Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Adoption (Information) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


7:20 pm

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I am delighted to jointly move that the Bill be read a Second Time. I introduced the Bill at the beginning of this year alongside my colleague, Deputy Connolly.

This Bill aims to address the State's very restrictive laws on adopted people accessing information. Under current law, adoptees do not have automatic entitlement to access their birth certificate or records relating to their adoption.

This is an extremely important issue and a necessary Bill, and I can only hope that it receives the level of support that reflects the incredible level of public support there has been for the survivors of mother and baby homes. I believe that in not supporting this Bill, Deputies would be doing a disservice to their constituents who have made it abundantly clear over the past few months that they support adoptees' right to access their birth certificates.

Every adopted person, indeed every single person, should be automatically entitled to his or her birth certificate. Under the 2004 Act, all born in the State have a right to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate on application to the chief registrar. Despite this, we continue to discriminate against adopted persons who have no entitlements to access their birth certificate or their adoption records. This is not acceptable and we must do all we can to change this and ensure that every person in the country has unfettered access to his or her birth certificate. It is time to start treating all citizens of the State equally and with dignity.

This Bill, if enacted, would amend section 86 of the Adoption Act 2010. This would allow adopted persons to access their entry in the adopted index, which would then enable them to obtain their birth certificate without the need for a court order or an order of the Adoption Authority of Ireland. It is a Bill that would require very little in that it would simply be a matter of substituting section 86(2) of the Adoption Act with new subsections (2) and (3). However, the significance and impact it would make on so many lives would be profound.

Deputy Connolly and I collaborated on this Bill with the Clann Project and I take this opportunity to thank and recognise the incredible work of Dr. Maeve O’Rourke, Ms Claire McGettrick and all those at the Clann Project. I was delighted to be presented with Ireland and the Magdalene Laundries: A Campaign for Justice, an incredible, yet difficult read, written by Ms Claire McGettrick, Ms Katherine O’Donnell, Dr. Maeve O’Rourke, Mr. James M. Smith and Ms Mari Steed. The book details the shocking life for many girls and women in Ireland's Magdalen laundries, the incredible survivor activism that came following this and the disappointing response that these activists have had to endure time and time again from this State. How much longer must we continue let these people down? How much longer must we continue to deny adoptees rights to their own information? How can we justify continuously asking them to fight this fight when they have already been through so much? These people deserve support and solidarity, not obstacle after obstacle, which has sadly been the experience of every survivor I have talked to.

The book rightly describes how in order to create a just society we need to allow people access to their personal information. We also need to allow for the possibility of critical analysis and the opportunity to make this public knowledge. The Irish public have a thirst and a real want for this type of just society. My fellow Deputies and I have seen this through the myriad emails and calls we have been receiving. I have been approached by many of my constituents in Donegal voicing support and solidarity with those struggling to gain access to their records. There is a sense of frustration at the Government's lack of action on this issue and a real thirst for action and accountability. As the authors rightly state, "Irish people in the Republic are no longer in an anxious post-colonial mindset", and there is "an appetite and aptitude for looking at how and where we have collectively failed". This is our opportunity to look at how we failed and to finally do something about it. It would be a complete shame to let this opportunity pass us by.

Adopted people have waited long enough for this basic right. These people are not asking for much. They are simply asking for access to their records - their own information. They should not have to ask, never mind beg and plead, for this. They should be given complete, unconditional access to these records which have not been redacted or tampered with. If Deputies would like to be true and accurate representatives of their constituents, which is what they are elected to be, they would support this Bill. I urge them all to do so.

The Government has stated that it is accepting this legislation. That is appreciated but, as my colleague, Deputy Connolly, stated earlier on, what does that mean? Perhaps the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, could expand on that in his contribution. Accepting this Bill could mean something real for the people to ensure that their needs will be met. That is what this motion is all about.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.