Excluded agency ‘aware of illegal birth registrations’

The Government excluded an adoption agency from the mother-and-baby home inquiry despite being told almost two years ago that it had knowledge of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.

An Adoption Authority (AAI) delegation told representatives of the Department of Children and the General Register Office (GRO) in June 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild was aware of several hundred cases of illegal birth registrations, a department note of meeting released under Freedom of Information reveals.

“St Patrick’s Guild are aware of several hundred illegal registrations but are waiting for people to contact them; they are not seeking the people involved,” the note read. “Must consider how revelations of this sort would affect a family unit.”

Illegal birth registrations were usually done to facilitate an illegal adoption. No adoption order was made and the child was taken and registered as if born to the adoptive parents.

St Patrick’s Guild has hit the headlines on numerous occasions — most notably when the Irish Examiner revealed its role in the illegal adoption of Tressa Reeves’ son.

The agency was also criticised by former justice minister Alan Shatter in the Dáil as far back as 1997, when he hit out at it for having “deliberately misled” people by giving “grossly inaccurate information” to both adopted persons and birth mothers. He said such behaviour by an adoption agency was “almost beyond belief”.

The Government has repeatedly resisted calls by adoption campaigners for an audit of all adoption files held in the State so that the full scale of illegal adoptions and birth registrations can be uncovered.

It also refused to include St Patrick’s Guild in the upcoming Mother and Baby Home inquiry, despite calls from a range of groups representing adopted people.

In a statement, the department said an audit of adoption records “would yield little useful information”, as there would be “little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements” on the files.

However, a note of a meeting between two nuns from the agency and representatives of the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, on February 3 last year directly contradicts this statement.

It acknowledges that St Patrick’s Guild’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

St Patrick’s Guild announced its intention to cease offering a tracing and information service in 2013 and is currently in the process of transferring its approximately 13,500 adoption records to Tusla.

In a statement, chief executive of the AAI Patricia Carey said it currently has “no quantitative evidence of exact numbers [of illegal registrations], and comments made at meetings are not verifiable with any current evidence”.

In a statement, Sr Francis I Fahy of St Patrick’s Guild said the agency had no comment to make on any of the AAI claims and refused to answer any of the questions posed by the Irish Examiner.

“St Patrick’s Guild is not in a position to comment in any way on what AAI might have recorded. St Patrick’s Guild is no longer in a position to respond to the questions that have been raised.

“It is now engaged solely on the task of preparing for the transfer of all of its records to Tusla,” it said.

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