State accused of ‘deny until they die’ policy on adoption tracing rights

Many adopted people believe that successive governments have refused to offer basic tracing and information rights until most victims of Ireland’s forced and illegal adoptions have died.

In a co-authored piece in today’s Irish Examiner, UCC’s Aisling Parke and Simone McCaughren, along with the Adoption Rights Alliance, hit out at Ireland’s “inadequate” adoption legislation and call for “urgent reform” to provide tracing and information rights for tens of thousands of adopted people.

Such legislation has been promised by every government since 1997. The current Government has, so far, offered no timescale for bringing in legislation.

The article points out that while the 1998 Supreme Court ruling found that the natural mother’s right to privacy had to be balanced against the adopted person’s right to identity, in practise a presumption has prevailed “whereby it is assumed that all natural mothers were guaranteed the right to privacy. We now know from Philomena Lee’s story and from the many other women she encouraged to speak out that this is not true.”

Despite this, the article states, the closed model of adoption operated here has resulted in a blanket ban on the disclosure of any meaningful information to adopted people, with the exception being, when a natural mother agrees to the release of identifying information or has herself looked for contact.

Claire McGettrick of ARA said many adopted people felt successive governments refusal to legislate in this area was part of an unstated policy to ‘deny until they die’ so that the true scale of forced and illegal adoptions may never be known.

“Undoubtedly, there are many individuals with vested interests in keeping adoption records sealed,” said Ms McGettrick. “In fact, one wonders if perhaps Mike Milotte’s assertion [deny until they die] might also apply to these individuals in order that they might be allowed to avoid having to face the consequences of their actions while still alive.

“But, try as they might, this issue is not going to go away. Adopted people and natural parents have found their voices and they are demanding an end to the lies and deceit and the time- wasting state tactics. They are demanding equal human rights and a genuine truth-telling process, once and for all.”

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