Background to legislation
Legal adoption was first introduced in Ireland in 1952, with the first legally adopted people reaching the age of 18 in 1970. During the past 60 years, eight Adoption Acts and an amendment to the Constitution (concerning adoption) have been brought forward, all without legislation to grant information rights or statutory based information and tracing services to Irish adopted people.
The “complexity” of legislating for adoption information
Adoption is often described as a “complex” issue and this is often used as an excuse to avoid legislating for access to information. We believe that the present Minister for Justice,
Alan Shatter put it best in
“I want to nail the suggestion that this is a hugely complex issue. It is an issue that has been properly and adequately addressed in a variety of other countries with the degree of insight and sensitivity necessary to ensure that birth mothers can make contact with adopted children where adopted children wish for such contact and to ensure that adopted children can trace their birth mothers and, indeed, their natural fathers where the information is available and where the natural parents wish for such contact. I urge the Minister to proceed hastily with bringing the necessary legislation before the House.”
Adoption Information and Tracing Bill, 2001
The first Adoption Information & Tracing Bill
introduced to Dáil Éireann in 2001 by Mary Hanafin (then Minister with responsibility for adoption) attempted to criminalise adopted people who were in breach of a contact veto, a crime which was punishable by a year’s imprisonment and/or an IR£5000 fine. After a successful campaign by our previous organisation, AdoptionIreland and huge public outcry, the Bill was later shelved by Mary Hanafin’s successor, Brian Lenihan, at the Adoption Legislation Consultation in October 2003, which (in spite of continued
resulted in no information legislation.
Adoption Legislation Consultation 2003
In 2003 then Minister for Children, the late Brian Lenihan, launched the Adoption Legislation Consultation. The Consultation took place in two stages – written and oral. AdoptionIreland, (the then representative organisation for adopted people), presented a
submission as did the representative groups for natural mothers and adoptive parents, as well as the agencies and HSE’s. Many individual submissions were also sent in.
In October 2003 the oral stage of the Consultation took place. Representative groups for adopted people, natural parents, adoptive parents, agencies, HSE’s and the Adoption Board all took part. There were large plenary sessions where speeches were delivered from Minister Brian Lenihan and Geoffrey Shannon (who is now Chairperson of the Adoption Authority, but was then hired as a legal expert).
The oral stage predominantly consisted of smaller workshops in which the various aspects of the
Discussion Paper were debated. It was an exhausting process for adopted participants as each and every adopted person that attended the workshops had to explain in great detail the effects - emotional and otherwise - of being adopted, effectively giving a basic course in what it is like to be adopted.
In January 2005 the Adoption Legislation: 2003 Consultation and Proposals For Change
report on the findings of the Consultation was published and while it was felt the document did not depict a full picture of transpired at the Consultation, there was undoubtedly a clear mandate for certain key aspects of legislative change, e.g. the right of an adopted person to their birth certificate.
Photos from 2003
Susan Lohan and others
signing up for workshops
the report on the Consultation on television
(Sandra Cooper (RIP) 1st on the left)
McGettrick being interviewed by TV3 News