'I was given a false identity after being born to an unmarried mother in Ireland

'I was given a false identity after being born to an unmarried mother in Ireland

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While Arthur Fitzharris had always known he was adopted, he was understandably shocked as an adult to find out his birth certificate had been falsified decades earlier.

A retired financial sales manager, the grandfather of five lives in the south of Ireland with his wife Geraldine, with whom he has three sons and a daughter.

But he’s spent over 20 years trying to find out where his own family was from.

Adopted at age five, Arthur had never known about his life from birth until that point, turning to Long Lost Family to try and get answers.

In a special episode about false identities, Arthur is one of two men who take a trip back in time to try and figure out the role the Catholic Church played in their upbringings.

Ahead of the episode going to air tonight, an exclusive clip explains some details of his backstory.

After spending time in an orphanage as a young child, Arthur was adopted by Beatrice and Robert Fitzharris, whom provided him with a happy childhood.

‘My parents were fantastic, and I never wanted for anything,’ he said.

‘I was so content and happy with them that the subject of my own adoption never arose.

‘As far as I was concerned, they were my parents.’

But years later when he started looking into his history, Arthur was given ‘little answers’ from the Catholic-run orphanage that had organised his adoption.

‘I would have thought they would have had a lot more information and it became very, very frustrating,’ he recalled.

‘I just felt that children weren’t…treated the way they should have been treated,’ he added after struggling to hold back tears.

Before being adopted, Arthur had spent some time living with foster parents in the Isle of Wight but was shocked to find out during his search they had incorrectly been listed as his biological parents.

While he was told he had no right by law to see his adoption file, a summary revealed that the couple reported the matter to police after finding out they had been listed on the birth certificate.

Soon after, Arthur was sent back to the orphanage in Ireland – Temple Hill – which was part of a network of Catholic institutions which processed children of unmarried mothers.

Clearly frustrated, Arthur says in the episode: ‘I’ve come up against barriers, lies and deceit. I want to find out who I am, I want closure.’

While it had been a criminal offence to enter false information into the register of birth since 1874, the practice was relatively widespread during the 1950, ‘60s and ‘70s in Ireland.

While it’s not known how many babies were illegally registered, in the past five years, 151 have been proven.

In 20th century Ireland, women who became pregnant out of wedlock were often forced to give birth in now infamous mother and baby and homes. 

The number of those pressured into giving up their babies up for adoption is not known, but nearly 60,000 children were born in institutions like these.

Long Lost Family airs on Mondays at 9pm on ITV1 and is streaming on ITVX.

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