Real-life Philomena goes to Washington, seeks help on Irish adoption law

Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:21pm EST
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The 80-year-old Irish woman who inspired the Oscar-nominated film "Philomena" took her campaign for access to adoption records to the U.S. Congress on Thursday, and a senator said lawmakers might urge Ireland to act on the issue.

Philomena Lee, who searched for 50 years for the son she was forced to give up as a teenager, launched a campaign last week calling on Dublin to pass laws for the release of more than 60,000 adoption files held by the state, private adoption agencies and the Catholic Church.

Like thousands of other children, Lee's son was adopted by an American family, and she said she was overwhelmed by the support her story has generated in the United States. "Philomena" received four Academy Award nominations this month, including one for actress Judi Dench, who plays Lee.

"This has been such an experience. It's such a welcome from the American people. It's been fantastic. Hectic, mind you, but fantastic," she told reporters after meeting Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat.

Lee, like many unmarried mothers in 1950s Ireland, was forced to work in a convent laundry while her child was put up for adoption. Her son was adopted at age 3 by a family in St. Louis, in McCaskill's state, and died before he was able to see his mother again.

Lee said access to records would have provided a different outcome to her story.


McCaskill said she would meet fellow lawmakers to discuss how to express support for the Irish government's swift passage of legislation to release adoption records.   Continued...

Philomena Lee, whose life was featured in the Oscar Best Picture nominated film “Philomena", arrives at the 25th Annual Producers Guild of America Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Prouser