Thursday, 20 January 2022
Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Second Stage (Resumed)
The Minister is genuine in efforts to deal with this very sensitive issue. We all have come across people and know people and families and trauma over the years and decades. It is long past time that we tried to deal with it. As Deputy Jim O'Callaghan made very clear in his speech, and he is a legal person himself and probably has a better understanding of it and of the history of different court cases than I have, it is necessary to try to balance the two rights in any issue. Even a referee on a field - I am not making little of the situation - has to make judgment calls. It is necessary to try to balance the right to privacy of the mother and the right to information and knowledge of the adopted person. It is a very sensitive and difficult, challenging area.
I am disappointed to hear that although the committee on children gave long consideration to it and made so many recommendations, 83 I think in number, none of them was accepted. That is fine if that is not the case but too often it happens. We can have robust debates in politics but this is one for us all to come together to try to be united and to try to deal with this situation. On the number of people who came forward and testified, I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. It is not easy for them to come and testify and talk in a quasi-public arena. I refer to the pain and heartache and the years of trauma and loneliness and desperation. Many of them feel now that they were not listened to.
We are all getting floods of emails in the last days about this legislation. Some of us who are not on the committee and were not at the meetings would not have been aware of the extent but nobody seems to be happy with it. It is kind of rushed. No legislation is better than bad legislation. Delaying it for another couple of months might be better because they are not happy with it. They are very concerned about it. We know where it will end up, namely, across the river with the wigged gentlemen. We know what that entails and the challenges and delays. It may go to Europe and whatever. Make haste slowly.
I am not diminishing the importance of the situation one bit when I say that we had a forestry Bill brought in here two years ago which I voted against because it was just pure useless and we would have been better off having no legislation than what it was. It is a difficult topic to introduce when we are talking about people's lives but I am just giving that experience because I knew it was going to be no use and it is no use. This is too sensitive. Too many people have been hurt and damaged. We need to be able to have it right and give solace to those people it is meant to give solace to.
The joy and we all have of being parents, knowing our parents and having our siblings through life is a privileged experience and is thanks to our parents and everybody else. The trauma is there. I know some of them. I meet them. There is one particular gentleman who I meet regularly and he is so desperate to find his mother. He actually did at the finish but she chose not to meet him. It is so harrowing and traumatic.
In the Minister's press release it all sounds great, referring to landmark legislation and stating that there will be for the first time enshrined in law a clear right to full birth, early life care and medical information for all those with questions of their origins. That is lovely on paper and the spirit of it is lovely but when people are so unhappy with the Bill it really undermines the Minister's ambition. The Attorney General has to give advice and the Minister has to deal with the draft of this legislation and so on. I do not know.
However, those in the organisations who are championing this cause are not happy with the Bill. I know that doing this is not easy and is challenging, but many people are unhappy with the Bill. Will it end up in the courts? If it does, where will we go then? I appeal to the Minister to consider the issue again. He has denied that a number of amendments were rejected. Perhaps he will outline in his reply how many were rejected. I am unsure and am only going by what I have been told.
We all have experiences and are all in the Dáil to do our best. Ní neart go cur le chéile. We need to get this right and work together to see if we can ease the pain and suffering on both sides of this sensitive issue. There has been trauma and agony for many mothers as well. This is about where the twain shall meet. We want to get it right. I appeal to the Minister to be as responsive as he can, accept some amendments and return to the drawing board with this legislation so that he gets it right.