Cautious welcome for adoption tracing legislation

Adopted people and natural parents have given a cautious welcome to the Government’s proposed tracing and information legislation.

The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill is due before Cabinet this week. It is understood to apply to all retrospective and future adoptions.

Adopted people currently have no legal right to their birth certificate or the medical history.

Legislation has been seen as a priority by every Government since 1997, but all have cited the 1998 Supreme Court ruling as a stumbling block. This found the natural mother’s constitutional right to privacy had to be balanced against the child’s constitutional right to identity.

It is understood that the new bill will require adopted people to sign a statutory declaration stating they will respect the wishes of their natural parents if they do not wish to be contacted.

It is also expected that a new adoption contact register will be placed on a statutory basis and operated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said she was looking forward to seeing the Bill but said some key issues needed to be addressed.

“We will have to wait to see the Bill, but if there’s any hint of the contact veto becoming an information veto, then that’s a line in the sand we can’t cross. We are looking for equal rights foradopted people which, amongst other things, means full and unfettered access to birth certificates and our adoption files,” she said.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes said it was difficult to comment on a Bill that has not been published but that it seemed to be a “step in the right direction”.

“The one year lead in is not acceptable to an elderly community as many survivors of forced adoption will not be around in a year’s time. We regret that Minister Reilly sprang this Bill on us without consultation. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end for fake birth certs in Ireland and an end to secrecy and cover up,” he said.

Kathy McMahon of Irish First Mothers said the Bill portrayed adopted people and natural mothers as adversaries.

“Being adopted is not a communicable disease requiring a ‘contact register’. The State’s misguided “divide and conquer” Bill frames mothers as potential adversaries of their own stolen children. And vice versa. In fact, both were betrayed by our State,” she said.

Senator Averil Power, who is adopted, published a bill to give all adoptees a right to their birth certs which was passed by the Seanad earlier this year. She said the Government must ensure the legislation is in place before the next election.

“The Government must confirm that all adoptees will have the same rights. Minister Reilly previously told the Seanad an unrestricted right to their birth cert might only be given to people adopted after the new legislation. This would be of no use to the 50,000 people adopted in the past. I hope this is no longer the case,” she said.

Independent TD Anne Ferris, who is herself adopted and had a daughter adopted, welcomed the fact that any “initial reluctance or fear held by a natural parent will not prevent an adult adopted child having access to information about their birth identity”.

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