Dáil debates

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Second Stage (Resumed)


1:55 pm

Photo of Réada CroninRéada Cronin (Kildare North, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue, and particularly in a week when the nation is so closely examining the wrongs done to our women. I am also glad to see that the Bill has given up hurtful language, such as "birth mother" and "natural mother". Even so, it persists in being patronising and patriarchal, based on privacy, oddly. This is not about privacy, but kind of about secrecy and about maintaining it. We all have secrets. It is part of being a human and we all value our privacy. Equally, we know that life is complicated and messy. This legislation needs to get into the messiness and the complications of life. We should not try to hold ourselves at a remove from those aspects and I believe the contribution from Deputy Jim O'Callaghan went into that.

We are talking about flesh and blood here. The right to know who we are and who we come from and our medical history is the same for adopted people as it is for the rest of us. It is basic information that is being sought by people in the context of this legislation. It is not the "The Waltons" or anything like that. This Bill concerns information that the rest of us take for granted, and this legislation will not give it to them. There is no unrestricted access to birth certificates, files on adoption or early life information. There is no clarity regarding what constitutes "personal data", leaving adopted people to depend on luck, chance or kindness to access their own information. In certain circumstances, information can still be withheld. To get vital medical information, it will be necessary to get a GP to intervene. This infantilises the adopted person and diminishes us as legislators and as a State.

The Minister has the duty and the opportunity to right the wrongs perpetuated on innocent people, including the incarceration of our women and the removal of children from their mothers. I ask the Minister to please listen to what adopted people are telling him. They are the experts in their own lives and on what they need from the State, nobody else. It is up to the Minister. He should listen to the activists and the campaigners. We have all heard them on the radio, and they are mainly women. They are another generation seeking rights, recognition and justice. Sinn Féin will be tabling amendments to this legislation but I have been here long enough now to know how that process goes. The Bill is certainly an improvement, but adopted people really need and deserve so much better. They are depending on the Minister to give them that. I hope he will please look after them.


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