15 Jun 19
The Irish Sun
GARDA Commissioner Drew Harris has apologised to a former garda who was charged for having sex and giving birth to her son while not being married in the 1980s.
In a statement released this evening, Mr Harris said: “On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I fully apologise to former Garda Majella Moynihan for the manner in which she was treated and the subsequent lifelong impact this had on her.”
Majella Moynihan has spoken publicly about her ordeal for the first time
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris
In a heartbreaking radio documentary on RTE Radio One broadcast today, Majella spoke publicly about how she was treated by An Garda Siochana after she gave birth to a boy in May 1984.
Majella, originally from Kanturk, Co Cork, was charged with two counts under the 1971 Garda Siochana Regulations in relation to premarital sex and birth outside marriage – almost two months after she gave birth.
She was working at Store Street Garda Station in Dublin at the time and had become pregnant while in a relationship with a probationary garda.
The documentary called The Case of Majella Moynihan revealed Majella’s pregnancy was even the subject of a meeting between the Archbishop of Dublin Kevin McNamara and the then Garda Commissioner Larry Wren in the archbishop’s palace.
Majella was facing dismissal at the time of this meeting but the charges were dropped when the Archbishop intervened and advised Commissioner Wren that a conviction against Majella could lead to female gardai travelling to the UK for abortions.
When Majella was seven months’ pregnant, in March 1984, she began her maternity leave.
She was encouraged by her social workers to spend the final weeks of her pregnancy outside Dublin.
After arrangements were made by CURA in Dublin, Majella went to stay with a family in Galway.
And after she gave birth to her son David on May 31, 1984, she gave him up for adoption.
In the documentary, created by Aoife Kelleher, Sarah Blake and Liam O’Brien, Majella told how she felt like she had no choice.
She said: “The pressure came from every angle to adopt – it came from the Gardaí, it came from Cura and it also came from the social worker.
“She kept saying ‘You know you can’t give your child what you’d like to give him. You’re 21 years of age, it’d be better if we took him and he went to a good family’. I still didn’t know what I was going to do.
“On the 31st of May, at two minutes past five, I gave birth to a beautiful boy.
“I left the hospital on the 1st of June and I left my son behind.
“I walked out of that hospital in a trance, I didn’t know who I was, what I was. I remember getting into the back of the car and going back to the family house and all I wanted was my child.”
“The next day I went into the hospital and he was in the nursery and I asked the nurse could I hold him and she said no. I remember staring into the nursery, just wanting to grab him and run.
“I didn’t know where I was going to run. That pain is still like it was yesterday. It was the worst day of my life.”
David was eventually placed with adoptive parents in July 1984 and, later that year, Majella received a formal notice of breach of discipline from a chief superintendent.
[boxout headline=”Internal Garda disciplinary charges against Majella”]CHARGE 1
“Conduct prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit on the force.
“That is to say that between the 20th of May 1983 and the 30th of September 1983, you being an unmarried female member of An Garda Síochána did associate on terms of intimacy and undue familiarity with one Recruit Garda, an unmarried member of An Garda Síochána and during such period of association, you had sexual intercourse with said Recruit, as a result of which you became pregnant and gave birth to a male child at Galway Regional Hospital, Galway, on or about the 31st of May, 1984.”
“You being a female member of An Garda Síochána, did on or about the 31st of May 1984 give birth to a child outside wedlock at Galway Regional Hospital, Galway, County Galway.”
After being notified of the charges against her, Majella was then cautioned.
She tearfully recalled: “And after those charges were proffered against me, I was cautioned that I was not obliged to say anything unless I wished to do so and anything I said would be taken down in writing and may be given as evidence.
“I remember thinking ‘What are they doing?’, ‘Why am I being charged like a criminal?’, I did nothing wrong.
“And the questions that I were asked, no person should ever be asked those questions.
“All about my past history, my sexual past. All about my life, it had nothing to do with the fact that I was pregnant, that I had given birth.
“At that stage I just felt that I wanted to die. I didn’t want to live anymore.”
“I had to go back downstairs put on my uniform and go back out on the beat as if nothing happened.”
In 1985, with the disciplinary proceedings still hanging over her, Majella was told by a colleague that they heard she was going to be sacked.
In turn, Majella spoke to Mena Robinson, from CURA, the Catholic Church’s Crisis Pregnancy Agency.
A meeting followed between the then Garda Commissioner Larry Wren, Archbishop Kevin McNamara, and and Ms Robinson in the Archbishop’s Palace.
Majella told the documentary: “Mena came back to me after that meeting, and told me that Archbishop McNamara turned to Larry Wren and said ‘If you sack Majella, you’re opening the gates to England’.
“And at that stage, it was decided that I was to be cautioned.
“Archbishop McNamara at that stage saved my job. He didn’t want Guards going to England to have abortions, that’s why my job was saved.”
But not long after the charges against her were dropped, articles about the disciplinary action against her appeared in The Irish Times and the Irish Independent newspapers.
Her case was also discussed on RTE.
She said: “I felt totally betrayed at that stage again, that some member of the Gardaí had given it to the papers. And the charge sheets and everything. The only thing that wasn’t was my name wasn’t mentioned.”
The documentary also revealed that the father of Majella’s baby was fined £90 for his conduct.
This followed Majella having to testify about her sexual relationship with him and her own sexual history.
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Majella now has a relationship with her son David and says she is “so happy” in her life, but attends counselling to work through the trauma of her first pregnancy and experience in An Garda Siochana.
She said: “I think for Ireland in the 1980 that it’s an appalling infliction on any female to have been charged with giving birth and charged with having intercourse.”
The documentary can be listened to in full here
Majella in her early 20s
Majella as a guard in 1998