The History of Adoption in Ireland
More than 100,000 children were separated from their parents through adoption and fostering in Ireland since the foundation of the State. Of these, 42,000 were adopted after the introduction of legal adoption in 1952, and a further number were illegally registered as if born to their adoptive parents (known as "de facto" adoptions). Most unmarried pregnant girls were consigned to religious-run, State-funded Mother and Baby Homes, and were pressurised to give their babies up for adoption by their families, social workers, doctors, priests, adoption agencies and nuns. It was not until the mid 1970s that some meagre social welfare supports began to be provided to enable mothers to keep their children, although social and official attitudes continued to condemn unmarried motherhood up until the early 1990s.
" I think that we are all agreed that the consensus opinion in our society is to the effect that adoption is better for the illegitimate baby than to be cared for by its mother".
(Paddy Cooney, Minister for Justice. Speech at First Irish Adoption Workers Conference, 1974).
"This tendency (for mothers to keep their babies) may have progressed too far. Fewer babies are coming onto the adoption market as a result".
(Marie Louise Colbert, Social Worker, The Adoption Board. Article in The Irish Independent, 1976)