Frances Fitzgerald, the children’s minister, said the HSE has not carried out a review of the adoption files it holds. This is despite the body previously admitting that some agencies held files containing evidence of illegal birth registrations.
Numerous cases of illegality have come to the attention of this newspaper since 2010 and adoption groups believe the total could run into thousands.
The only way to ascertain the level of illegal adoptions is to carry out a full audit of all files held by accredited adoption agencies and the HSE.
To date, the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) has declined to do this and in a statement said “there are no plans” to do so. This is in the knowledge that some accredited agencies have been involved in illegal adoptions.
For example, St Patrick’s Guild was the first adoption agency accredited by the AAI under the new Adoption Act to assist adopted people and natural parents through tracing, counselling, and mediating.
The agency was accredited despite evidence exposed in the Irish Examiner that it facilitated at least two illegal adoptions. Its 13,000 files have never been inspected by the AAI, despite the body having the power to do so since 1952.
The AAI instead carried out an audit of its own files which uncovered about 50 cases of illegal adoptions.
These were “under-the-counter” adoptions never formally approved by the then Adoption Board. The audit was branded a “cosmetic exercise” at it failed to look at files held by adoption agencies and files in the possession of the HSE.
The AAI 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 Adoption Board for the children of married couples. This was not permitted under the Adoption Act.
In another case, that of Carol O’Keeffe, who was adopted in 1972, it granted an adoption order without a birth certificate — which is needed to grant an adoption.