Thursday, 20 January 2022
Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Second Stage (Resumed)
I thank the Minister for bringing this legislation forward, despite its many flaws. Many Ministers before him made promise after promise but failed to deliver, so I must give credit where its due. The Bill is far from perfect, but if we all work together it can be improved.
The treatment of adopted people seeking access to personal information has been well documented in the last few years. It is shocking that in 2022 they are still fighting for their rights. Many of the issues were discussed in detail during pre-legislative scrutiny. The committee made 83 recommendations, but it appears that many of the concerns it raised have fallen on deaf ears. Every person deserves a right to his or her private and sensitive information. This Bill must be amended to reflect the views of adopted people, instead of putting up further barriers to prevent people accessing information to which they are entitled. It should not be partial access, but full access to all information relating to them that is held by the State. People are entitled to know their background, and the Government should not be in a position to prevent them knowing more about themselves.
The notion of an information session, in whatever form it is put forward, is patronising. It must be scrapped. It is insulting to adopted people. In addition, the idea that a person needs the permission of a GP to access the person's medical information needs clarity. It is as if the Department is inventing unnecessary barriers. There is no logic in putting up hoops for these people to jump through to get information to which they should be entitled. The need for one agency to hold all adoption records was discussed at length. That makes sense, even if it is only to provide oversight of the bodies that hold the records at present. Adopted people feel that they cannot trust the agencies currently holding their records, and that must be recognised by the Minister.
The Bill goes some way to address issues that were raised in previous debates over the years, but it still falls short. We cannot leave people behind, and the opportunity must be taken by the Minister and his Department to get this right. My colleague, Deputy Funchion, has engaged with the bodies representing adopted people and they are not happy with what is being proposed. Their voices have to be heard. Deputy Funchion will table a number of amendments on Committee Stage to address the pitfalls. We need a proper definition of personal data. In addition, all institutions must be included in this legislation. Otherwise, it will be undermined from the start. This is an opportunity to deliver justice to adopted people once and for all.
We need to ensure their rights are realised.