Tusla was recording illegal adoptions and birth registrations in 2016 — two years before the agency’s revelation that it had uncovered unlawful registrations at St Patrick’s Guild.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil yesterday an independent review into the cases between 1946 and 1969 was ordered after Tusla said it recently uncovered 126 cases where births were illegally registered.
However, emails obtained by the Irish Examiner show Tusla was aware as early as 2016 of the illegal adoptions and registrations and was actively recording them.
The emails between Tusla’s national manager for adoption, Siobhán Mugan, and other Tusla staff, discuss an individual case where an illegal adoption occurred.
On September 19, 2016, a principal social worker emailed Ms Mugan under the subject title: “illegal adoptions” stating that a case had come to her attention “that might imply an illegal adoption”.
“I know that you asked to be made aware of all such cases. Can you let me know what you would like me to send you in the way of information.”
Ms Mugan forwarded the email to another staff member, asking her to “get the details of this for our register”.
This staff member then emailed the principal social worker: “Could you please complete the attached register. If there are any further details, please add them to the notes part of the register.”
A note of the National Business Adoption Managers’ Meeting on July 5, 2016, released separately under Freedom of Information, also contained the instruction: “Any illegal registration cases you come across, you must inform the national register in national office”.
A later email on September 29, 2016, under the subject heading “Illegal adoptions” and marked of “High” importance, show Tusla’s Longford/Westmeath Adoption Office, based in Dartmouth House in Dublin, forwarded details of cases of illegal adoptions. The personal details of those cases were redacted.
“Attached as requested the Dartmouth House illegal adoptions registrar,” the email stated.
In May 2017, the Irish Examiner asked Tusla if it held a register or database where adoption cases that raised concerns were noted. It stated: “No, there is no database or register held”.
The Irish Examiner asked Tusla a series of questions on the register — including why its existence was denied.
It stated that it “does not hold a register of suspected illegal/irregular adoptions” but that, in mid to late 2016, it did “consider tracking anomalies/issues of concern” as they were notified to the National Manager for Adoption to ensure procedures were being followed.
“This was trialled for a short period but was discontinued. Tusla does not have a legal basis to collate this information. Tusla’s only formal basis for processing this data is for the purposes of providing an information and tracing service to applicants,” said a statement.
Tusla said it would not be making “any further comment on the issue of incorrect registrations of birth”.
The Irish Examiner revealed in 2015 that an Adoption Authority (AAI) delegation told the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild was “aware of several hundred illegal registrations”, stating that the agency “are not seeking the people involved” but were, rather, “waiting for people to contact them”.
In an audit it carried out in 2010 following the Irish Examiner exposé on the case of Tressa Reeves, the AAI turned up approximately 120 cases of illegal registrations.
In a report prepared for the department in 2011, the AAI said it considered carrying out a more comprehensive audit of the cases it uncovered.
In a number of responses issued to the Irish Examiner in 2015, the department said an audit of records was “of limited benefit” and “would yield little useful information”.
Two years ago, Dolores Quinlan's life was completely upended. She had gone 49 years thinking the couple who raised her were her biological parents, before her father broke the news that they weren’t, and she had in fact been illegally adopted. | https://t.co/buaRc4ymXY pic.twitter.com/TwEjWf4XwY— RTÉ News (@rtenews) May 30, 2018
In the Dáil yesterday, Independent TD Clare Daly reiterated calls for the immediate establishment of an inquiry and said a sampling exercise, as announced by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone, was not sufficient.
Mr Varadkar said the fact that births were being were illegally registered by St Patrick’s Guild opens “another dark chapter in our history”. He also acknowledged the revelations about St Patrick’s Guild were not new, but that the issue was not being dealt with.
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