Real-Life Philomena Wants Film To Spur Change

Richard Suchet, Arts and Entertainment Correspondent
27 February 2014

The pensioner depicted in the Oscar-nominated film Philomena has said she wants to use her new-found fame to force political change.

Philomena Lee, 81, is leading a campaign to pressure the Irish Republic into opening secret records on 60,000 forced adoptions.

Ms Lee was one of those mothers forcibly separated from her son because he was born out of wedlock - he was then sold for adoption to the US.

The moving and tragic story of her 50-year search for Anthony was adapted for the big screen by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, with Dame Judi Dench in the title role.

In a tearful interview with Sky News, she said: "I saw him going off, his little face looking out the back of the car and that is how I've always remembered him.

"I've never forgotten him to my dying day. The only thing I wanted the whole of my life please God - and I prayed - that one day I would find him. Please God let me find him."

Anthony died from Aids at the age of 42, before Ms Lee could track him down.

He chose to be buried in the grounds of the Mother and Baby Home in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where he last saw his mother as a three-year-old.

He had visited the home several times in an attempt to find her, but neither mother nor son were able to access information on each other because government institutions kept the files closed.

"Over the years I've gradually let my anger disappear and then I was able to forgive.

"He would have been 62 this year if he was alive. How could you keep a grudge for 62 years? You couldn't because it would eat you away." 

The thousands of other mothers who were also forced to put up their children for adoption still can't access their files.

"Something has got to be done about this," insisted Ms Lee.

"Since the film came out, we've been absolutely inundated from people in the same boat as I was."

Through the Philomena Project, she and her daughter Jane are lobbying Irish, UK and US politicians - even the Pope - to release the birth records held by government and religious institutions.

"In UK law you are allowed to gain access to information that would help you trace your mother or your child should they both want that to happen," says Coogan, who plays the role of journalist Martin Sixsmith in the film.

"That's not a legal right in Ireland and that is why Philomena is campaigning to have the law changed - and I say all power to her in that."

The project has partnered with the Adoption Rights Alliance, which has fought on this issue for many years.

The Alliance's Susan Lohan said: "The Irish government wants the vast majority of mothers to have died before the children can actually have access to their files, so the two parties can't compare notes and realise the extent to which the state engaged in a forced adoption industry."

In Irish law, no-one who was adopted has an automatic right to information on their birth parents.

Ms Lee has been invited to attend the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday where the film is in the running for four awards including best picture, best actress for Dame Judi, and best adapted screenplay for Coogan and Pope.

"It has been such an experience in the last three months. I can't believe what's happened to me," she added.

"I was just an ordinary lady. I have a loving family. Three months ago I had a lovely quiet life in St Albans but since then it has just hit me.

"But when everything is all over, I'll go back to being a normal housewife again."

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

:: You can also watch the Oscars live on Sunday, March 2 on Sky Movies from 11.30pm.

How Much Could Drivers Actually Save By Comparing?

EverQuote's simple online tool allows drivers to identify the best rates for them. Find out how much you could be saving on auto insurance.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

This Movie Deal Is Sure To Get Your Attention!

Get 4 Disney Movies For $1 With Membership. See Details. Exclusive Titles, Merchandise, Offers & Discounts. Plus, Free Shipping On Your Initial Order!

9 Cards for People Who Have Great Credit

What card offers up to 5% cash back? And which one offers 24/7 concierge service? See the best credit cards of 2016. Apply online, quickly & easily.

Starwood Credit Card

Earn 25,000 Bonus Starpoints®! Use toward Award Nights or Flights.

Hilton HHonors™ Card

Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points. Apply for Your Card Today.

Powerful Tactical Flashlight Flying Off Shelves!

This new tactical flashlight was just released to the public and is flying off shelves in the United States. Limited supplies left, act quick!

Insane Navy Seal Flashlight, should it be banned?

The Military has recently released technology that is now available to the public. Get yours before they run out - Limited Supply!

Military Mortgage Rates In 2016

Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Direct Hard Money Loans

Residential & Commercial Hard Loans/ 24 hour loan approval/ 7-10 days closing / Bad Credit OK

The New Fuel Behind Oil's Death Spiral

A stunning breakthrough in chemical engineering has unleashed a massive supply of fuel that could hand the United States 100% energy independence.

Get vitamins here. Change lives everywhere.

For kids like Rosemary, proper nutrition makes a big difference. See how you can help kids everywhere just by buying your vitamins at Walgreens.

Buying Medicare Supplement Plan F? Read This First

Plan F is the most popular Medicare Supplement plan, but there's another Medigap option you should consider.

How To Make Sagging Skin Look Tight and Lifted

[Watch] The easy and effective way consumers across the country are improving the look of their wrinkled and sagging skin without cosmetic procedures.