The agency held approximately 13,500 adoption files — one quarter of all adoption files in the country. It closed in 2013, with the transfer expected to take between 12 to 18 months.
The Irish Examiner understands that issues around indemnity against any legal action taken by people seeking their records was a significant factor in the transfer delay.
Tusla declined to confirm it had been indemnified in respect of the records but it had “obtained the appropriate protection in respect of known potential issues”.
St Patrick’s Guild has been excluded from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, despite the Irish Examiner revealing that the government was in 2013 informed that the agency had knowledge of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.
An Adoption Authority of Ireland delegation told representatives of the Department of Children and the General Register Office in June 2013 that the agency was aware of several hundred cases of illegal birth registrations.
“St Patrick’s Guild are aware of several hundred illegal registrations, but are waiting for people to contact them; they are not seeking the people involved. Must consider how revelations of this sort would affect a family unit,” states a department note of the meeting.
St Patrick’s Guild has hit the headlines on numerous occasions — most notably when this newspaper revealed its role in the illegal adoption of Tressa Reeves’ son.
The agency was criticised by Alan Shatter in the Dáil as far back as 1997, when he hit out at it for having “deliberately misled” people by giving “grossly inaccurate information” to both adopted persons and birth mothers. He said such behaviour by an adoption agency was “almost beyond belief”.
The Government has repeatedly resisted calls by campaigners for an audit of all adoption files held in the State so that the full scale of illegal adoptions and birth registrations can be uncovered.
Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the fact the transfer of files overran significantly showed the “complete indifference” of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs towards the rights of adopted people and natural mothers.
“Both bodies are fully aware of the very significant numbers of illegal registrations on the files and, on the back of other scandals around child trafficking to the US, high mortality rates, mass graves, etc, are fearful of the potential scale of this operation becoming known,” she said.
Paul Redmond, chairman of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors, said the agency had been “exposed on numerous occasions” and called on Tusla to carry out a full audit of the files.
“If the HSE or Tulsa find suspicious issues in the files, the gardaí should be called in immediately and no one should be immune, including the nuns,” he said.
Kathy McMahon of the Irish First Mothers group said it was imperative that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission seek Government sanction to include St Patrick’s Guild in its investigation so it can fully audit all the files.