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Press Release Friday 21st May 2010

Adoption Rights Alliance Welcomes Shannon’s Commitment to Deal with Illegal Adoptions

Adopted people’s advocacy group Adoption Rights Alliance welcomes the commitment made by Geoffrey Shannon, Chairperson of the Adoption Board to deal with the issue of illegal adoptions, made in an interview on RTÉ’s Prime Time of May 20th.   Mr. Shannon’s comments represent a departure from the previous Adoption Board position on illegal adoptions, which was to deny that they ever occurred.  

Adoption Rights Alliance is now demanding that the Adoption Board take up the challenge and foster a new culture where openness, transparency and children’s rights take priority over the traditional closed secret system that has dominated the Irish adoption landscape for the past 60 years.

Claire McGettrick of Adoption Rights Alliance said, “We believe that Tressa Reeves’s case of illegal adoption, covered in last night’s Prime Time, is merely the tip of the iceberg of revelations about illegal adoption practices in Ireland.  These revelations may not be particularly pleasant, but the truth is the truth and it needs to be heard so we can move on from our country’s legacy of secrecy and corruption in adoption.”

Minister for Children, Barry Andrews was also interviewed on Prime Time claimed there was nothing he could do for Tressa Reeves.  Susan Lohan, also from Adoption Rights Alliance said “We were appalled to hear the Minister say that there was nothing he could do for Tressa Reeves.  This attitude is akin to the Financial Regulator saying he could only regulate those banks who acted within the law. Surely that is the whole point of regulation.  This brings the notion of ‘light touch’ regulation to a new low.  We are now calling on the Adoption Board to immediately deregister St. Patrick’s Guild, which was involved in the trafficking of over 500 Irish babies to the US for adoption during the 50’s, 60’s and 70s as well as facilitating several illegal adoptions that we are aware of.”

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 the case of Tressa Reeves, recently highlighted by the Examiner and Prime Time, the Adoption Board has refused to contact a 49 year old man to tell him he is adopted and they have colluded with the clerical director of the agency involved to keep this illegal adoption secret. 

As part of the reform agenda at the Adoption Board, Adoption Rights Alliance are advocating for the board’s membership to be drastically overhauled. They point out that during the almost 60 years of its existence, the Adoption Board, has never had adopted people – the group most affected by adoption - represented in its numbers, although adoptive parents have always had at least one representative. Traditionally, the Irish Adoption Board largely been made up of political appointees, one of the most blatant of which was the appointment of Tony Lynam Loane, Brian Lenihan’s electoral agent in 2004.  Adoption Rights Alliance is calling on the Minister to immediately appoint at least one adopted person to the Adoption Board to ensure that robust standards of probity will be followed.

Regarding legislation for Information and Tracing, Susan Lohan, also of Adoption Rights Alliance said, “Barry Andrews has been extremely dismissive of our requests for Information and Tracing legislation, claiming that the existing system is ‘effective’.  He is the fourth Minister for Children in the past decade to have promised legislation and there is nothing in his demeanour or attitude that makes us believe he will actually deliver. We are demanding answers as to why the Minister has not produced the (already drafted) Information Bill, which was to be rolled out in conjunction with the Hague Bill as promised by Brian Lenihan, seven years ago.”  She suggested that to the 42,000+ adopted people plus their extended natural families, this would be a key election issue. 

Ms. Lohan added that “We believe it is a cynical and deliberate move on the government’s part to ensure that as many natural mothers as possible will have died before adoption files reveal the extent of another flawed church state partnership.” 

Barry Andrews claimed in his Prime Time interview that the Adoption Board does release birth certificates, basing his assertion on the Adoption Board  Annual Report of 2005.  Claire McGettrick said “We believe that the Minister’s use of 5 year old figures in relation to the release of birth certificates was deliberately misleading when he had at his disposal the more recent figures from 2008 which paint a very different picture, where only 28 birth certificates were released, which was 31% of the total applications which are generally considerably less than 100 per year because most adopted people don’t know they can apply.”  [Extract from 2008 Adoption Board Annual Report below]



Extract from 2008 Adoption Board Annual Report

“As of the end of 2008, some 31% of applications for birth certificates had been successful, 2%

were refused and 64% are awaiting a report to the Board from the adoption agency setting

out the natural mothers views on the release of the birth certificate. Some 2% of applications

were withdrawn or otherwise discontinued.”

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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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