Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach condemns treatment of ex-garda who fell pregnant out of wedlock

Leo Varadkar was speaking about the case of Majella Moynihan who was pressured into giving up her child in the 1980s.

The Garda badge logo on Dublins Pearse Street station (Niall Carson/PA)
The Garda badge logo on Dublins Pearse Street station (Niall Carson/PA)

The treatment of a former garda who fell pregnant out of wedlock in the 1980s was “wrong on every level”, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar said Majella Moynihan had been made to feel shame, was pressurised to give up her child and penalised in a sexist way by senior gardai.

The Cork woman became pregnant outside of marriage after joining the Garda in the 1980s.

The father of the child was also a Garda trainee.

He was fined 90 Irish pounds.

She was threatened with dismissal and pressurised into giving up her baby son for adoption.

Her case became known after she was interviewed for an RTE radio documentary that aired over the weekend.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail on Tuesday that Ms Moynihan’s story had “very much gripped the nation” in recent days and that it gave “further insight into our country and into our past”.

What was done to her was wrong on every level, her privacy was invaded, she was made to feel shame, she was pressurised to give up her child, and the way she was penalised was deeply sexist when you consider that the man involved was only subject to a fine Leo Varadkar

“It was deeply moving and it was almost unbelievable except that those of us that did grow up in Ireland in the 1980s can believe how it was true,” he said.

“What was done to her was wrong on every level, her privacy was invaded, she was made to feel shame, she was pressurised to give up her child, and the way she was penalised was deeply sexist when you consider that the man involved was only subject to a fine.”

But the Taoiseach said he demonstrated how far Ireland had “changed for the better” since 1984.

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, who raised the matter during Leaders’ Questions, said Ms Moynihan’s case highlighted the “awful misogynistic” Ireland of the 1980s.

Ms McDonald said the former garda, who left the force in 1998, was not to have a successful career in the Garda because she fell pregnant while out of wedlock.

“She was vilified, she was isolated, and damaged in the most fundamental ways,” Ms McDonald said.

The Sinn Fein leader said the State has an obligation to ensure Ms Moynihan is awarded a full pension.

She also called on the Government to establish whether other women in the force were treated in a similar way.

Mr Varadkar said he would have no difficulty in apologising on behalf of the State to Ms Moynihan and any other women that may have been treated similarly.

But he said he did not know whether other women had been subject to similar treatment.

Ms McDonald also asked the Taoiseach whether he had spoken to former Justice Minister Michael Noonan about Ms Moynihan’s treatment.

The Dublin Central TD told the Dail Mr Noonan had spoken to Ms Moynihan a decade ago and he told her that it was an internal Garda matter.

Mr Varadkar said he had not spoken to Mr Noonan about the issue.

The Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan have apologised to Ms Moynihan.

She is due to meet them both in the coming days.

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