Zappone rejects criticism over report’s release

Zappone rejects criticism over report’s release

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has rejected any suggestion that the decision not to publish the report of the Collaborative Forum on Mother and Baby Homes was due to its scathing criticism of the Government’s adoption tracing legislation.

In April, Ms Zappone published the recommendations of the forum but declined to publish the full 90-page report, citing legal advice from the Attorney General. She said she intends to publish the full report after the Mother and Baby Homes Commission publishes its final report in February of next year.

The Irish Examiner subsequently obtained a copy of the report which claimed that the “unstated and hidden objective” of the Government’s planned legislation to grant adopted people basic information and tracing rights is to “prevent access” to personal records.

It claimed the proposed legislation was designed to prevent access to personal information, “not just to the identity and personal records of those legally or illegally adopted post 1952, but also to the records of unaccompanied children, boarded-out and fostered children, who are defined euphemistically as being ‘subject to an informal care arrangement’.”

The forum report is also scathing of the Government’s plans to transfer information and tracing responsibility solely to Tusla, labelling the move “astonishing” and “regressive”

In a statement, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said that Ms Zappone “does not accept” that the criticism of the legislation in the report was a factor in the decision not to publish it in full.

“The proposed Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill has been the focus of robust debate in the Oireachtas and in wider public commentary,” said a statement.

“The advice to the Minister is that there must be some protection of birth parents’ constitutional right to privacy reflected in the legislation.

The Minister is well aware of the strong views on the proposed privacy provisions and recognises that the proposed arrangements are contrary to the desire of advocates for unrestricted access to identity information and to birth certificates.

Forum member Susan Lohan said it was clear the report’s criticism of Tusla was a key reason for the non-publication of the report.

“It seems apparent that the report’s far-reaching criticism of Tusla, who are deeply obstructionist in providing personal information, personal identities, medical histories etc to those forcibly and mainly illegally separated from their families of origin, was a bridge too far for the minister, who has to date ignored all calls for an in-depth overview of how Tusla conduct their so-called services,” she said.

Ms Lohan also said she was “not alone” among Forum members in the belief that it was the “11th-hour delay” to the publication of its final report announced by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission in January which “dictated the sudden lack of support for the gorum’s report”.

“Had they produced their findings on schedule in February, Minister Zappone could have basked in the glory of producing a survivors’ report, which she had produced earlier,” she said.

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