The move has been broadly welcomed by groups representing adopted people, who had feared that tracing and information rights were only to be offered in relation to future adoptions.
Ms Fitzgerald seemed to confirm these fears last year in a radio interview with Pat Kenny, when she said such rights could only be offered going forward.
However, in a meeting last October with representatives of the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA), Ms Fitzgerald said that the heads of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill were being prepared and would “provide for information relating to adoptions which have taken place prior to the commencement of the Act”.
The minister stressed these rights would be made available subject to the constitutional rights of the persons involved.
“In relation to the balancing of rights, the assistance and advice of the Office of the Attorney General in the development of the legislation is being sought,” she said.
ARA have repeatedly said the conservative interpretation by agency and HSE social workers of the I O’T v B judgement, as well as outdated attitudes towards adopted people and their natural parents, have had a detrimental effect on the release of information to adopted people.
Susan Lohan of ARA also welcomed plans by Ms Fitzgerald to centralise adoption records but urged the minister to ensure that all files containing information on adopted people’s origins be included, such as mother and baby home files, private agency files, HSE files, Department of Foreign Affairs files, GP files and nursing home files.
“The safeguarding of all files is of the greatest importance, particularly for those who had been illegally adopted,” said Ms Lohan.
“A new Adoption Information Bill would mark the end of an almost 60-year delay in legislating for adoption information rights. When it is considered that the first people adopted under the 1952 Act turned 18 in 1970, we can only hope it will be worth waiting for,” she said.
Ireland is decades behind other countries in tracing and legislation.
The right to birth records has existed in Scotland since 1930, England and Wales since 1976 and the North since 1987.