had no birth cert so why was my adoption allowed?
Conall O Fátharta
Examiner, Saturday, August 14, 2010
O’KEEFFE has known from a young age she was adopted.
last December she was horrified to discover the Adoption Board granted
her adoption in July 1972 without one key piece of documentation – her
birth certificate – and in the knowledge that her birth had never been
After further questioning, Carol was informed her birth was never
registered by the nursing home where her mother gave birth.
Last December, the Adoption Board also admitted to Carol by letter that
her birth had never been registered. It also acknowledged it granted her
adoption in the absence of a birth certificate, instead taking a
baptismal certificate as sufficient evidence of her existence.
"Further to your request of 8/12/2009, I would like to confirm that
your birth was not registered. A statement confirming this was received
by the Adoption Board from the General Registry Office on the 29th May,
1972. The Adoption Board accepted this statement with your Baptismal
Certificate as sufficient proof of identity in finalising your adoption.
Your Adoption Order was made on the 20th July, 1972," the letter
One of the key pieces of documentation required to formalise an adoption
is a birth certificate.
It is a criminal offence not to register or to falsely register a birth.
Despite this, the Adoption Board admitted it allowed Carol’s adoption
to be granted without the very basic piece of documentation to prove
that she had, in fact, been born – her birth certificate.
What happened in Carol’s case was a clear breach of the UN Convention
of the Rights of the Child to which Ireland is a signatory and which
states that "States Parties undertake to respect the right of the
child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and
family relations as recognised by law without unlawful
It goes on to say that where a child has been "illegally deprived
of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties
shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to
re-establishing speedily his or her identity".
Even more surprisingly, despite this evidence being on record at the
Adoption Board, it never informed Carol nor her adoptive parents that
her birth had not been registered.
In fact, once Carol had discovered no record of her birth existed at the
GRO, she had to inform the Adoption Board that something was amiss with
how her adoption was granted.
Although reunited with her natural mother through the Adoption Board’s
National Contact Preference Register at this point, for Carol, the
discovery that her birth was never registered threw that whole process
"I suppose initially it wasn’t so easy psychologically because
you did have this feeling that everyone else in the country has a
registered birth and what was so different about me? It didn’t make me
feel part of things. I felt a little bit less worthy. I felt different.
I also felt worried that this may not be my mother that I was matched
with. However, I know that she is now so that was a relief.
"I also felt angry because it fed into other feelings that maybe if
there was a census that I don’t exist. I know that’s not true
because I function quite well with my documents and I have a passport so
I know I am an Irish citizen. It didn’t make me feel too proud of
being Irish though," she says.
Carol also detailed a number of phone calls with the Adoption Board.
When she first relayed her concerns about how her adoption was arranged,
she was told this was not possible as it would not have been legal.
However, the second call was radically different.
"Over a period of time I phoned the Adoption Board and the contact
preference register people there. I was initially told that, for
definite, my birth was registered. Eventually, in fairness, I was phoned
back and told that in my case it wasn’t registered and that they
couldn’t explain that. I was told to go back to the agency and ask
them to explain it.
"Actually, in the first phone call, when I was being convinced by
them that my birth was registered, a remark was made to the effect that
if my birth wasn’t registered that it would not be legal. In the
second call, I was apologised to, and there was no further reference to
the illegalities of it," explains Carol.
Although extremely upset by the revelation her adoption had been granted
in the absence of a birth certificate, it’s her adoptive parents that
Carol feels most hurt for.
Her parents told her at a young age she was adopted and always
encouraged her in her quest to seek out her natural mother. However, the
revelation concerning her birth registration left them stunned.
"Both my father, and of course he didn’t mean to hurt me, and one
or two close friends asked me: ‘Does that mean you don’t exist?’
Initially, I have to say, I had that feeling myself, it was a real
insult. It was like how much more can you insult someone if you don’t
even bother to log their birth?
"One other aspect of finding out that my birth was never registered
was that my adoptive mother was completely stunned by it. She actually
said things like ‘Should we have asked at the agency when we were
adopting you?’ and ‘Is it our fault?’ My poor mother being almost
implicated in this charade really. My parents are upstanding people.
They go by the law, they are good people. To even think that they were
somehow implicated in something that wasn’t regular, it’s just not
fair on them. They are good, decent people," she says.
For Carol, the Adoption Board’s answer – to ask the agency and her
natural mother about what happened are not good enough. The Adoption
Board granted her adoption and should be able to explain why it allowed
it to be done in the knowledge her birth had not been registered and in
the absence of her birth certificate.
"I was told that they couldn’t explain how that could have been
but the answer that I got was that in the absence of my birth cert, my
baptism cert and a statement from the GRO saying my birth had not been
registered was accepted in lieu of a birth registration. A baptismal
cert is not a legal document, it just shows you had a bit of water
poured over your head. I can’t walk into an airport without a passport
and just hand in my baptism cert. I’d be laughed out of it."
The Irish Examiner put a number of questions to the agency, Cúnamh,
concerning its knowledge of cases such as Carol’s. A response was
issued by senior social worker Julie Kerins, who simply stated she had
no "personal knowledge" of any cases.
"I do not have personal knowledge of cases arising post-1952. I
cannot give you an explanation as to why such a practice may have
occurred. The Adoption Board has not inspected all of our files," a
The Adoption Board declines to comment on individual cases.
The key question in all of this, as was the case with Tressa Reeves,
whose story was highlighted by the Irish Examiner in April, is why?
Why did the Adoption Board allow for an adoption to be granted in the
knowledge that the birth was not registered and therefore in the absence
of a birth certificate?
Why did the adoption agency not correct the situation and allow for the
birth to be registered correctly?
These are key questions to which Carol O’Keeffe is still awaiting
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