Speaking in the Dáil in November, Ms Fitzgerald said the Australian state apology on forced adoption was due to government policies at the time in that country, before categorically stating that every adoption carried out by the Irish State has been legal.
“All adoptions which the Irish State has been involved in since 1952 have been in line with this [Adoption Act 1952] and subsequent adoption legislation,” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald made the claim, despite the fact that no full audit of adoption records held by the HSE or religious adoption agencies has ever been carried out. She confirmed that no such audit is planned.
She also stated that illegal adoptions referred only to illegal birth registrations, which meant the State was not involved as no formal adoption took place.
However, the Adoption Rights Alliance is aware of numerous documented cases where formal adoption orders were made where the parents of the children were married, in the absence of the consent of the natural mother and where documents were falsified.
It also pointed to a statement made by Paddy Cooney, the then justice minister, at the first Irish Adoption Workers’ Conference in 1974 as proof of an obvious state policy of forced adoption.
“I think we are all agreed that the consensus opinion in our society is to the effect that adoption is better for the illegitimate baby than to be cared for by its mother,” said Mr Cooney.
Susan Lohan of ARA said: “It’s patent recklessness for the minister to make such a bald statement when she has steadfastly ruled out the suggestion that either her department or the AAI carry out an audit of the thousands of files held by agencies and the HSE or scattered around the country in the private hands of solicitors, doctors and midwives.
“It’s very simple, if you carry out this audit you will learn the scale of forced and illegal adoptions so why won’t she do it?”
Ms Lohan added: “If the minister feels there was no policy of forced adoption here, then she plainly misunderstands the underpinning concepts of the 1952 Adoption Act, which saw the State create a body, then known as the Adoption Board and a series of laws, to permanently separate the relationship between an unmarried mother and her non-marital child based solely on the mother’s marital status.”