An Irish woman who learned she was an illegal adoptee eight years ago believes there are Irish people in Australia also fighting to access files on who their natural parents are.
Dubliner Theresa Tinggal, who lives in Dorset, England, was 48 when an uncle told her she was adopted.
Her birth certificate stated that her adoptive parents were her birth parents, leading her to believe she was their natural child. She was not and she had no help in finding out the truth.
Falsely registering a birth certificate is illegal under Irish law.
Ms Tinggal contacted the Echo about her story, while visiting her daughter, who lives in Sydney. She’s asking the Irish Australian community to support her and come forrward if they too were illegally adopted.
“Because of the large Irish community in Australia I am hoping to reach as many as possible to support me in gaining access to files surrounding the birth of illegal adoptees.
“Perhaps my birth mother could even be in Australia, like many who had to escape the shame of 1950s Ireland,” she said.
“I was two days old when I was handed over at a house on Collins Avenue, Dublin,” said Ms Tinggal.
“I was registered in the name of my adoptive parents James and Kathleen Hiney. I was totally unaware of this until eight years ago and have since spent the time searching but I have now reached a blank wall.”
Ms Tinggal believes she will never find her birth mother but wants to help other Irish people who have had the same experience.
“I accept that I may never find my birth mother but I am entitled to know the circumstances surrounding the birth but feel that social services in Ireland are responsible for this and have never given me enough support in tracing her,” said Ms Tinggal.
In a recent interview with the Irish Echo, the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said Ireland had not been good enough in helping people to trace their origins.
“I think we’re a bit punitive on people still,” said the minister. “We probably over worried although I totally understand that people who gave children up for adoption expected privacy — that you can’t suddenly break that dramatically.
“But I do think if the right systems were in place more people would be able to find their birth parents and it would be easier for them. It’s been overtly rigid and not tuned in enough to a more modern approach to adoption.”
She acknowledged there had been “injustices in this area” and said the Irish State had not done enough to open doors.
Ireland’s Adoption Act 2010 established a new body — the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) — which has been given oversight of the country’s adoption agencies.
The Irish Echo asked the AAI if it would audit files held by private and religious-run adoption agencies and queried the number of illegal adoptees it was aware of.
In a statement the AAI did not respond specifically to these queries. It said it has ‘no role’ in cases of illegal adoption, such as Ms Tinggal’s.
It would not comment on individual cases.
“The Authority has in place administrative arrangements regarding information and tracing in line with the current legislative provisions,” said an AAI spokesperson.
“However, as the type of cases referred to are not registered with the Irish authorities, the Adoption Authority has no role in such cases.
“Any case coming to the attention of the Authority, where it appears there may have been the illegal placement of a child, is passed to the relevant authorities for follow-up in accordance with Irish law.”
No government authority has made public the data on the number of illegally adopted children in Ireland.
Ms Tinggal feels her attempts to find out the truth are still being stonewalled.
“At no time have the social services or the Irish Government taken any responsibility for what happened, nor is there any acknowledgement to adoptees who are forced to live in limbo without knowing where they have come from,” she said.
“The trauma of discovering all of this has changed my life immensely and the feeling that it is all being brushed aside has added to the trauma.”
Theresa has set up a website to petition for access to birth files. Visit www.adoptedillegally-ireland.com
By Luke O’Neill