Dáil debates

Friday, 9 May 2014

Open Adoption Bill 2014: Second Stage [Private Members]


11:45 am

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I am pleased to have an opportunity speak to the Bill and congratulate Deputy Anne Ferris on introducing it. There is nothing like the experience of direct involvement to be in a position to promote legislation in the way she is doing. Deputy Ferris is to be congratulated on that. It reminds us all of the necessity to listen to what others have to say and put oneself in their shoes if we are to reach conclusions in respect of any matter, particularly one as sensitive as adoption.

It also focuses attention on the manner in which mothers, particularly young mothers, were treated over the years not only in this country, but in a number of other countries also. A closed, shadowy, furtive and uneasy attitude prevailed. Society seemed to be ashamed of something it should not have been ashamed of in the first place. There is a need for openness, which is the crucial word in the legislation. Anything that becomes secretive and shadowy obviously leads to trouble, trauma and stress. There was nothing so poignant and heart-rending as reading about, seeing and listening to situations whereby children were forcibly separated from their mothers. They were not always forcibly separated but in most cases, they were. It was expected that it was the natural thing to do when it was anything but natural. There is no stronger bond than the maternal bond and this goes right across our society and civilisation. The recognition in this country even at this late stage that such situations need a more sympathetic and understanding approach is very welcome.

The questions raised in respect of the legal position are fairly well known. There is a bit of difficulty, but I am sure the previous Minister and the new Minister will find ways and means of addressing them. I congratulate the new Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, on his new position and his predecessor on having forged ahead in an innovative fashion in respect of the new Department that was formed and in which the new Minister will no doubt excel. When it comes to the legal situation, we know there will be individual circumstances where the mother may have not have felt confident for one reason or another that she could look after a child. We can well understand how, at the vulnerable and uncertain time after a birth, a mother might have doubts. Notwithstanding all that, with the passage of time, it naturally follows that the mother and the child will want to have some communication out of curiosity and a natural wish to be part of and acknowledge a family they know or feel exists out there for them. As a society, we must be accommodating in those situations. We recognise that there are individual situations where it has not always been smooth and easy and where it has not always worked out. Generally speaking, it works when the meetings have eventually been arranged and reconciliation has taken place. That is human nature, the way it has always been and the way it should be.

It is good to see the natural order taking its place in society. The natural order was set aside for many years and, to say the least, we were uncaring in many ways, not least in this situation. It is good to see that we are recognising this and that we have people in the House bravely setting out the circumstances, as Deputy Anne Ferris has done, and doing so having regard to their own personal experience and what is likely to be the experience of others yet to come.


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