Tusla sent a victim of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption scandal an almost entirely censored copy of her mother’s death certificate so as “to ensure that it can’t be found” in the General Registration Office (GRO).
The revelation was made by a member of a Tusla delegation during a meeting with members of the Mother and Baby Home Collaborative Forum last December.
The Tusla representative said the agency assesses the “likelihood of someone being harmed or not harmed” before it decides whether to release personal information to adopted people about their early lives. The agency said the decision was taken because the data referred to a third party, in line with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
During questioning from forum members, the delegation was shown an almost entirely redacted death cert the agency sent to a 69-year-old woman.
The woman was among the 126 cases of illegal birth registrations Tusla discovered in the records of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. Its records transferred to Tusla in 2016.
The certificate was for the woman’s mother, but all information apart from a doctor’s signature and cause of death was redacted by Tusla, including details of the registrar general. As the recipient of the record had never been legally adopted, the delegation was asked what legislative basis Tusla had “to start interfering with public records”.
“I think the reason to redact all of that is to ensure that it can’t be found in the GRO because it is third-party information as per GDPR,” the Tusla representative said.
That is the advices that we are getting and the legal advices that we are getting.
The delegation said the agency has to assess the “harm” that might be caused by releasing personal information to adopted people, even where the natural mother is deceased.
“Although a mother may be dead, she may have married subsequently and have other children and there is a potential harm to other members of the family,” they said.
Tusla said it recognised the “frustration and upset” some people experienced when trying to access personal information but, in the absence of robust information and tracing legislation, it is “restricted as to the amount of information we can provide”.
It said it holds only private personal records, but can contain publicly available records such as birth and death certs.
It said it can lawfully release information relating to other people only with their expressed consent.
Fred Logue of information law specialists FP Logue, said the dead have no data protection or privacy rights and Tusla could only refuse someone their own personal information if they can show that “harm would actually occur” to others.