‘I had five attempted suicides’ – former garda who was shamed into giving up her baby

Majella Moynihan asked for an apology
Majella Moynihan asked for an apology

MAJELLA MOYNIHAN, the former Garda who faced dismissal in the 1980s after having a child while unmarried, has revealed that she was subjected to sexual harassment in the force afterwards, and had five attempted suicides.

Ms Moynihan was charged with breaching Garda rules after having premarital sex with another officer and having a child when she was 22.

An aggressive line of questioning by senior officers at the time probed into her sexual history and use of contraceptives.

Ms Moynihan kept her job following the intervention of the archbishop of Dublin, who believed sacking her would cause more gardai to travel to England for abortions in similar circumstances.

She spoke publicly about her ordeal for the first time in an RTÉ Radio 1 Documentary on One over the weekend, and revealed that she felt pressured into giving her son up for adoption. They have since been reunited.

Ms Moynihan appeared on RTE Radio One’s ‘Today with Séan O’Rourke’ this morning, and spoke of being abused by a nun in her industrial school as a young woman and her time spent in St. John of Gods Hospital after she gave her baby up for adoption. 

Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has apologised to Majella Moynihan (Michelle Devane/PA)

Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has apologised to Majella Moynihan (Michelle Devane/PA)

Because her son was born out of wedlock, Majella spoke of being treated as ‘a nothing’ while in the hospital.

Afterwards, she felt she was “portrayed as an easy woman” and said she had to deal with sexual harassment. “They felt like they could do and say what they liked to me. And they did.”

She ended up in St John of Gods Hospital, she had five attempted suicides. Speaking of her strength, Majella spoke of how they thought they could break her but they didn’t.

She told Seán O’Rourke that she was cautioned to go to Harcourt Square as part of the disciplinary process. This was the Dublin Garda Headquarters, and here she met a Superintendent.

“I walked in and he was so cold, just looked me up and down, never told me sit down, I just felt… lonely, again on my own with no support.

“He said the words, and I can still hear them, ‘if it ever happens you again, you’re sacked.’ And I just walked out the door.”

Ms Moynihan said this incident occurred about a year after her son David was born.

There was also proceedings against the father of the child, who was also a Garda. Ms Moynihan said she was called as a witness to his sworn inquiry. “That was detrimental, that was the most horrific abuse that could ever have been inflicted upon me in the Guards… it felt like an eternity.”

The father of the child was eventually fined £90. Ms Moynihan says she spoke to her former partner afterwards, and according to her, he told her “leave the past in the past.”

“That’s okay for him. My child was taken,” she said.

She also felt like she was used as an example.

“I was the guinea pig, they put me up there, ‘we’ll show other women if you get pregnant this it what’s going to be done to you.”

Ms Moynihan also said that she believes the fact her partner was also a trainee Garda played a role in why she was discplined. “We were Guards, we were supposed to have higher morals than anyone in the country. We shouldn’t have been attracted to the opposite sex.”

Ms Moynihan went back to work after the disciplinary hearings. She says that she was shunned by a lot of her colleagues, but that some people who were of Garda rank have reached out and apologised to her. “They were there the best they could. They gave me the support they could at that time. I hold everyone of them the height of esteem.”

“It was the system… it was from inspector rank upwards.”

She also says it’s hard to believe what happened to her. “At times I don’t think its me, it’s like I’m talking about somebody else.”

The trauma of the incident was great, and she told Seán O’Rourke that she attempted suicide five times. “I’m strong, they thought they’d break me. They didn’t. I’m a very strong woman.

“I have done counselling for years and years, they no longer have a hold over me, today I’m free.”

She also said she made contact with her son David after 27 years, and is hoping their relationship will develop into ‘a good and powerful relationship’. “He is my double,” she added.

Ms Moynihan left the Guards in 1998 and says it was the happiest day of her life. 

Now, she’s a healing professional who specialises in reiki healing and massage. “This is a new beginning for me,” she said.

When asked if she will seek compensation, she says she would be happy to receive some but “my story is not about that.”

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has apologised to the former Garda.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is set to meet Ms Moynihan in person to apologise to her.

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

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