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Vital adoption reforms delayed

By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner March 04, 2013

Adoption tracing and information legislation cited as a “priority” by successive governments since 1997 has been delayed again.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald had said previously that an Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill was being prepared and would be brought before the Oireachtas before the end of last year. However, she has now said this legislation will be before the Dáil some time this year. 

Despite adoption support groups for decades calling for full access to adoption records, Ms Fitzgerald said the Government had to deal with constitutional issues around privacy and a Supreme Court ruling that said the mother’s right to privacy would have to be balanced against the adopted person’s right to know. 

The legislation currently being proposed essentially gives a statutory footing to the National Contact Preference Register and the current tracing guidelines. The register was set up in 2005 with the aim to match adopted people with their natural parents. 

Adoption advocacy groups have criticised such a plan, saying the register has failed as a suitable tracing and reunion mechanism. 

Statistics from the Adoption Authority seem to confirm this view. It granted just 11 of almost 60 requests made to it in 2011 for the release of a birth certificate. 

The register received almost 9,000 requests up to 2010. It matched just 482 people — a success rate of around 5%. It is estimated that there are at least 50,000 adopted people in Ireland. 

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said that successive governments’ unwillingness, rather than inability, to honour adopted people’s basic rights made a mockery of the apology to Magdalene Laundry survivors and the hand-wringing about the State’s trampling of human rights. 

“The cynical denial by Government of the crimes surrounding adoption in Ireland, including but not limited to forced adoptions, illegal adoptions, and trafficking, is no different to the denial faced by the industrial school and magdalene laundry survivors a decade ago,” she said. 

“We are exhausted from the stonewalling we experience from the minister and the Adoption Authority on these matters and until they accept that, even the dogs on the street know what went on. 

“We fully expect that it will take a UN body or some other international embarrassment for the Government to put in place 21st century mechanisms to give us access to our files and families and for our families to find us.” 

Joan Collins of the United Left Alliance said the delay in legislation was “not good enough”.

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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