Scale of illegal adoptions is unknown
Conall Ó Fátharta
Examiner, Thursday, June 16, 2011
Government has admitted it has no idea as to the scale of illegal
adoptions and birth registrations facilitated by more than 40
mother-and-baby homes which closed in 1972.
Church-run, the 42 homes closed in 1972 when the Health Act was enacted.
In a response to a parliamentary question by Socialist Party TD Clare
Daly, Health Minister James Reilly said the scale of illegal birth
registrations and illegal adoptions facilitated by mother-and-baby homes
"The issues raised by the deputy relate to practices that were
private arrangements which involved the birth of a child being
registered as the child of those persons or families that took the
child, rather than of the birth mother," he said.
"The issuing of birth certificates is a matter for the Department
of Social Protection, and suspected irregularities should be
investigated by that department. The scale of such illegal birth
registrations is unknown."
He said the issue of historical documentation was a matter for
"these private institutions" and his understanding was that,
where such documentation existed, "the nature and secretiveness of
the process means that any correlation of data is extremely
Given that successive governments have declined to offer tracing and
information rights to natural parents and adopted people, files which
may contain evidence of illegal activity remain closed.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald caused outrage among groups
lobbying for tracing and information legislation when she said recently
that it would not be possible to offer such rights for adopted people
and natural parents in historical cases.
The view is that it is a legally difficult area to legislate for and
also because of a Supreme Court ruling — the I O’T v B and the
Rotunda Girls’ Aid Society in 1998 — which held that the right to be
told the identity of a natural mother is not absolute and must be
balanced against the natural mother’s right to privacy.
However, groups representing natural parents and adopted people have
consistently rejected the legal opinion of the Supreme Court, claiming
adoption legislation does not guarantee confidentiality to either the
adopted person or the natural mother.
Various religious groups ran mother-and-baby homes throughout Ireland.
They were paid a per-capita sum by the state for the numbers they
The nuns provided a roof for these so-called fallen women and in return
many of the women had to work in the laundries, kitchens and farms of
On top of this, women were also made to care for their children daily
until, often at more than two-years-old, they were then parted by
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