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Adoption Rights Alliance Statement on Illegal Adoptions

Monday 19th April 2010

Adoption Rights Alliance, which campaigns for the rights of Ireland’s 42,000+ adopted people, welcomes the exposure of illegal adoption practices in Ireland by Conall O’Fatharta in the Irish Examiner today.  

Some of our members became aware of illegal Irish adoptions in their capacity as then operators of Ireland’s first Adoption Contact Register (established in 1999), where children were falsely registered as the natural children of their “adoptive” parents, but grew up believing that they were born to those parents. When the truth about their origins is inevitably revealed, they discover that they have little or no chance of tracing their natural mothers as their birth certificates were falsified and their real names and those of their mothers were never recorded.   

From our extensive contacts with adopted people, we know that illegal adoptions were not just arranged by private individuals but also by registered church run adoption agencies, which should have been inspected and monitored by the Irish Adoption Board. 

Despite the Adoption Board’s knowledge of illegal adoptions, the agencies implicated in the practices have never been deregistered and prosecutions have not been zealously pursued.  Instead the Adoption Board, a quasi-judicial body funded by taxpayers, has allowed these church backed agencies to self-regulate and has refused to seize or even inspect the original files containing the missing information.  In Tressa Reeves’ case, highlighted by the Examiner, the Adoption Board has refused to contact her now 49 year old son Andre to tell him he is adopted and they have colluded with the clerical director of the agency involved to keep this illegal adoption secret. 

In fact, the said director, Sr Francis Fahy was accepted by the Board CEO, John Collins, as the nominee of the Council of Irish Adoption Agencies to sit on an advisory group, which advised the Board on best practices thus bringing her agency’s vested interests and her retrograde views to the so-called modernisation table. 

21st century legislation is urgently required because there is nothing to stop illegal adoptions from happening today.  Barry Andrews’ proposed 2009 Adoption Bill makes no changes to the core 1952 Bill on domestic adoption.  It doesn’t allow for adopted people to even know that they are adopted, just like Tressa’s son, and persists in a closed, secretive system damaging to all involved. 

The Adoption Board, under the chairmanship of Geoffrey Shannon, must make every resource available to people who have already been adopted illegally to facilitate them in tracing their natural families should they so desire.  Thus far they have not even bothered to maintain a list of illegal adoptions and they don’t allow their staff to refer to them as such, insisting instead on the sanitised term “de facto”.  

The implications of closed, secret adoption are not confined to the adopted person alone but to each subsequent generation.   Adopted people, their children and grandchildren are not only deprived of adequate medical history (which has sometimes resulted in life threatening situations), they are also denied their natural family history and heritage and the right to grow up knowing their natural families. 

Adopted people, whether they were adopted legally or illegally, are highly frustrated at the level of discrimination they are forced to endure.  Whilst the tax payer funds extensive tracing services for the Irish diaspora and Minister Andrews himself has benefitted from RTE’s “Who Do Think You Are” programme, adopted people meanwhile are expected to “leave the past in the past” and are denied their birth certificates.  

Adoption Rights Alliance would like to establish the level of illegal adoptions in Ireland and to offer support to those affected.  We are therefore inviting adopted people or natural parents who know about illegal adoptions to contact us in complete confidence.   

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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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