What is Legal Adoption?

Adoption is the legal process whereby a child becomes a member of a new family. It creates a legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the child, through the transfer of parental rights and duties for a child from birth parents to adoptive parent/s on a permanent basis. The child has the same legal rights, as if they were born to the adoptive family.

Prior to the introduction of the Adoption Act of 1952, there was no legal process of formal adoption in Ireland. The 1952 Act introduced legal adoption for the very first time and established an An Bord Uchtála or Adoption Board which is now known as the Adoption Authority. The Act specified the practices and procedures to be followed by the various Adoption Agencies but these were blatantly disregarded in a great many cases and the practice of illegal adoption commenced in the very first year of the Act coming into effect.

What is illegal Adoption?

Adoptive parents were directed towards certain adoption agencies in the hope of adopting a child, but rather than following the legal process, many adoption agencies arranged illegal adoptions, whereby adoptive parents were permitted to register the birth of their adoptive child as if they were the birth parents of that child. The birth certificate was a forgery. In a significant number of cases, this “secret” was kept from children all of their lives and many Illegally adopted children only became aware over the past few years that their “parents” were not, in actual fact, their parents. Many others still do not know.

The various State entities failed these children completely and “tuned a blind eye” to these practices, despite being fully aware of these practices since the beginning.

St Patrick's Guild

St.Patrick’s Guild Adoption Society were one of the agencies involved in this dark chapter of our very recent history and a Report into that particular agency is finally due for publication in the coming weeks. The Final Report of the Mother and Baby Homes has made significant investigations into these practices and have recommended the establishment of a Redress Scheme which is presently under consideration by the current government.

St Patrick's Guild

Landmark Court Case concerning Illegal Adoption

Cosgrave Solicitors acted for both Tressa Reeves and her son Andre Donnelly who successfully brought the first high profile case concerning illegal adoption in 2014. The case was instituted against St. Patrick’s Guild and proceeded to full hearing in the High Court in July 2018.

We are currently taking a significant number of similar cases in the High Court at present, seeking disclosure of all of data, documentation and files from the relevant adoption agencies and seeking to recover damages from the relevant adoption agency and the State.

I was illegally adopted. What can I do?

Please contact Neil Cosgrave, Solicitor by telephone on 046 -909 3587 or 046- 909 3577 to discuss what remedies are available. All enquiries are treated with the utmost sensitivity and confidentiality. If you prefer you can also write to Neil by email at

News Articles related to Illegal Adoption Case

Battle over illegal adoption set for High Court (

Mother hopes adoption action encourages people to act (

Mother and son hope their illegal adoption case helps others (

Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes