Dáil debates

Friday, 9 May 2014

Open Adoption Bill 2014: Second Stage [Private Members]


11:55 am

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I am delighted to be able to speak on this Bill which effectively will allow adopted children access to blood relatives. I thank Deputy Anne Ferris for bringing this Bill before the House. This is a lady who has been through the mill of the adoption process. It is great to see that Deputies who experience some issues in their private lives can bring them to the floor of the Dáil in a Bill like this and ensure families, parents and children can benefit from good legislation. Therefore, I thank the Deputy for bringing the Bill before the Dáil.

When I was growing up, the church was very involved with the State and vice versa. I believe this had a very corrosive effect not just on the State, but on the church also. I am delighted that we are much more open and liberal because it is good for the State and the church. We grew up at a time when the small town or village mentality prevailed. Most families were nuclear or elementary families. I will not say that this was dictated by the church but this was the way it was in western Europe. There was no great flexibility. We are now talking about flexibility. We must be flexible and realise that one size does not fit all. People are different. We must recognise the different situations and that is what the Bill is doing.

Society was very cruel then. I know of many young women who wanted to keep their children but their families, even in later times, put such pressure on them that they had to give up their children. This was because their families worried about what the neighbours would think and because we did not want to be different. There is a great willingness now to look at all aspects.

The legal position was and is closed. Parents and families are sitting down together and working closely together, and have come up with innovative solutions in many cases, but it has not been so in many other cases. The Bill proposes to change the situation to allow the natural parent or relatives to agree measures to facilitate ongoing access to the child. That involves working with the Adoption Authority in advance of an adoption or afterwards. I welcome this.

We saw the film "Philomena", which told the harrowing story of Philomena Lee. Coming in the wake of the Magdalen laundries, it was horrific and there was a huge public outcry. Since the foundation of the State, over 100,000 children were either adopted or passed through the various agencies. This was an issue that we do not fully understand. There are 100,000 families or many more around the world affected because this country had too close a link with the church. On many occasions, this was very positive but on many other occasions, it was very corrosive and unnecessary. I was horrified by the story of Philomena Lee which involved a lady searching for her son. For some reason or another, the information was never passed on, which is unforgivable. Much good work has been done by the nuns over the years. They took responsibility for education and many other things that the State simply could not and would not provide. I sometimes think that there is a herd mentality and that it is an attack on the church, the nuns or the Sisters of Mercy. I acknowledge that there were many great nuns who were compassionate and provided a service to this country. I read an article dated 9 November 2013 in the Irish Independentwhich contained a voice that was not heard.

She said that even though this film was not a documentary, it was very misleading in many ways and did not tell the whole truth. There are two sides to every story and it is our job as politicians and legislators to see that a story is not just black and white but has grey areas.

Adoptions from other countries have been a source of great joy and love on all sides. The former Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has done great work in this area. I welcome the new Minister, Deputy Charlie Flanagan, here today and thank him for his interest in this Bill. I understand his maiden speech was on this issue. We must now work to ensure that adoption from Haiti, Vietnam, Russia, Ethiopia and many other countries is a smooth process. Many families are anxious to see this improved.

I thank Deputy Anne Ferris for bringing the Bill before the House. It must be supported. I was delighted to speak on it today. I wish the new Minister every success in the coming years and congratulate him on his appointment.


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