The Adoption Authority (AAI) sent three reports on illegal birth registrations — including a spreadsheet of 90 cases — to the Department of Children in 2015, three years before the St Patrick’s Guild scandal.
The revelation comes as the department claims the 126 illegal birth-registration cases discovered by Tusla in May in the files of former adoption agency St Patrick’s Guild represent “the only cases in which clear evidence of incorrect registrations has been found”.
The Irish Examiner previously reported that the department was told about illegal birth registrations by the AAI as far back as in 2011, and again in 2013.
However, it has now emerged that the regulatory body for adoption sent the department three separate reports on illegal registrations, including detailed information on 90 cases.
In a cover letter attached to the reports, sent on June 4, 2015, to the principal officer of the department’s adoption policy unit, Noreen Leahy, AAI chief executive Patricia Carey stressed the level of detail it was supplying.
Appendix 1 gives a redacted summary of a small number of cases. The final document [names redacted] gives a listing of specific cases the authority is aware of,” states the letter.
The AAI told the Irish Examiner this final document contained the spreadsheet of 90 cases, with the names of the individuals redacted. In the letter, Ms Carey said the information had been collected on foot of a 2010 internal review and that “all information gathered at that time was sent to the department”.
She also indicated that the authority had told the department of the need for an audit of all adoption records.
Without a full review of each and every file related to adoptions/placements, it is not possible to quantify what the actual number of illegal registrations may be,” said the letter.
The department announced a “scoping exercise”, such as an audit of records in May of this year.
The AAI provided the Irish Examiner with a summary of the information in the two other reports it sent to the department in 2015. The first report was an overview of the historical context around illegal birth registrations and pointed out that the practice was carried out by “doctors, nursing homes, midwives, priests and some adoption agencies”.
The second report is an analysis of information the AAI holds on illegal birth registration and an overview of the National Adoption Contact Preference Register, which has been in operation since 2005.
“The report states that a list was compiled, by the Information and Tracing Unit, of cases where there were no adoption records and it appeared that the ‘person’s birth’ had been illegally registered,” states the AAI summary.
Finally, the report gives information on particular entities, which have provided the authority with information on illegal birth registrations and the practice of children being ‘adopted from birth’.
This phrase was found marked on the 126 cases discovered by Tusla earlier this year.
In June, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said that “a validation exercise is underway” with respect to 140 cases of illegal registrations reported to her department by the AAI. These include the 90 cases reported in 2015.
Her department said the information supplied to it by the AAI in 2015 related to cases “where the appearance of irregular activity suggested the possibility of an incorrect registration having occurred”, before pointing out that the 126 cases found by Tusla this year were confirmed cases of illegal birth registration.
“The 126 cases currently being dealt with by Tusla were confirmed, once a rigorous process was completed to ensure that the State could be as sure as possible that these individuals’ births were, in fact, illegally registered,” said the department.