The High Court has begun hearing a challenge aimed at quashing parts of the final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.

The court will hear two lead cases from a total of nine similar actions, including one being taken by Philomena Lee, whose life was the subject of a book and later made into a film.

Ms Lee, who is 88 and living in England, claims sections of the report do not accurately reflect her evidence to the commission.

At the age of 18 she was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home in Roscrea in Co Tipperary.

Her son was sent for adoption by a US couple, when he was three years old.

In her challenge, Ms Lee says she is readily identifiable in the commission's report, despite not being named.

She says she was entitled to be given an opportunity to make submissions on the sections relating to her before the report was finalised.

She says her Constitutional rights and rights under the European Convention have been breached.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Opening the case, Senior Counsel Michael Lynn said Ms Lee had not been invited to give oral evidence to the commission but had submitted a sworn statement. He said she would have had no issue with being identified in the commission's report and never sought anonymity.

He said the widely publicised facts of her case as set out in a book and a film made her readily identifiable in the commission's report.

He said her sworn statement to the commission detailed how she was sent to Sean Ross Abbey when seven months pregnant and was forced to work for six days a week in the laundry. She said a distinction was made in the commission's report about commercial and non-commercial work and in her opinion this had no merit because it was forced labour regardless of whether or not the abbey made a profit from it.

She had also outlined to the commission the facts surrounding the adoption of her son at the age of three and how she was simply told to sign a document without having it read or explained to her.

Mr Lynn said if given an opportunity, Ms Lee would have taken issue with the commission's conclusions about whether or not the women had given full and free consent to the adoptions. He said if given an opportunity to address the commission, she would have said it was an incomplete and inaccurate picture of what was going on during her time there.

She had also detailed to the commission how some women had run away only to be returned by gardaí, yet the commission's report had said the women were not incarcerated in the strict sense of the word.

He said a contention by the State that some details were left out to protect her identity was a "double injustice" as she said she did not require anonymity, she did not ask for it. She would have given oral evidence but was not invited, he said. Instead she had submitted an affidavit.

Mr Lynn agreed with Mr Justice Garett Simons that Ms Lee was a person "motivated in the public interest to tell her story" after the judge observed that the book about her life had been published well in advance of the commission's investigations.

The judge said he would watch the film 'Philomena' outside of court time but noted he remembered it being a "harrowing" film.

Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home in Roscrea

The two lead cases will decide a core claim, made in nine separate cases by former residents, concerning the scope of section 34 of the Commission of Investigation Act 2004. The applicants claim section 34 requires that they, as persons unnamed but allegedly identifiable in the final report, be given the draft report and the opportunity to make submissions on that.

They say the failure to do that breaches section 34 and their fundamental rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Lynn said the commission's report was part of the public record of the State and their findings can only be read as a rejection of Ms Lee's testimony.

The challenges are against the Minister for Children, the Government, Ireland and the Attorney General.

In a sworn document submitted to the court, Ms Lee's solicitor, Wendy Lyon, noted the findings of the commission that there was no evidence for the opinion of some women that their consent to the adoption of their children was not full, free and informed.

Ms Lyon said Ms Lee's evidence was that she was not given any time to consider a document which she was told to sign and which relinquished her rights to her son.

Ms Lyon said the commission's finding directly contradicted Ms Lee's sworn testimony, even though it purported to be "the definitive, official objective account of a distressing chapter in the State's history".

It had failed to explain why it was not prepared to believe her testimony about her treatment and had also failed to record the efforts of Ms Lee and her son to find out about each other.

Ms Lee's life was made subject of a book by Martin Sixsmith, entitled 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee', which was made into the film 'Philomena', featuring Judi Dench as Ms Lee.

Bessborough mother-and-baby home in Cork

The second lead case is being taken by 72-year-old Mary Harney, born in the Bessborough Home in Cork in 1949.

She claims she is readily identifiable in the commission's report and was entitled to an opportunity to make submissions on the findings concerning her in the draft report.

Had she had that opportunity, she could have said the commission should not have omitted evidence she gave to it of abuse and neglect between 1951 and 1954, she claims.

In a sworn statement read to the the court, Ms Harney, who is taking a similar case, said she had spoken publicly on numerous occasions about her experience of abuse an neglect having been boarded out between the age of two and five from Bessborough Home.

She said the commission had omitted the evidence she gave to it about this abuse.

Ms Harney said she was "very distressed" that the commission's report carried no account of her abuse and neglect as she had outlined.

"What really worries me is my evidence is not recorded fairly and very important aspect of it is completely missing," her statement said.

It went on to say that her evidence was "disposed of in six short paragraphs" while the testimony of a nun from the institution was given 11 paragraphs.

If given an opportunity, she said she would have suggested to the commission that its findings be amended and that take account of the report of the confidential committee.

She said she did not ask for anonymity adding "I don't know why the commission didn't just name me except they would have had to send me a draft of the report (if they had)".

Senior Counsel Eilis Brennan, who is representing the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said the case centres on the issue of statutory interpretation.

She submitted the legal test for the word "identifiable" had been met.

The commission's role was one of "truth-telling" and setting out a history that reflects the experiences of residents of the institutions and its purpose was to put victims and survivors at the centre of the inquiry process.

Opening the State's case, Senior Counsel Eoin McCullough said the court must have regard for the scale and complexity of the commission’s work.

He noted that the report runs to thousands of pages and the commission had to take into account vast amounts of evidence and "reach its own conclusions".

He said it was "obviously never going to be the case that every single word of what every single person said was going to be recorded in the report".

Replying to Mr Justice Garret Simons, Mr McCullough said the State would argue there was no entitlement for Ms Lee to receive a copy of the draft findings unless adverse findings were made against her. This would apply whether or not she was identified in the report.

The case continues tomorrow.