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Group demands changes to offer adopted people basic rights

By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Government has been urged to offer basic legal rights to adopted people before allowing for children in care and marital children to be legally adopted.

Under the terms of the children’s referendum, it is proposed to remove barriers to adopting children in care and in long-term foster arrangements. 

Currently, a child living in long-term foster care, abandoned by their married parents effectively cannot be adopted unless it is proven their parents failed in their duties towards them and that this is likely to continue until the child’s 18th birthday. 

The Adoption Rights Alliance has criticised the Government for proposing for more children to be adopted without offering them the basic legal rights available to everyone else in the State. 

For example, more than 50,000 adopted people have no automatic legal right to their birth certificate, no legal right to their medical information or history, or any legal right to tracing information about their identity. 

Frances Fitzgerald, the children’s minister, said in January her department was preparing an Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. 

However, her response to a parliamentary question suggested this legislation would merely put the current tracing guidelines on a statutory basis. 

"It is intended that non-identifying information could be provided to an adopted person over 18 or to a birth parent," said Ms Fitzgerald. 

"Non-identifying information is information by which another party could not reasonably be expected to be identified and could, for example, include the forename, religion, approximate age, occupation, birth details, interests, hobbies, educational history, family history and medical history." 

Susan Lohan of the alliance claimed Ms Fitzgerald’s comments on privacy were vague, indicating that the drafters of the bill were focusing on the "secrecy" aspects of privacy, which allows organisations who facilitated illegal adoptions to keep its files closed. 

"The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one should be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, or correspondence, and should also not be subjected to discrimination due to the circumstances of their birth," said Ms Lohan. "Yet the Irish State systematically denies adopted people these basic rights. 

"More recently, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out a child’s right to their name, the right to know their parents, the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name, and family relations. 

"In the absence of legislation to facilitate these rights, the Irish State is knowingly continuing this systematic discrimination against adopted people."

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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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