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Sensitivity in adoption contact

Irish Times Letters, Thu, Apr 07, 2011

Madam, – Aoibhin Ní Mhaille (April 4th) shows her respect and concern for her parents and her desire to have them kept informed about any tracing developments. While she is certainly entitled to her feelings in the matter, I would take a different view of the agency’s conduct.

Leaving aside any consideration of the standard of English in the letter to her from the agency, I hope that it shows the agency’s desire to deal with her as an adult capable of deciding who she wishes to inform and whose advice she may wish to seek. If the agency were to contact her parents beforehand or at the same time it could open up the possibility of them attempting to veto any contact or putting pressure on her not to pursue further contact. As things stand, it would appear that Ms Ní Mhaille is in control of what happens next and who is informed.

I would also suggest that far more has been done to airbrush adoptees’ origins from the picture. With little or no rights to the information in our files and no statutory basis for tracing and information, our right to know our origins is often frustrated. Perhaps Ms Ní Mhaille’s concern is that her parents might be hurt if she started to trace, but there is a solution to this issue too. In the UK  adoptees have a right to their files once they reach 18. I have no doubt this eliminates a lot of the fears and apprehensions that accompany tracing because everyone is aware that once an adoptee is an adult they have the right to their own information and to be responsible for it. This is the key to the issue, I feel.

Treat adults as adults capable of making informed, grown-up decisions. Currently the Irish situation in many cases is more akin to controlling children who cannot be trusted. Even the article in your paper on the same date (“Minister seeks to reopen Vietnam for Irish adoptions”) refers to the 42,000 adoptees since 1952 as children. While this was generally accurate at the time of our adoption, the vast majority have now reached adulthood and it’s time we recognised this. – Yours, etc,


Elm Grove,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

© 2011 The Irish Times

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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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