Liam Ó hAlmhainat and Alexandra Nadane, President of “Studenti pentru viaţă” pro-life student association, at the Parliament of Romania, in April 2014
We’ve met Liam Ó hAlmhainat a roundtable organized by the Health Commission of the Chamber of Deputies in Romania’s Parliament. He is the subscription manager of a Catholic publication and this April he traveled to Bucharest for the international conference Human Trafficking: A Threat to Family Values. He was here to show support for family values and encourage Romanians to become more pro-active as a civil society protecting the natural family. The Irish are very religious and that brings them closer to Romanians. But, unlike us, maybe, they seem to have a more solid pro-life culture.After we chatted with Liam about his family during the coffee break, we realized we also have a lot to learn from the Irish in terms of adoption culture. How many children do you have? I have 10 children – nine living. How many are adopted? Only the second one was adopted, when the second boy was 3 years old. My wife was concerned. We did not want just a boy. We wanted a bit of a family. In fact, it was very strange. I suggested adoption, but she was not persuaded until she found she could love a rabbit we had. Then she said: “I could love an adopted child. In fact, this might even be better!” Women are often afraid they couldn’t love a child they did not nurture… Exactly! It’s still kind of a problem. My wife now has a lot of children. And she is the real expert in adoption. Nevertheless, she still thinks I have a better relationship than her with our adopted daughter. I used to say I was the same way as St Joseph, because in a way, he was the adoptive father of Jesus. But we talked to the child from the beginning about being adopted. Her older brother was a boy, the younger was a boy and the next was yet again a boy. So, when my wife was pregnant with the fifth child and was asked whether it was a boy or a girl, she said: “A boy, of course! Girls are adopted!”. That was the essence of it, you know?
How many grandchildren do you have? 17, including two adopted. Was it your adoptive daughter who adopted? It was in fact. Medically, it seems there is no reason why she can’t have children, but I think maybe psychologically she is not successful in having children. So eight or nine years into her marriage she adopted. And she is now in the process of adopting the second one. The child is already selected. How is the process of adoption in Ireland? She is in Spain and the adoption process there is different from ours in Ireland. In Ireland, as far as I know, there are adoption societies which help those who want to find children to adopt. Nowadays quite a lot of the adoption are of Russian, Vietnamese, foreign children. You said you have someone from India in your family. Who is it? In my family, the Spanish one has adopted the Indian. I am myself the God-father of an Indian child who converted to Catholicism. It is a natural child of an Indian Catholic father from Dehli. The father also supports a child from an orphanage in India. We have quite a lot of friends who have adopted children. Being of the age that I am, at the time we adopted there were plenty of Irish children available for adoption. At that stage, our friends of our vintage have adopted Irish children. It’s the next generation who are adopting foreign nationals. There was a phase when quite a few Romanians were there. Our neighbors down the street have adopted Peruvians from Peru. It‘s a long way to adopt. And they adopted two totally different children, one after the other.
So there is an adoption culture in Ireland? There is. There’s a culture that you need children. Even my wife’s sister, who had no children for nine years and then she adopted. A year later, she had a natural child.
Ireland is more conservative than the rest of Europe, it’s a lot about the natural family, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say “conservative”. I’d say more towards traditional families. I wouldn’t call it “conservative”, though. But yes, Ireland is the country with the highest birth rate in Europe, nearly twice as much as the one in Romania.
We have quite a dramatic situation here with the birth rate and family values. Do you have a message for Romanians? It’s very difficult for me to think about it. In fact, in a way, Ireland is drifting towards the same situation. People should be encouraged to get married earlier, to trust in God and not look at economic well-being. It does cost money to have children, but it’s more important in the long run.