The report of the Government's scoping exercise into illegal birth registrations has been delayed for a second time and will not be finalised now until April - almost a year after it was announced.
The scoping exercise was announced by Children's Minister, Katherine Zappone, at the end of May following the discovery by Tusla of 126 cases in which births were illegally registered between 1946 and 1969 in the records of St Patrick’s Guild. The records transferred to the agency in 2016.
It is being led by independent reviewer, Marion Reynolds, and will involve the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and Tusla.
The final report was initially due in October. In September, Ms Zappone said the report had been delayed until mid-December due to a “very complex task and issues have arisen in relation to data protection and GDPR”.
In a parliamentary response to independent TD Clare Daly last week, Ms Zappone said these issues had now been resolved but that the final report would now be submitted "before Easter 2019".
To date, Ms Zappone's department has declined to reveal the sample size of the 150,000 records to be examined as part of the review or the methodology involved. The scoping exercise has also been criticised for being focused only on illegal registrations and not all forms of illegal adoption. Ms Zappone has also been asked why her department failed to launch an investigation into illegal adoptions before the Tusla discovery in May and why it has not initiated a full audit of adoption records, given her department has been aware of such cases for years.
The Irish Examiner has revealed documented cases of illegal adoptions and illegal birth registrations since as far back as 2010, including the fact that the regulatory body for adoption, the AAI, warned the department about the scale of the problem on three separate occasions in 2011, 2013, and in 2015.
It specifically cited "several hundred" cases at St Patrick's Guild. In 2015, it sent the department a detailed spreadsheet containing 90 cases that it felt represented illegal registrations. This information was not acted upon at that time.
In response to numerous queries by this newspaper over a number of years, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has repeatedly stated that an audit of adoption records would be “of very limited benefit” and yield “little useful information”.
Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors (CMABS) said Ms Zappone's record on the issue of adoption has been "all talk and zero progress".
Independent, Clare Daly, said the delay is "unacceptable" given the issue has been known about and documented for years: "What was needed from the beginning was a criminal investigation conducted by a dedicated unit of Garda, civil servants and social workers to actively trace and inform all those affected."