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Joan tells of painful search for birth mum

Evening Herald, Tuesday June 08 2010

DUBLIN TD Joan Burton has revealed her pain at trying to find her birth mother.

Ms Burton (below) has made an impassioned plea with the Department of Health to introduce new laws that will make it easy for adopted people to find their biological parents.

The Labour finance spokesperson was put up for adoption three months after her birth and only managed to track down her family heritage years after her mother had passed away.

"I can tell him what the experience is like and I am sure others have told him," she told Minister of State Barry Andrews.

Ms Burton was born in Co Carlow to an unmarried woman in 1949 and was taken to Temple Hill Mother and Baby Home in Blackrock three months later.

She stayed there until she was fostered by Bridie and John Burton, from Rialto, and was then adopted. As an adult she decided to seek information on her birth mother and make contact ahead of her marriage.

"I am one of those people and I went in to the offices when I was in my 20s. I went in when I was getting married to ask whether a letter could go to my birth family just to say that I was getting married, that I was alive and that I was all right.

The answer was 'No'," she recalled. Ms Burton said Ireland needs "a comprehensive structure that would allow adopted people obtain information about their origins".

"Many people who are adopted, especially women, want to get information about their background, their parentage and their medical history from the time they are older teenagers or young adults.

"This desire increases when they get married or enter into a long relationship, and it increases even more when they become parents."

She added: "Nobody expects a fairy story with a happy ever after ending. A child is given up for adoption based on a decision made by a birth mother; she may have been badly advised on it but she has made the decision. The adopted child moves on to another life, usually with very loving adoptive parents."

Ms Burton argues that there must be more openness in the system so that the child can gain information about issues such as medical history.

"Until relatively recently it was always nuns who decided that children could not have information. It is a product of the era of secrecy that arose through the Catholic Church's control of institutions and the adoption process," she noted.


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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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