(Note this is not a
comprehensive list and we are constantly adding to it)
I'OT vs B & The
Rotunda Girls Aid Society 1998 Supreme Court judgement
O’T. & M.H. were two adult women (informally adopted in 1941 and
1951) who sought the release of all documents concerning their births,
identities of their natural mothers and their placing from the Rotunda
Girls Aid Society and a Fr Gerard Doyle.
The 1998 I O’T v B Supreme Court judgement stated that the child has
an un-enumerated constitutional right to know the identity of his/her
natural parents. The court
said however that the right was not absolute and had to be balanced
against the natural mother’s right to privacy and anonymity.
Supreme Court stated that neither set of rights was absolute and went on
to suggest a list of questions a Circuit Court judge may wish to
consider when determining which right would prevail in any given case.
circumstances giving rise to the natural mother relinquishing custody of
present circumstances of the natural mother and the effect thereon (if
any) of the disclosure of her identity to her child;
attitude of the natural mother to the disclosure of her identity to her
natural child, and the reasons there for;
respective ages of the natural mother and her child;
reasons for the natural child’s wish to know the identity of her
natural mother and to meet her
present circumstances of the natural child; and
views of the foster parents, if alive
effect of the I O’T v B Ruling on adopted people seeking information
On foot of this case, the Adoption Board claimed to have sought legal
advice (from a source unknown to Adoption Rights Alliance) which advised
that the I O’T v B case could be applied directly to adopted people
seeking information on their natural parents. The Board rewrote the list
of questions to apply to adopted people so e.g. that questions 5 and 6
refer to “the adopted child” and question 7 refers to “adoptive
although Hamilton CJ stated that the list was not, nor was it intended
to be exhaustive, it has been treated as such by the Adoption Board and
subsequently by the Adoption Authority; fairly obvious questions, which
could have been considered have never been added including;
the natural mother still alive?”
To adopted people, this would rank as the most obvious omission.
It seems bizarre that neither the original Supreme Court ruling
nor the Adoption Authority have considered this particular scenario.
Common sense would dictate that all files should revert to the
adopted person on the death of a natural mother.
During 2004/2005, when meeting as part of an Advisory Group to
the Adoption Board (appointed by then Minister for Children, Brian
Lenihan) repeated demands were made by the AdoptionIreland
representative and Natural Parent’s Network of Ireland representative
for the Adoption Board to seek legal advice on these questions. The
group never had sight of how the questions were posed nor the official
response – nor any confirmation that formal channels of enquiry were
if the natural mother cannot be located?”
Equally, neither the original ruling nor the Adoption Board had the
foresight to consider that some natural mothers would not be found and
that their views could not be ascertained at a meeting with the Chairman
and CEO of the Adoption Authority on August 2nd, 2011 at
which we posed these questions.
circumstances giving rise to the child losing the guardianship of his
This is particularly relevant in light of all that has been known about
illegal adoptions since 1996, following
the broadcast of RTÉ’s Prime Time ”The
Secret Baby Trail” on June 20th, 1996 and the publication of
“Banished Babies” by Mike Milotte in 1997,
when it was made abundantly clear that large numbers of children
(particularly those trafficked to the US) were removed without the
consent or knowledge of their natural mothers.
present circumstances of the adopted adult and the effect thereon (if
any) of the non-disclosure of her mother’s identity to him/her”
None of the Adoption Authority’s own questions actually place the
adopted person’s feelings at the centre of the debate, this question
attitude of the adopted person to the non-disclosure of information on
all other family members – father, siblings etc)”
Any equitable system would surely wish to consider the impact on an
adopted person of a natural mother not revealing a father’s name or
details of an adopted person’s siblings.
attitude of all future generations to being denied their family
The limited questions posed by Hamilton CJ never considered the impact
on the children of an adopted person on being denied their lineage.
behind the I O’T v B judgement
Adoption agencies, in particular those backed by religious
congregations, about whom the current Minister for Children, Frances
said in 1997 that
children for adoption and to conceal their origins. It is very difficult
for some of these societies now to lift the aura of secrecy when they
have no guidelines from the State which established the system”
agencies have much to gain from the continued secrecy of adoption
records. They have seized
the I O’T v B judgement as a rationale for a blanket non-disclosure of
any identifying information to adopted people. This allows agencies
involved in illegal practices to conceal their past activities from any
inspection regime and from the individuals affected by those activities.
former Rotunda Girls Aid Society (RGAS) in Dublin and the former Sacred
Heart Adoption Society in Cork generated huge numbers of complaints from
adopted people but only closed when the religious orders backing them
decided to cease their operations and not as result of any sanctions
imposed by the Adoption Board.
is unacceptable that an adoption society such as St. Patrick's Guild has
deliberately misled people by giving grossly inaccurate information,
both to adopted persons and to birth mothers, with regard to the
background to their adoption. It is almost beyond belief that an
adoption society deliberately set out to tell adopted persons the wrong
names, wrong dates of birth and the wrong ages of the birth mothers.
That behaviour must be totally condemned by Members of this House”.
St. Patrick’s Guild Adoption Society was accredited
by the Adoption Authority in March 2011 to offer information and
tracing services to adopted people.
It also continues to receive HSE funding and to date has never
been sanctioned by the Adoption Board nor by the Adoption Authority.
It appears to make up the rules as it goes along – on the one
hand refusing to make contact with an illegally adopted person on his
natural mother’s behalf despite her decade’s
long explicit requests to do so while
on the other hand, it also withholds all “identifying information”
from adopted applicants until it has explicit permission from a natural
mother to do so. Where the
natural mother cannot be found (as is often the case where the Guild
persists in writing to a 40 year old temporary address), it refuses to
hand over the information being sought. Equally, this agency will not
disclose information, where a natural mother is deceased.
of the IOT v B Judgement
The AAI and adoption agencies’ interpretation of the I O’T v B
judgement appears to us to be founded in the false presumption that all
natural mothers actively sought and were given signed guarantees of
confidentiality, when they were largely forced to relinquish their
children to adoption. In
fact, Adoption Loss
(also known as NPNI – the Natural Parents Network of Ireland) also
confirm this and they say that no agency has ever been able to produce
such a guarantee. We also contend that agencies cynically project an
image of cringing natural mothers living in fear of being contacted by
their now adult children to continue their cover-up of illegal
adoptions, child abduction, child trafficking and illegal non-consensual
infant vaccine trials, which they carried out with impunity at least
until the 1970’s.
judgement although out of touch and widely condemned did not propose a
blanket ban on the release of information to adopted people but it has
been used to justify precisely that by certain agencies and also by the
former Adoption Board and now the Adoption Authority itself, who refuse
to release birth certificates or make contact with siblings without
obtaining a natural mother’s permission when there is no basis in law
for them to do so.
Ireland as a society has moved on considerably since 1998, when the I
O’T v B judgement was made.
Frustratingly however, Irish adoption legislation has not
progressed at the same pace. The
I O’T v B case, and more significantly the interpretation of this
judgement, has created a huge obstacle for adopted people in obtaining
the information that is rightfully theirs.
In the absence of legislation, the only other avenue open to
adopted people is the possibility of mounting a legal challenge; however
this in itself creates a barrier to obtaining a remedy because of the
danger of losing such a case thereby causing a genuine fear of financial
ruin. Therefore it is
imperative that adoption information rights are given statutory footing
Download the judgement here
"Baby Ann" was born to unmarried parents and was subsequently
adopted. Her natural parents later married and during the adoption
process withdrew their consent to the adoption. The High Court had
originally ruled that "Baby Ann" should remain with the
prospective adoptive parents. The Supreme Court later overturned
that judgement and she was returned to the custody of her natural
Alliance asserts that the "Baby Ann" case is a sad example of
the dire need for the voice of the child to be heard in all matters
relating to adoption. This case also demonstrates the need to
sufficiently inform natural parents prior to the adoption taking place
and the need to offer more support rather than rushing towards adoption
as a (very permanent) solution to a temporary problem. We also
believe that separate social workers should be allocated to the child,
the natural parents and the prospective adoptive parents as having one
social worker for all three will inevitably result in human emotions
taking over in an impossible tug of war.
Download the judgement here