Hundreds of adopted people contacted Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone in June to express “disgust” at the Government’s “deeply discriminatory” adoption information and tracing legislation.
Attempts in June to move the bill through Seanad committee stage with a series of amendments met a furious backlash from adoption rights groups and natural-parent groups, and sparked 652 emails and letters to Ms Zappone’s office.
A sample of that correspondence, released under Freedom of Information, reveals the anger of adopted people, stakeholder groups, and adoptive parents, as well as their antipathy to Ms Zappone’s planned legislation. The sample contains no correspondence from a natural parent, nor any correspondence in support of the legislation.
The bill will provide for contact with all birth parents to ascertain whether they have any objection to the birth information being released. Where the parent does not consent to the release of the information, both parties will make their case before the Adoption Authority of Ireland.
Ms Zappone has repeatedly defended the legislation as a balance between the right to privacy and the right to identity. On June 11, an adopted person emailed Ms Zappone, asking her to have a “serious rethink again [introducing the legislation in its current form] and do not set us back in time”.
“This is discriminatory, and beyond disappointing to adoptees born in mother and baby homes or similar institutions,” the adopted person wrote. “We must try to remove the secrecy and try to repair damage done; full truth and transparency must be achieved and it can.
An adopted person, “born in the mid-70s in a mother and baby home”, emailed Ms Zappone that same day, informing her that, “for the entirety of my life, [I] have felt the underlying stigma associated with the circumstances of my birth”.
“Why should my individual and human right to understand who I am, and where I come from, be outweighed by someone else’s right to keep old secrets?” they wrote. “That situation is certainly not reflective of modern society and proven values.”
On June 17, another adopted person emailed Ms Zappone to say that the planned system for Tusla to automatically attempt to locate and contact both natural parents, before the release of a birth certificate and personal records to an adopted person, “is an unacceptable interference with the privacy of both natural parents and adopted people”.
Another adopted person emailed Ms Zappone on the same day, expressing her “disgust” at the “blatantly discriminatory” legislation.
“It is being proposed that both natural parents are located and contacted, prior to releasing a birth certificate and adoption records,” they wrote. “Take it from me, who has gone through the process of tracing my birth parents myself, it is a difficult enough process under current procedures, yet you are proposing to place more obstacles in the way of adopted people? Obstacles that will hinder adopted people from finding out where they come from and from what family illnesses that they may be predisposed to?”
Legal experts have said the bill breaches international human rights law.