Man raised in Castlepollard home wants an apology

Man raised in Castlepollard home wants an apology

Rodney Farry

The Catholic Church should follow Enda Kenny’s example and apologise to the women who spent time in the Manor House Mother and Baby Home at Castlepollard.

That’s according to one of the hundreds of children who was born in Castlepollard to an unmarried mother and was subsequently put up for adoption by the Sacred Heart Sisters who ran the facility that is now St Peter’s Centre.

Washington DC-based photographer Christopher McCartin’s mother, Cork native Angela Dunne, was sent to Castlepollard as a 15-year-old in 1950 by her family when they discovered that she was pregnant.

Angela and Christopher spent three years in the home before Christopher was adopted by the McCartins, an American family. During her time in Castlepollard with Christopher, Angela, who like the girls in the Magdalene Laundries, was given another name on her arrival, had to work for her keep and was only allowed to see her child for 20 minutes a day.

When Christopher was adopted by his new family, all of his paperwork left Castlepollard with him. This lack of a paper trail made it hard for mothers such as Angela, who spent almost 20 years looking for Christopher, to be reunited with their children.

In Christopher and Angela’s case, it would take 47 years and a mixture of luck and the hard work of a Dublin social worker before they would set eyes on each other again – on Christmas Eve 2000.

In the intervening half a century, Angela had settled in Birmingham and married, having five children with her husband Patrick Levings. She had emigrated to England after leaving Castlepollard as, according to Christopher, “her family wouldn’t take her back”.

Fast forward 13 years since their emotional reunion, and Christopher now has a good relationship with his mother and his five English brothers and sisters.
While she created a good life for herself across the Irish Sea and is a devout Catholic, her son believes that she still bears the scars of her time spent in Castlepollard.

“I think there is a great deal of resentment,” Christopher told the Westmeath Examiner in a telephone interview last week. She knows that she was wronged. I told her that she didn’t do anything wrong, but she was made to believe that she did.”

While nothing will erase the pain of the past, Christopher believes Angela and thousands of women like her who spent time in mother and baby homes across Ireland and were forced to give up babies, deserve an apology and compensation like the Magdalene Laundry survivors.

“It should have come a long time ago. I don’t think it’s the prime minister that should be coming forward, it’s the church. The bottom line is whether it was the Catholic Church or another organisation, they knew the difference between right and wrong.

“It was a different time but you knew the difference between right and wrong. The church that put the stain on Ireland, not Ireland itself. The church offered the service.

“I think it goes way beyond saying sorry – these people need compensation. They took their lives away from them. The church should step up to the plate.”

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