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Chapter 14 — St. Joseph’s Kilkenny

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Alleged sexual abuse by a foster family


In November 1960, Mrs Lacey wrote to the Rev Mother in St Joseph’s, having been referred by an official from the Adoption Board Dublin. She and her husband were anxious to have a little girl, as they had no children of their own. She described herself as having the means to give the child a good home, a mother and father’s real love, and a good education. She said they were both Catholics and in good health. The Laceys said they were married in 1928, 33 years prior to the application in 1961.


Sr Klara15 wrote to a senior official of the Department of Education on 25th November 1960, telling him of the request from the Laceys. She explained that Annette could not be adopted legally, as her mother was alive but untraced. She suggested that perhaps the Laceys could be her Godparents, and sought his opinion on this matter. She hoped he could help find the mother so that her consent for adoption or the Godparenting arrangement could be sought.


Sr Klara wrote again on 3rd December 1960, advising the official of the Department that the Gardaí had had no success in tracing Annette’s mother and wondering whether she should go ahead with allowing the child go to the Laceys. She suggested getting a reference from the parish priest before making a final decision. At this stage, the Laceys had brought the child out for outings and were keen to take her. The official advised her to get the reference from the parish priest before allowing it to go ahead.


On 10th December 1960, Sr Klara wrote to Mr Wade of the Department of Education as follows: Since our conversation (phone) I have received a letter from my friend to whom I wrote for information re. couple who wish to adopt Annette. It seems this “party” is only here for the past few months from England. The husband is a lapsed Catholic, and the wife a Protestant. As we have been warned that “couples” are going through Dublin trying to adopt children, and from the information just received, I don’t think it wise to go any further unless we get a very definite proof of the suitability of the Adopting Parents.


Sr Klara wrote again to Mr Wade on 12th December 1960, expressing her continuing uneasy mind regarding the couple who wished to adopt Annette, and seeking his advice as to whether she should pursue the matter with the parish priest in the UK, as the couple had only resided four months in Ireland. The parish priest in Terenure had vouched that they were attentive to their Church duties in the four months that he knew them and were worthy and reliable people.


Sr Klara came under increasing pressure from the Laceys, who were indignant that Mr Wade, when he interviewed them, had information to suggest that they were not Catholics. Mrs Lacey denied this and said they attended Mass every Sunday. Sr Klara remained very doubtful about them.


On 15th December 1960, in an internal memorandum to the Inspector in the Department of Education, the author advised that he had spoken to the parish priest in Terenure, who recommended that the child should be allowed out to the Laceys for Christmas.


In a letter dated 15th December 1960, Mrs Lacey wrote to the Department: Dear Sir, As requested I herewith make an application for permission to have Annette the child from St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny for the Christmas period. My husband and I have already had her out for one day and we have asked the Mother Superior to let us have her with us, as we are giving a children’s party at our café, and the Mother Superior said as far as she was concerned it would be alright. The child having no parents or relatives we are both willing to help her in every way possible, by giving her a good home, with a Mother’s and Father’s love, bringing her up in the Catholic faith, and educating her in the best possible manner. We are quite aware on account of her age that we cannot adopt her legally, but are more than willing to be her Foster Mother and Father. My husband being Managing Director of a large firm tells you that we have the means to do the very best for the child. Trusting you will grant us this permission. Yours Faithfully Mrs Lacey


A note on the letter said: ‘Phoned Sr Klara and informed her of our inquiries. She is now satisfied to release child for Xmas holidays and we are to [make] ... inquiries regarding Lacey couple with a view to advising mgr on question of release on supervision certificate TOR 16/12/60’.


On the same document, the particulars with regard to her release for Christmas were recorded, together with a note of an interview with the Laceys on 16th December 1960: Interviewed Lacey couple – wife claims to be a convert and husband to have been reared a catholic but has not been assiduous in the practice of his religion. He undertook to produce their marriage certificate.


In a letter to Mrs Lacey dated 8th January 1961, Sr Klara informed her that Annette was safely back in Kilkenny and had been telling the Sisters about the wonderful time she had with ‘my Mammy and my Daddy’ and thanking her for giving her such a good time.


The child obviously had an accident whilst with the couple, because Sr Klara also noted that ‘on the following day she would take Annette to the Dr. to have the stitches removed D.V’.


It appeared from the documentation that followed that the Laceys travelled to the UK in early January 1961, to expedite references and other matters required for the adoption of Annette. Mr Lacey had written to his parish priest in Oldham in England, seeking confirmation that he was married in the Catholic Church. The parish priest was unable to provide this, but said he saw no reason to doubt Mr Lacey’s word that he had been. There was also a short note from another parish priest where the Laceys resided for six years, which said the couple were known to him and well suited to have care of a child.


On 8th February 1961, the Laceys contacted the Department to press for the release of Annette, citing the fact that they had purchased a new house and were anxious to purchase furniture with Annette in mind. This prompted Mr McDevitt to write to the parish priest of Oldham to seek confirmation that the Laceys had married in the Catholic Church sometime in 1928, possibly around May. He could not provide the exact date.


He did not receive a reply and followed this up with another letter on 9th March 1961. This letter was returned to Mr McDevitt with the following handwritten note by the parish priest: St. Mary’s Oldham Dear Sir, As far as we can ascertain the facts given by Mr Lacey are true and to be believed. Sincerely yours, P.P

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