Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 September 2021

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


7:50 pm

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent) | Oireachtas source

Since 1953, 4,682 adoption orders have been made in Ireland. It is heartbreaking to think of all of those adopted people, of all ages, who have been denied access to their birth information and of the frustration, anger and emptiness they feel at being left on the outside. Most of us think nothing of getting our birth certificates to access other documents. That is how it should be for all adopted persons. While the bureaucratic aspect of not having access is to one's birth cert is hugely significant, the personal aspect, the knowledge of who I am, where I came from and who my birth parents are, is denied to some.

The number of refusals for release of birth certificates to adopted persons in recent years is significant. In 2013, there were 15 refusals; in 2014, two; in 2016, 15; in 2017, nine; in 2018, six; and in 2019, nine. In that time, 46 people were told "No". They were denied a chance to find their link in their family chain and the identity they were seeking. How many of us have been riveted to programmes such as "Who Do You Think You Are" and "Long Lost Family"? In many ways, we take that journey with those people as they try to access family information and, sometimes, family members. Tonight, we are on a journey, but it is of a different type. It is a legislative journey to help ensure all adopted persons can access their birth certificates.

Since the enactment of the Adoption Act 1952, we have had a long history of trying to enact comprehensive legislation on this matter. While, in fairness, very genuine efforts have been made by very many people, some of them in this House tonight, we still have failed. We have a duty in this Dáil to ensure this basic human right is enshrined in our legislation. While I believe the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, is committed to this, I emphasise that we cannot fail again. The Bill before us is the first step, and that is because of our failure to progress legislation that establishes wider rights to information. This Bill separates the right of adopted persons to access their birth certs from consent to make contact with either parents or relatives. As I said, it is a first step but an important one.

I wish to refer briefly to the Clann project submission to the Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth, published in June of this year. I know the Minister is familiar with it. It represents the voices of very many adopted persons and provides a detailed analysis of what they believe any comprehensive legislation should include. Earlier, the Minister spoke about what his legislation proposes. This submission goes further. It analyses what is in those proposals and suggests what I believe are worthwhile amendments, but we will come to that at another time. The guiding principles in it are that nobody can be left behind, and when an adopted person is seeking information, he or she should receive the file, the whole file and nothing but the file. Those principles, as I said, must guide our work in the future.

I thank my colleagues, Deputies Connolly and Pringle, for bringing forward this Bill. I am more than happy to support it. It is an important step, it keeps this matter high on the political agenda and it is an important addition to the debate.


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