In its second interim report, the Commission briefly highlights that illegal adoptions covered a wide variety of actions but focuses exclusively on the issue of illegal birth registrations. This is where a child was registered as the natural child of the adoptive parents and, in most cases, an adoption order never occurred.
The report notes an amnesty from prosecution may help “to encourage those responsible to come forward and correct the record”.
However, the Commission is lukewarm on the issue of investigating such practices stating that, while it sympathised with people in this situation, “it is difficult to see what assistance could be provided by further investigation” and that the practice was “very difficult to establish”.
“The Commission understands and sympathises with the deep-seated need for people in this situation to establish their true identity. Unfortunately, it is not at all clear how this can be done. If there are no records and the people involved in the false registration do not come forward, it is difficult to see what assistance could be provided by further investigation,” states the report.
It also notes that it was possible that such registrations were carried out “for what were perceived to be good reasons” and that adoptive parents may have done this believing that they were conferring legal status on the child.
On the wider issue of the need to investigate the circumstances of all adoptions carried out by the State, the Commission states that this would require a full investigation into all adoption societies, the Adoption Board and all adoption agencies, and that this would be a “vast undertaking”.
However, it said that it is “very conscious of the issue of illegality and irregularity” in the adoption process and that once its work is completed it “may be in a position to make recommendations about further investigations”.
Children’s minister Katherine Zappone said the practical implications of an amnesty would have to be examined “very carefully” and that she will explore the matter further with her Government colleagues including the Attorney General.
Susan Lohan of Adoption Rights Alliance said it was “astonishing” that the Commission would recommend “another layer of unaccountability”. “What is the point of a Commission of Inquiry if people are not held accountable? In other countries, the larger the scale of human rights abuses, the more full and robust the investigation is. Here, it’s the case that the larger the scale of abuse, the smaller the effort is to investigate it,” she said.
The Irish First Mothers group said it intends to conduct its own public inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes and practices of coercion in pregnancy and coercion in adoption proceedings.