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Nine-year-old Evelyn Doyle (Sophie Vavasseur) and her two brothers, Maurice (Hugh MacDonagh) and Dermot (Niall Beagan) are motherless when their mother abandons the marriage to a drunkard out-of-work father Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan). When Desmond's mother-in-law (Claire Mullan) reports the situation to the authorities, a judge decides the children are prohibited by law to being left in broken homes; they are placed in Church-run orphanages.

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