Scoping work slammed as ‘cosmetic’ exercise

Katherine Zappone.

Adoption campaigners have said the long-delayed scoping exercise into illegal registrations is a “cosmetic” exercise as it is not looking at illegal adoptions.

The Irish Examiner revealed last week that the review is looking at a sample of just over 1.5% (1,541) of the more than 100,000 records held by Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and is not looking for evidence of illegal adoptions.

Instead, records are being compared against a set list of 24 labels or “markers” which might indicate an illegal birth registration has occurred.

The scoping exercise was announced by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone last May following the discovery by Tusla of 126 cases in which births were illegally registered between 1946 and 1969 in the records of the former St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency.

Some of these records were marked “adopted from birth”. The records transferred to the agency in 2016 The Department of Children and Youth Affairs had previously declined to reveal the sample size of the records to be examined as part of the review or the methodology involved.

Susan Lohan of Adoption Rights Alliance said the methodology showed that the scoping exercise was cosmetic and “not an audit of adoption records” as it was entirely focused on illegal birth registrations — most of which did not result in actual adoptions — therefore adoption records are not being scrutinised.

She also said the 126 marked records were clearly an exception in the sense that, as those involved in illegal birth registrations were breaking the law, it was unlikely they advertised the fact.

“It would be like a bank robber leaving a post-it note with their details on it to track them down,” said Ms Lohan.

And more to the point, the audit isn’t carrying out a forensic analysis of records. It’s looking for a list of markers. We didn’t have highlighter pens and post-it notes in the 1960s.

“Anyone who thinks the illegal birth registrations and illegal adoptions are all marked and signposted across agencies is deliberately seeking to understate the levels of criminality involved.”

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors said the narrow scope of the investigation meant that victims of illegal adoption practices were “still being thrown to the wolves”.

“We note Minister Zappone’s ongoing refusal to initiate an independent audit of the adoption files despite the irrefutable evidence that there was wide scale and systematic fraud and forgery in the adoption industry,” said Mr Redmond.

“Victims of baby abduction, child trafficking and illegal adoptions are still being thrown to the wolves by Minister Zappone who is ignoring the fact many of them are unknowingly giving false — and potentially lethal — medical histories to their doctors and hospitals.”

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