Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 September 2021

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


8:00 pm

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

We support this Bill. This issue has been very difficult for very many people across the length and breadth of the country for a number of years now. We have seen all the documentaries and all the reports. We have seen the uncovering of the terrible, cruel, tough place Ireland was in the past. It does us no harm to have a good hard look at it and to recognise that is part of where we came from and the society we lived in. Despite this, today I received an email from a constituent, and they sent a photograph with it. It reads:

I am five years old here in 1969, the picture (below) was taken after my time in a Mother & Baby Home, a Baby Home & an Industrial School. I’m 57 this year, I still have no right to my original name from the Adopted Children’s Register, not to mention early life medical or care files during my first 5 years. You and your colleagues can help me by voting to pass The Adoption (Information) Bill 2021 and give, my kind and I, our full human rights, once and for all. Please make a clean break tonight, and ensure that the outdated past practices of discrimination, against your fellow Irish citizens, comes to an end.

That is a letter I am sure many people across the length and breadth of the country could write in regard to their situation because adopted people, as my colleague said earlier, were simply a commodity to be bought and sold, in many cases. The worst of this went on in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and right up to the 1970s. For many of these people, their time is drawing to an end; they are coming to their sunset years of life in many cases. I often think of Mary Silk-Kelly, a woman I met from north County Leitrim, who was born in the mother and baby home in Tuam. She told me of the terrible life she had, of the abuse and the way she was treated. It is too horrible to recount. She went to her grave earlier this year without resolution of her difficulties. In his speech the Minister mentioned there is much work to do and he is doing a comprehensive Bill to resolve all these issues. However, many of these people cannot wait. Time is ticking away and they need these issues dealt with. It should not be done at some time in the future. They should have been dealt with long ago.

It is a poor reflection of governments of the past that we are in this position today. Despite that, we are here and we now have the opportunity to do something with it. The thing we must do is ensure that as well as not opposing this Bill, the Minister puts his full weight and that of his Department behind it to ensure this small change is made and these people have access, first of all, to their birth certificates. The other issues he dealt with in his speech were around slightly more complex issues which must be resolved and which have constitutional consequences. I understand those must be dealt with but we can do it one step at a time. What can be done now should be done, and done immediately. There are issues all of us must come to terms with. In many parts of Ireland there are memories of the mother and baby homes and of the situations where people were adopted and sometimes went into the most cruel of situations in families, not only in institutions. It was an Ireland with not simply institutional abuse but a society that had that attitude towards its fellow people. We must deal with it and do so immediately. The urgency around this cannot be overemphasised. I absolutely understand the Minister's position in regard to not opposing it but as I said, he must put his full weight behind it and get this, or whatever piece of legislation, dealt with right now to ensure we deliver for these people because so many of them feel so let down, with very good reason.


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