Pressure is mounting to restore former garda Majella Moynihan’s full pension after she felt shamed into giving up her baby son for adoption in the 1980s.
But Ms Moynihan’s harrowing situation may be only the tip of the iceberg, with women across the public sector having been pressured to give up babies.
Ms Moynihan, from Kanturk, Co Cork, was investigated and threatened with dismissal after becoming pregnant by another garda in 1984.
She left the force in 1998, over a decade after she was charged with premarital sex and giving birth outside of marriage.
Only today is she beginning to rebuild a relationship with her adult son, David.
Yesterday, during an interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1, Ms Moynihan admitted she would be happy to receive compensation and is due to meet Garda Commissioner Drew Harris after he and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan publicly apologised for her treatment.
Ms Moynihan told RTÉ she had attempted suicide five times. “I have done counselling for years and years. They no longer have a hold over me, today I’m free.
“It was the system … it was from inspector rank upwards,” she added, describing the culture she had experienced.
Ms Moynihan is now being represented by Andrew Freeman, a solicitor at Sean Costello Solicitors in Dublin. He specialises in personal injury and commercial litigation and practises in employment and criminal law.
Anne Cleary, a retired garda based in Fitzgibbon Street garda station in the 1980s knew Ms Moynihan socially. Ms Moynihan was based in Store Street in Dublin, a neighbouring station.
Ms Cleary told the Irish Independent the “top brass” were “very influenced by the church’s teachings”.
“I know one girl had her baby and another gave her child up for adoption,” said Ms Cleary, who retired four years ago. “It had a dramatic effect on her whole life. She felt pressured into giving the child up and she always missed that baby.
Ms Cleary described a culture of fear within the force. “It was the ultimate scandal and you’d face a kangaroo court.”
Ms Cleary said Ms Moynihan should immediately be paid her full pension “because the way she was treated is what made her so ill later”.
Other public-service workers who had experienced discrimination for being unmarried and pregnant also flooded the ‘Liveline’ airwaves, with one nurse stating she had been moved onto a geriatric ward when she was pregnant.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said the Government should immediately grant Ms Moynihan a full pension backdated to when she left policing. “From what she was saying it appeared to me she was effectively forced out and there’s a liability from the State there,” he said. “People are very shocked at what happened to her in 1984 and it reflects the intolerance that existed in Ireland for women who had children out of marriage but this wasn’t unique to gardai.”
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) said it had the “highest admiration for the dignity and bravery of former Garda Majella Moynihan”.