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Law to aid birth parent search

Sarah McInerney, The Sunday Times

Sunday 19th February 2012

LEGISLATION to help adopted people trace their birth parents will be introduced by the government in tandem with the children's referendum this year, writes Sarah McInerney.

There are an estimated 50,000 adopted people living in Ireland. Frances Fitzgerald, the children's minister, has not ruled out the prospect of the legislation applying retrospectively.

Fitzgerald said the laws, which will give adopted children access to their birth certificates, will be taken through the Oireachtas at the "earliest opportunity". She said: "The bill will provide for proactive tracing and reunion services by appropriate bodies for adopted adults, birth mothers and birth families."

Last year Fitzgerald suggested any laws on tracing birth parents would be "very difficult" to apply to historical adoptions. A spokeswoman for her department said last week there is "ongoing work" to see if this can be done in the new bill.

Claire McGettrick of the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) said that while the promise of tracing legislation is welcome, it would be useless unless it could apply retrospectively. "It won't help the 50,000 adopted people currently being prohibited from accessing their birth certificates," she said.

McGettrick said adopted people in Ireland have been refused access to their birth certificates on the basis that the birth mother's rights in the constitution, including the right to privacy, have been deemed to have greater weight than the right of the child to know their identity.

The children's referendum will seek to strengthen the rights of children in the constitution, a measure the ARA believes overcome the constitutional right of a mother to privacy.

Irish adoptees have fewer rights than their counterparts in Britain, where the 1975 Children Act allowed adopted people to receive unhindered access to their original records and adoption files on turning 18.

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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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