Dáil debates

Friday, 9 May 2014

Open Adoption Bill 2014: Second Stage [Private Members]


12:05 pm

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank Deputy Anne Ferris and all the other Deputies for their contributions and comments. It is a given that adoption is a sensitive, personal issue. It is important that at all times we learn from real experience. I warmly congratulate Deputy Anne Ferris on the manner in which she has approached this issue and on the content and format of her Bill. Deputies Anne Ferris, Robert Troy, Seán Crowe, Clare Daly, Bernard J. Durkan and Frank Feighan have all made positive contributions and outlined their support for the legislation, which is presented on a cross-party basis.

Access to records and greater access to birth information will meet some of the needs of adopted persons who wish to know their identity, particularly those who will not benefit from any future changes in the law which might permit open adoptions. In March 2014, my predecessor, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, made the Government aware of her intentions in a memorandum for information, including the provision, through the adoption (information and tracing) Bill, of a greater level of access to records and birth information in so far as possible. This was in line with legal advice received. This would apply to persons previously involved in adoptions, notwithstanding the significant operational and legal complexities which arise in giving effect to this objective. The second intention is to introduce in the same Bill provision to ensure access to adoption records and birth information for persons adopted in the future, and, third, to have the general scheme and heads of the adoption (information and tracing) Bill finalised on this basis as soon as possible. It will then be submitted for the Government’s consideration in advance of referral to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children for pre-legislative hearings. It is also intended in parallel to examine and implement further operational improvements to arrangements for the preservation of and access to records.

I am conscious of what Deputies Robert Troy and Clare Daly said about the timeframe. I am anxious that matters be advanced. I ask them, however, to be conscious of the fact that there are real and substantial legal issues to be dealt with. It would be futile to bring forward legislation or provisions if they were to fall foul of a constitutional challenge. The Office of the Attorney General has provided comprehensive legal advice to the Department and has assisted in identifying the constitutional parameters within which the heads of the Bill must be drafted. On the basis of that advice, we are indicating the need to take into consideration the birth mother’s constitutional right to privacy. I am anxious to ensure that as much information as possible can be facilitated. I firmly believe open adoption is the way forward. I want the legislation to provide for birth information to be available to adopted persons.

In the case of historical adoptions, it is essential to examine the legislation and resolve - on an all-party basis, led by the Government - to allow this to go as far forward as possible. These are difficult issues. I intend to finalise proposals and bring them to the Government as soon as possible. They will then go for further consideration by the Joint Committee on Health and Children.

I thank Deputy Anne Ferris for a very important service in the process of bringing forward this legislation, having it approved on Second Stage and sending it to Committee Stage. I will ensure we can proceed to have firm Government backing for the legislation and proceed along the lines I have outlined.


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