Thursday, 16 September 2021
Adoption (Information) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]
I, too, thank na Teachtaí Connolly and Pringle for bringing forward this Bill, the main purpose of which is to provide unconditional and improved access to birth certificates for adopted persons.
Sinn Féin supports the Bill. In March my colleague, an Teachta Funchion, introduced the Civil Registration (Right of Adoptees to Information) (Amendment) Bill 2021 which came at the same issue from a slightly different perspective. We advocated for a simple one-section amendment to the Civil Registration Act 2004 to allow adopted persons over 18 years of age to make an application for sufficient information to obtain a birth certificate. The Bill has a similar objective to the Adoption Act 2010. It would immediately provide for improved access for adopted persons to information relating to their birth record and provides for access to records and information held on them by the Adopted Children Register.
The right to identify is a fundamental human right. The Government loves to point to the North and try to denigrate Sinn Féin. It usually chooses issues that are not devolved to the five-party coalition Government or which do not reflect the reality that the petition of concern process is in place. I suggest to the Minister that the Government should look to the North on this issue because the right to access records is already in place in the North, and in Britain.
The history of adoption in Ireland is shambolic. There is no other way to describe it. In the past it has been driven by money, greed, religion and power. Babies were brought in and were bought, sold, or hired as farm hands, or even worse. A constituent of mine came to me recently. She was forced to give up her baby many years ago. She was devastated. The baby was adopted without her knowledge. For many years afterwards she received letters from the nuns on a regular basis, asking for money to care for the child, despite their having no part in its upbringing. It is wrong for the State to continue to argue that natural mothers generally do not wish their adult children to know their identity. As to the notion that adopted people may cause harm in some way, there simply is no proof. The Government approach has framed adopted people as untrustworthy individuals from whom their mothers must be protected. No other group of Irish citizens is discriminated against in this manner and it is time to resolve the issue once and for all. It is simply unjustifiable to suggest an adopted person should be denied their identity because their birth mother's perceived right to privacy outweighs that of an adopted person to know his or her identity.
In 1934 in this very House, the former Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, said: "No longer shall our children, like our cattle, be brought up for export". He proceeded to oversee just that, treating what were known as illegitimate children like cattle. I have looked up the meaning of the word "illegitimate" and it is identified as: "Not authorized by the law; not in accordance with accepted standards or rules". I will say this briefly. My mother was one of those children. She is now 34 years dead. To this day it galls me to think someone would describe her as illegitimate. These are children we are talking about and this mindset still exists today in some quarters. It must be addressed and extinguished wherever we find it. It must start with this Bill.