Under the Adoption Bill, adopted people will, for the first time, have a statutory entitlement to their birth certificate.
A new adoption contact register will be placed on a statutory basis and operated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and adopted people and birth parents will be asked to register. However, parents can avoid registration or declare a “no contact” preference.
In these cases, adoptees will be asked to give an “undertaking” agreeing not to contact or attempt to contact his/her birth parent or not to ask anyone else to make or attempt to make contact on his/her behalf. This has been done in an attempt balance between the birth parents’ right to privacy and the identity rights of adopted people.
In previous versions of the legislation, this undertaking was referred to as a “statutory declaration”. However, breaching a statutory declaration is a criminal offence. No mention is made in the current Bill as to the penalties faced for those who breach the undertaking.
Co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance Susan Lohan said the group “cautiously” welcomed the legislation but also had concerns.
“We are very concerned that the bill, at this stage, envisages that there may be certain circumstances where the release of such information could possibly “endanger the life of a person”. We are also appalled that some adopted people may be forced to sign “undertakings” that they will not contact their natural parents or other relatives and this appears to us to be a rebranding of the much derided “statutory declaration”, she said.
Paul Redmond of Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes described the bill as “overwhelmingly positive”.
“Illegally and informally adopted people will finally have rights in Ireland after decades of being treated as third class citizens. However, the six-month lead in means hundreds of adoptees and natural mothers will be reunited with headstones and it needs to be scrapped immediately. The Constitutional and Supreme Court limitations on the Bill have minimal practical implications in the real world with no penalties for survivors,” he said.
Kathy McMahon of the Irish First Mothers group hit out at the need for the contact veto and also the fact that the children’s minister, Katherine Zappone, declined to meet the group.