The Adoption Authority said it found 99 people who have identified themselves as adopted, for whom it does not have a corresponding adoption file.
Around 50% of these relate to so-called “adoptions” prior to the introduction of legal adoption in 1952.
The remaining 50% point to “under-the-counter” adoptions which were never formally approved by the Adoption Board, and may involve cases where the birth registration of the child was illegally falsified so to appear as the natural child of the adoptive parents.
“The authority intends to undertake further work to explore the full extent of the issue. The board of the authority will then consider possible next steps to contribute to an understanding of the issue, including any advice to the minister.
“As you are aware, the authority has no statutory responsibility in respect of the matter but is extremely sensitive to the issue,” said a statement.
It is understood to be the first such audit of any of the AAI’s records. It was announced in June of last year following the Irish Examiner’s investigation into the case of Tressa Reeves, whose son was illegally adopted and falsely registered as the natural child of the adoptive parents without her consent. This was facilitated by St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency in Dublin.
However, adoption groups have labelled the audit a cosmetic exercise and say to uncover the true scale of illegal adoptions, the AAI must examine the files of adoption agencies and files in the possession of the HSE.
The Adoption Authority has said it “has no statutory responsibility” in respect of people who were illegally adopted as it did not grant an adoption order.
However, the Irish Examiner is aware of at least one case where an adoption order was granted, by the then Adoption Board, for the children of married couples. This was not permitted under the Adoption Act. In at least one case, that of Carol O’Keeffe, who was adopted in 1972, it granted an adoption order without a birth certificate — the key piece of documentation needed to grant an adoption.
Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said it was “tantamount to gross negligence” for the authority to claim it had no statutory responsibility.
“It has echoes of the former central bank regulator saying he did not know what the banks were up to and we all know where that led,” she said.