Calls to widen the scope of adoption probe

Any audit of adoption records needs to examine all forms of illegal adoption and not just illegal birth registrations.

That is the view of adoption campaigners who have spent more than two decades calling on successive governments to carry out a full audit of all adoption records held by the State.

It comes as Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announced the terms of reference for a sampling exercise of records held by Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) to see if the extent of illegal birth registrations is widespread and requires a full, forensic examination of all records.

Independent reviewer Marion Reynolds will oversee and quality assure the sampling process. The chairman of the AAI, Geoffrey Shannon, will lead the work on this matter within AAI and director of transformation and policy at Tusla, Cormac Quinlan, will carry out the work within that agency.

It is estimated that Tusla has some 70,000 records from former adoption societies and that the AAAI has 30,000 relevant records. In addition, a wide range of existing and former adoption agencies hold about another 50,000 records.

The department said that, due to the fact that the 126 cases were labelled and made it possible to identify cases, this is the first opportunity to “pursue a definite line of enquiry” in relation to this matter.

This is despite the fact that documented cases have been reported by this newspaper as far back as 2010. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was also told by the AAI in 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild was aware of “several hundred” illegal registrations.

A note of a meeting between two nuns from the agency and representatives of Tusla, on February 3, 2015, also outlined that the agency’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

The initial sampling process will:

  • Sample a set of records to be defined in an agreed methodology to ascertain whether clear evidence of incorrect registrations might be identified;
  • Build an overall picture of the extent to which incorrect registrations have occurred;
  • Form a conclusion as to whether a more detailed analysis has the potential to yield clear information, eg, the existence of key identifiers or markers that signal potential incorrect registrations;
  • Make recommendations to the minister on what further form of investigation or analysis, if any, would be appropriate, having regard to the extent of usable information emerging from the initial sampling process.

However, Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance expressed concern that the terms of reference only refer to illegal birth registrations when there were numerous other forms of illegal adoptions.

“The sampling process must involve a forensic examination of the records, and not simply those files which contain obvious markers,” said Ms Lohan.

She cited other forms of illegal adoption including cases of questionable consents, where the mother consenting was a minor; adoptions granted in the absence of birth certificates of any kind; and in the case of children whose parents were married, among others.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors said sampling of a handful of Tusla and AAI records is a “cop out” which ignores the fact that many of the adoption records are still in the hands of private adoption agencies and societies.

“The minister needs to prioritise the immediate confiscation of all adoption records held in private hands by old-school agencies such as Cunamh and the Protestant agency, PACT, etc,” he said.

Rhoda McManus, of Adoption Loss — The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, said the examination needs to investigate all forms of illegal adoptions pointing out there are cases of correct birth registrations which resulted in illegal adoptions.

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