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15,000 adoption files still to be transferred over to HSE

By Conall Ó Fátharta

Irish Examiner,
Monday, September 05, 2011

SOME 15,000 adoption files, including those relating to controversial vaccine trials carried out on children at a mother-and-baby home run by the Sacred Heart Convent at Bessborough in Cork, have yet to be transferred to the HSE.

This is despite the HSE stating that all files, including those concerning the vaccine trials, would be transferred in full by August 1 and, when this deadline was missed, by August 20.

The Adoption Authority continues to carry a notice saying the transfer would take place by August 1.

However, the HSE has confirmed the files are still in the care of the order at the Sacred Heart Convent in Bessborough.

It is understood the HSE is looking for suitable accommodation for the files and that this should be completed this week.

A HSE spokesperson said its staff have full access to the files and are dealing with inquiries from adopted people looking to access information.

However, a large number of adopted people have contacted the Irish Examiner saying that the HSE is issuing conflicting information as to the location of the files, while others have been told the HSE would not be taking control of the vaccine files — a direct contradiction of the HSE’s official line.

In a statement, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald stressed that all adoption files would be taken over by the HSE.

"Difficulties around the operation of adoption information and tracing services at the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Bessborough have been addressed," she said.

"Negotiations have taken place between my department, the HSE and the order and this matter has been resolved. The HSE has agreed to take over the management of the adoption files."

The 15,000 adoption files held by the order relate to adoptions carried out through Bessborough as well as through Seán Ross Abbey in Tipperary and Castlepollard in Westmeath.

Between them, the three agencies exported more than 800 Irish children to the US between the 1940s and 1960s.

Both Castlepollard and Bessborough are also known to have allowed children in their care to be used as guinea pigs in vaccine trials.

The trials were conducted by Burroughs Wellcome, now GlaxoSmithKline.

A number of victims have confirmed their natural parents were never asked, nor gave consent, for their children to be used in the trials.

The Laffoy Commission on Child Abuse was investigating vaccine trials between 1940 and 1987 as part of a separate module. However, the probe was brought to a sudden halt after court action was taken by the doctors involved in the trials.

* Inquiries regarding information and tracing services in respect of the adoption records held in Bessborough should be addressed to HSE Adoption Unit, St Stephen’s Hospital, Cork, or by contacting 021 4858650.

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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." 

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