Adoption campaigners have warned Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly that all six of his predecessors have reneged on promises to give basic tracing rights to adopted people.
Welcoming the Seanad debate on Senator Averil Power’s Adoption (Identity & Information) Bill, Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) said that every government since 1997 had consistently refused to legislate in the area, despite repeated promises.
“Both domestic and international human rights experts [continue] to suspect that this Government [will] continue ‘to deny until we die’ in a cynical and misguided attempt to spare the blushes of, and reduce the financial liability of the State and the various religious groups behind the systemic abuse of unmarried mothers and their children,” she said.
Under the proposed legislation, all adopted people will have a right to their birth certs, listing their original names and the name of their natural mother — and father, if available.
Natural parents can ask for information about their adopted sons or daughters. Adoptees and their parents can also choose whether they are happy to have their contact details released.
Speaking during the debate, Dr Reilly said that, while there was much to admire in the Bill, unlike the Government’s proposed legislation, it did not “differentiate between prospective and restrospective adoptions”.
Dr Reilly was referring to the 1998 Supreme Court ruling which found the natural mother’s constitutional right to privacy had to be balanced against the child’s constitutional right to identity. Adopted people have claimed the ruling has been used to allow a blanket ban on the release of any adoption records so as to avoid opening up the issue of forced and illegal adoptions.
Earlier this year, a claim by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that a referendum may be needed to give adopted people basic rights was dismissed as one which “does not survive scrutiny”.
Senior lecturer in Constitutional Law at UCC, Dr Conor O’Mahony pointed out that while the 1998 judgment accepted the mother’s right to privacy, it stipulated that “the natural mother did not have an absolute constitutional or legal right to have the anonymity guaranteed to them at the time they placed the child for adoption preserved”.
Dr Reilly said the Government’s Bill would place the National Contact Adoption Preference Register (NACPR) on a statutory footing. Adoption groups have repeatedly criticised the NACPR as an “abject failure” due to the low level of matches it has made and its inability to help those who were victims of illegal adoptions.
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