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Press Release 20th October 2011  

Adoption rights group looks forward to information legislation

Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA), a group advocating for equal human and civil rights for those affected by Ireland's closed secret adoption system, says it had a constructive meeting yesterday with Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.  ARA welcomed the news that the Minister plans to publish heads of bill for adoption information legislation in the coming months.  

In August, ARA submitted legislative proposals to Minister Fitzgerald, which were acknowledged as helpful by the Minister yesterday.  The Minister said she intends to include retrospective tracing rights in the legislation, while bearing in mind the current interpretation of constitutional limitations.  The Minister also noted that the Children’s Rights Referendum is scheduled to occur during the passage of the adoption bill through the Oireachtas, which the Alliance believes will assist in overcoming the constitutional problems.  ARA says it had a helpful discussion with the Minister regarding the constitutional issues during which the group outlined its position on the I O’T v B judgement from 1998 which is at the centre of the difficulties.   

The conservative interpretation by agency and HSE social workers of the I O’T v B judgement, as well as outdated attitudes towards adopted people and natural parents, have had a detrimental effect on the release of information to adopted people.  ARA offered the Minister an insight into some of the  discriminatory practices reported to them by service users, which translate into delays so extensive that often one of the people being sought or searching has died before the trace is completed.  Mari Steed, ARA’s US Coordinator said: “The legislation must be introduced without delay to bring Ireland in line with international best practice which has a presumption towards openness.”  

Minister Fitzgerald told the ARA delegates that this was the first meeting in a process of engagement. Claire McGettrick, from ARA said “Our meeting with Minister Fitzgerald was very positive as it appears that the Minister accepts the need for Ireland’s 50,000+ adopted people to be able to access their birth certificates and early care records as part of their quest for identity.”  

The Minister also said that there are plans to centralise adoption records, a move welcomed by ARA:  However Susan Lohan urged the Minister to ensure that the new legislation would take into account all files containing information on adopted people’s origins, including but not limited to Mother and Baby Home files, private agency files, HSE files, the Dept of Foreign Affairs files, GP files and nursing home files.  Susan Lohan said that the safeguarding of all files was of the greatest importance particularly for those who had been illegally adopted.  

Adoption Rights Alliance has described the upcoming information legislation as potentially historic:  “A new Adoption Information Bill would mark the end of an almost 60 year delay in legislating for adoption information rights.  When it is considered that the first people adopted under the 1952 Act turned 18 in 1970, we can only hope it will be worth waiting for,” said Susan Lohan.

Ends.

Click here to email Adoption Rights Alliance

Note to Editors:  In August Adoption Rights Alliance submitted a document to Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald which outlined proposals for adoption information legislation, as well as recommendations for inquiries into illegal adoption practices and the treatment of women and girls in Mother and Baby Homes.  The proposals include Adoption Rights Alliance’s position on the I O’T v B case.   

The document is available for download here.  

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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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