Denying adoption records ‘horrific’

President calls on the State and institutions to provide information

President Michael D Higgins has said it is “horrific” that basic information is denied to adopted people and called on the State to act on adoption rights.

President Higgins said there was a “responsibility” on the State and other institutions involved in adoption to provide adequate information to people seeking their identities.

“The one thing that I think is horrific, where information has been denied, where there has been no attempt to meet the reasonable request of people for basic information where the State has been responsible, the State has to take responsibility,” said the President. “Where institutions have been responsible, they have to take responsibility.”

Speaking to Newstalk, President Higgins said, in terms of dealing with the abuses of the past, the narrative that “you must forgive” has been “too easily trotted out” to people that have been hurt in Ireland.

He also said a sympathetic statement from Government, followed by an attitude of “let’s move on”, is not a satisfactory response to reasonable requests for basic information.

He was addressing the launch of his Ethics Initiative, 50 events aimed at increasing awareness and discussion of ethics in Ireland.

Co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance, Susan Lohan, said: “When someone such as President Michael D Higgins, who enjoys an international reputation for highlighting human rights abuses, puts the focus on the continued role of the State and the Catholic Church in perpetuating abuses relating to adoption, it must surely force the current government and children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald to act promptly and appropriately.”

Speaking in the Dáil last week, Ms Fitzgerald said her department was preparing tracing and information legislation, but it would be constrained by constitutional and legal issues stemming from a Supreme Court ruling that found the mother’s right to privacy would have to be balanced against the adopted person’s right to know their identity.

Adopted people and natural parents consistently say the proposed law does not go far enough in granting access to adoption records.

Ms Lohan said recent comments from the minister on adoption rights were indicative of a “department in full retreat” from the issue.

She expressed concern at Ms Fitzgerald’s recent statement that all adoptions under the State post-1952 were in line with the legislation, when some of the agencies regulated by the then Adoption Board publicly admitted to facilitating illegal adoptions.

“The 1952 Adoption Act had nothing to do with child welfare,” said Ms Lohan. “It was an example of the crudest form of social engineering any state could engage in. This act saw the creation of a quasi-judicial body, the Adoption Board, now the Adoption Authority, whose sole raison d’être is to sever permanently the parent-child bond between the unmarried mother and her non-marital child.

“And why? Not because these unmarried mothers had a record of unspeakable crimes towards other children, not because they were mentally or physically deficient but merely because of their marital status.”

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