise her daughter single-handedly. At times, she found this very difficult because her daughter was diagnosed with autism and she was cut off from the support of her close-knit family abroad.

Due to the child’s condition, she was absent for more than 20 days from school and Tusla was notified.

Two social workers arrived at the house and decided at that moment that Yana was mentally ill and called an ambulance. This was Yana’s first ever engagement with Tusla.

Yana says that she was unresponsive to the social workers because of the shock of their arrival and their attitude towards her after she allowed them enter.

In addition, despite the fact that she is quite fluent in english, it’s not her first language and she felt that there was a language barrier that prevented her from grasping the meaning of the convoluted way they spoke to her.

She was discharged from the hospital after two hours and returned home at 7pm. She had no idea where her child was. She went to the Gardai to report the child missing and they said it had nothing to do with them and to liaise with Tusla.

Yana searched in vain for several months for her child. Tusla told her the file was closed and the social workers involved had moved on.

She finally discovered several months later that her daughter was with the father when she was summoned to court by him as he is now seeking sole custody.

She learned in a court hearing that her child had been taken into emergency care for a number of days before she was handed over to the father as a result of an ex parte motion by Tusla in the local district court that Yana was never told about.

Yana doesn’t know how Tusla managed to contact the father who lives at the opposite end of the country. His name does not appear on the child’s birth cert.

She suspects that the social workers found out through one of her friends that she named as her support on that one day when they came to her home.

Because Yana lives at the opposite end of the country, she failed to get a local solicitor known to her to represent her.

She has therefore been forced to engage the services of a solicitor in the county where the father resides.

She is above the income threshold for legal aid, the father has legal aid granted to him.

There has been a number of adjournments. She faces a 14 hour return bus journey for each court hearing. She has had to pay the solicitor several thousand euro as a retainer and each court hearing costs several hundred euro.

Yana feels that she will get no justice because the two solicitors are based in the same town and are prejudicial towards her because the father is Irish and she is ‘a foreigner’.

Catherine runs her own company and was going through a very acrimonious divorce in which her ex reported her to Tusla for child abuse.

The social workers colluded with him in the Family Court to get custody of the children. Tusla ignored several reports from the children’s schools and other professionals that they were being neglected.

Catherine was denied all access to her children.

The children were eventually returned to her when the courts intervened when the children wrote to their father’s solicitor about the terrible conditions and treatment that they were enduring.

Catherine succeeded in getting an independent inquiry into her case.

Catherine says it shows “the social work team were dishonest, lacked empathy, created false reports, acted in a vindictive and unprofessional and disrespectful manner and it was very clear that the well being of my children was the lowest of their priorities.

The independent review confirmed how badly the social work team had behaved and provides an insight that illustrates a depth of rot throughout all levels of this Child Protection organisation that can only be rectified with the closure of Tusla.”

Catherine later received an apology from Tusla.

Amy noticed sexualised behaviour in her young children. She reported it to the Gardai. Tusla got involved and the matter came before the Family Court where an “expert” was appointed. He submitted a report to the Court accusing Amy of parental alienation and recommended that the father get sole custody of the children.

Tusla has closed the case.

Amy has to pay a private company €200 to supervise her access to her children once a week.

The private companies facilitating access are not regulated.

The “expert” is not accredited by CORU, the body with statutory responsibility for social workers nor is he accredited by Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI).

This individual who is well connected to the upper echelons of the judiciary is responsible for the removal of several children from their mothers when they reported suspected sexual abuse to the Gardai.

The activity of this individual is known to a number of Dáil Deputies including the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Children and a number of TDs on the Fianna Fáil front bench. They claim the separation of powers between the Executive and the Judiciary precludes them from taking action.

Erica separated from her partner a number of years ago. One of the children disclosed to her how their father was sexually abusing her during overnight access. The Family Court made an order that access was to take place in the children’s home and to be supervised.

Several unsuccessful attempts were made by him to change the court order. He is now supported by a Tusla funded NGO for men.

His most recent attempt before a different judge has been successful. Erica has been accused of parental alienation by an expert appointed by the court.

The judge has ruled that the children be handed over to the father when the school year ends in June.

The judge said that he has the welfare of the children in mind and that it would be too traumatic for them to have to move to a different school in a different county this late in the school year.

Erica was represented in court by a legal aid solicitor who did not speak during the recent two day court hearing.

The father was represented by a solicitor and a Senior Counsel who is also a university lecturer. Erica suspects that the NGO is contributing towards his legal fees because the father of the children is currently unemployed and legal aid probably wouldn’t cover the cost of a Senior Counsel at district court level.

Erica immediately appealed the district court decision to the Circuit Court. This was not covered by legal aid as the cert she had only covered district court proceedings.

A separate application for legal aid for the Circuit Court would have to be made and this takes several months to process. She knows from experience it would not be granted ahead of the appeal hearing.

She has found a solicitor who has several cases similar to hers on his books and reputable puts up a good fight for the mothers involved, but he comes at a hefty price.

He has asked for a €20,000 retainer as her case will probably end up in the High Court.

Erica survives on social welfare. She hopes to get a credit union loan and also to borrow money from family and friends to try and prevent her beloved children being handed over to their abuser in the coming months.

The worry, the stress and the strain is having an adverse effect on her mental and physical health.

The common thread running through these accounts of mothers whose names have been changed to conceal their identities, is that Tusla and the Family Court work together to hand over children to abusive fathers.

The in-camera rule operating in the secret Family Court prohibits mothers from speaking outside the court about what is being done to them.

A breach of the in/camera rule is a criminal offence that carries the penalty of a jail sentence.

These accounts are part of in-depth interviews conducted by Anna Kavanagh MA with 20 mothers from the Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice that show very clear patterns of epistemic injustice arising from the mothers interactions with Tusla, the Gardai and the Family Court.

The 20 interviews were conducted using the same methods and standards as a doctoral thesis and will be broadcast later this summer as part of a podcast series by M-Compass media called ‘Justice for Birthmothers’.

It is the first independent research of its kind conducted in Ireland that is not Tusla funded.

British philosopher Miranda Fricker coined the term Epistemic Injustice to describe the silencing of a group of people because of how they present. In the case of Yana, for example, her state of shock at being confronted by two Tusla social workers given the bad reputation of the agency, was wrongly assumed by the social workers to be a form of mental illness.

There are two types of Epistemic Injustice:

Testimonial injustice where people are not believed by the professionals engaging with them. In the case of Amy, for example, her report of child sexual abuse was deemed to be parental alienation.

Hermeneutical injustice where the language to describe this specific type of abuse is not yet known by those involved and by the public at large, in much the same way for example, that the term ‘sexual harassment’ was not part of the lexicon of the english language prior to the 1970’s to describe the behaviour of predatory men.

It wasn’t that sexual harassment wasn’t happening, it was a case of the language to encapsulate it was not yet formulated.

Amy says: “I suppose, it’s something that often in society, when women lose their children, people will say, I’ve heard this myself, she must have done something so awful for her children to be removed from her. So there’s just this notion that when your children are removed from your care you’re this complete monster. And so there’s huge shame attached to that for mothers.

I suppose, my main point is that the state are doing this intentionally to create shame for anyone who speaks out against abuse and to silence women. And really, I think, it’s not just shame,  it’s also fear. And women are so terrified to speak about what’s happened to them, and what’s happened to their children, because they know that, there’s very little recourse, there’s nowhere to go.”

Loving, kind, gentle and caring mothers in Ireland are losing custody of their children on spurious grounds and access to them thereafter is blocked or strictly restricted. Going forward this shall be known as ‘Birthmother Abuse’.

The issue has now been raised in the Dáil on more than twenty occasions since last September by Deputy Bernard Durkan.

Legislation needs to be drafted without delay to outlaw all forms of Birthmother Abuse by social workers, the Gardai and the Family Court.

Over the summer it’s hoped the Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice will be able to work with a number of TDs and other professionals to draft a bill to be brought before the Dáil as a Private Member Bill after the summer recess that will finally put an end to the ongoing unbroken chain of state abuse of mothers and children that stretches back to the foundation of the state.

𝑃𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑝𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑣𝑖𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑎𝑏𝑢𝑠𝑒 𝑏𝑦 𝑠ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡 𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑜𝑓 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑠𝑜𝑐𝑖𝑎𝑙 𝑚𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑐𝑐𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑠.