Belfast Telegraph

Mother’s shock as she discovers woman she raised is not her daughter

Christine Skipsey (left) and Helen Maguire
Christine Skipsey (left) and Helen Maguire

By Shane Phelan

A woman who gave her newborn baby to a group of Catholic nuns for safekeeping in the 1960s has discovered that they handed her back the wrong child.

Helen Maguire (71) made the shock discovery last year when DNA tests revealed Christine Skipsey (52), the girl she had brought up as her own, was not her biological daughter.

She subsequently found out the child she gave birth to, and briefly left in the care of St Patrick’s Guild, had been adopted by a married couple. It is unclear if the switching of the babies was a mistake or deliberate.

The former adoption society, which was run by the Religious Sisters of Charity, has been mired in scandal over revelations many births were falsely registered to facilitate illegal adoptions.

But Ms Maguire’s experience suggests irregularities at St Patrick’s Guild and similar institutions may also have included the swapping of babies.

Since getting the DNA results, both women have been on a journey to get answers, with Helen hoping to meet her birth daughter — and Christine seeking to find out who she really is.

For the first 51 years of her life, the mother-of-two never for a moment questioned her own identity. But last summer, after publicity about the illegal adoption scandal in Ireland, she and the woman she always knew as “mum”, Helen Maguire, decided to get DNA tests.

Helen did not give up her child for adoption, but placed her for six weeks with the now infamous St Patrick’s Guild, which ran an adoption society at Temple Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin, until the 1980s.

Just over half-a-century later, amid revelations of illegal adoptions and irregularities with birth registrations at St Patrick’s, questions arose in Helen’s mind. She had dark hair while Christine had blonde hair and blue eyes.

They ordered a DNA test kit online. The results came back a few days later and revealed with 99.9pc certainty that Helen was not Christine’s mother.

“I felt very lonely,” Christine said.

“I honestly never thought it would come back like that.”

For Helen, the outcome was equally devastating. “I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.

For them, the results point to only one possible explanation — that Helen was given the wrong baby by the nuns who ran St Patrick’s when she went to collect Christine all those years ago.

Since getting the DNA results last July, both women have been on a journey to get to the truth, with Helen determined to find the daughter she gave birth to and Christine seeking to find out who she really is.

“Christine will always be my daughter as far as I am concerned. She is still my baby and I love Christine to bits,” said Helen.

Christine now lives in Hertfordshire, north of London, with her husband and works as a secretary in an estate agency. Before the DNA test, Christine never once doubted that Helen was her mother. “Even when mum mentioned it last July, I just laughed,” she said.

They got in contact with Tusla, which has had the records from St Patrick’s Guild since 2016, and sought the assistance of Dublin law firm, Coleman Legal Partners, which has several clients affected by the St Patrick’s Guild scandal. Christine has since received information indicating where she was born and her real date of birth.

Questions were submitted to the Religious Sisters of Charity but it was unable to provide a response before publication.

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