Government urged to lift ‘veil of secrecy’ on birth details

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton has called for the Government to lift the veil of secrecy on birth details and adoptions to allow people access their personal histories.

Joan Burton

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton has called for the Government to lift the veil of secrecy on birth details and adoptions to allow people access their personal histories.

Her comments came as Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone confirmed to the Dáil that the births of 126 people from St Patrick’s Guild had been registered illegally.

She said the State would never be able to contact some people who were adopted and whose births were illegally registered here.

She described how she had met advocates this week seeking access to adoption and birth certificate details.

On the St Patrick’s Guild controversy, she said: “In effect, babies were given to a couple and registered as the child of that couple and not of the baby’s birth parents.

"While there have been suspicions about illegal registrations for many years, it has been extremely difficult to uncover clear evidence because of the deliberate failure by those involved to keep records.”

Ms Zappone described how, of the 126 cases, 79 have never had contact with St Patrick’s Guild or with Tusla and that, in the remaining cases, there has been some contact by an individual or a relative.

She confirmed that the Adoption Authority is aware of a number of cases, around 140, where suspicions in relation to illegal registration are now being examined.

Katherine Zappone

The bulk of these cases were reported to the department as far back as 2010.

Many TDs are calling for legislation to facilitate the release of documents and personal histories to be agreed by the Cabinet.

Ms Burton said Ireland was out of step with other countries.

“In one of the last denials of personal freedoms in Ireland, many adopted people are still locked out of access to their own files,” she said.

“It is difficult to understand this when we know that the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, for close to half a century, have allowed access to information once an adopted person becomes an adult.

“It is the minister’s job to persuade this Taoiseach that he should lift the veil of secrecy.

"He and others have benefited from our acknowledgement in full of other rights, but this Dáil still has not acknowledged the rights of adopted people to their personal histories and information.”

Ms Burton described how children had been taken out of their homes and put into work, including boys farmed out as labourers at the age of 14 and girls sent to work as maids and servants in middle-class homes.

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