Groups call for urgency on adoption rights legislation

The Government has offered no concrete timeframe for a new law to allow adopted people to access their birth information — almost a year after a bill was introduced last summer.

Adopted people currently have no legal right to their birth certificate or the medical history.

Legislation has been seen as a priority by every Government since 1997, but all have cited the 1998 Supreme Court ruling as a stumbling block. This found the natural mother’s constitutional right to privacy had to be balanced against the child’s constitutional right to identity.

A bill introduced by the last Government in July of last year required adopted people to sign a statutory declaration stating they will respect the wishes of their natural parents if they do not wish to be contacted.

It is also planned to place a new adoption contact register will be placed on a statutory basis and operated by Tusla — the Child and Family Agency.

The previous Government took almost its full term to draw up the bill. Taoiseach Enda Kenny had claimed that a referendum may be needed to give adopted people basic rights — a claim that was rubbished by one senior constitutional lawyer.

In response to a question on a timescale as to when the bill will become law, children’s minister Katherine Zappone last week refused to give a definitive date, stating only it would be “as soon as possible this year”.

Claire McGettrick of Adoption Rights Alliance said adopted people would not accept a law which offered them anything less than “full equality”.

“Any legislation which affords anything less than full equality to adopted people is completely unacceptable to Adoption Rights Alliance and those in contact with our organisation,” she said.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors (CMABS) said the bill needed to be passed as a matter of urgency. Mr Redmond said three campaigners in the adoption activist community had died in recent months.

“For every survivor we know has died, hundreds more are dying. CMABS cautioned last year that our community would end up reunited with headstones in cold and lonely graveyards if the new Adoption Bill was not passed as a matter of urgency,” he said.


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