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Dara Ó Briain reveals search for his birth mother

Comedian Dara Ó Briain has revealed his recent search for his birth mother.

The 48-year-old spoke publicly for the first time about his adoption at an early age on Wednesday evening, at The Irish Times Winter Nights festival.

Ó Briain noted at the online event how he'd enjoyed a happy childhood in Bray with his "supportive" parents.

But after being inspired by the film Philomena he tracked down his biological mother, who told him his adoption "was built on shame".

"I talked to my birth mother about it today, and I said, 'Look, did you want this?' and she said, 'There was no choice in this'," said the Mock the Week host.

"The whole thing was built on shame and expediency and a feeling of, just get this done."

'Hang on, am I adopted?'

The stand-up comedian and broadcaster underlined he came from an "unbelievably content family background", and that his family were happy to discuss his adoption, but that the subject just didn't come up that often.

"Being adopted is a state of knowing you're adopted, then it not being mentioned for ages," he explained. "And then at a point in later life going, 'Hang on, am I adopted?'

"I remember my father coming to London for lunch, and we had one of those conversations where you just clear the decks on everything. I told him, 'I seem to remember knowing this', and he said, 'Yeah, but it's not a secret. I quit telling you because, you know, why would you keep saying it?'

It was only after seeing the Oscar-nominated Philomena - starring Dame Judi Dench as Irishwoman Philomena Lee embarking on a quest to find her adopted son, with the help of journalist Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan - that Ó Briain decided to start his own search.

"Maybe [my birth mother] might want to know how it turned out," he added. "And maybe it's our responsibility to go, 'That worked out … I did end up in a stable home, and you should be grand about that'."

He has now met his birth mother and various biological siblings, but is yet to meet the whole family due to the pandemic restrictions.

'Unnecessarily hard'

While the process of searching for his birth mother was largely a "positive" one, the TV funnyman did say the bureaucracy of it all was "unnecessarily hard".

Under Irish law, the rights of the mother to privacy override the rights of the adopted child to find out who they are.

During the interview, Ó Briain lifted up pages of adoption files, which had the word "redacted" on them.

He ultimately sourced his own birth certificate, which he admitted was a nerve-wracking moment.

"I wanted to find a quiet moment to open this document. I remember finding it and reading it for the first time. It's an elemental piece of paper. It's a huge document to get in your hand," he continued.

"I wasn't crying or anything like that, but it was still... that this other person is me."

  • If you've been affected by adoption or fostering, help and support is available. Visit BBC Action Line for information and support.

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