Thursday, 28 April 2005
I want to assure the House that, in all its actions over the past year, my Department's first priority has been the welfare of this young boy. We have continuously and actively engaged in efforts to find a suitable solution since we became aware of Tristan Dowse's situation. The Irish Embassy in Singapore, which is also accredited to Indonesia, was first informed about Tristan on 12 March 2004 by a local contact in Jakarta. An Irish diplomatic officer was immediately instructed to visit Tristan, to establish the facts of the case and to consider what could be done to protect the interests of this child.
While much of this distressing story is in the public domain, it is worthwhile to outline to the House the background to the case. Indonesian-born Tristan, a three year old child now in an orphanage near Jakarta, was adopted on foot of an Indonesian court order of 10 August 2001 in favour of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Dowse. The Dowses subsequently applied to the Irish Adoption Board to have Tristan's adoption recognised under the Adoption Act 1991 as amended. The board was satisfied the adoption was a foreign adoption to which section 4 of the Act applied and an entry pursuant to section 6 of the Act was made in the Register of Foreign Adoptions. By virtue of this entry, Tristan automatically acquired Irish citizenship and, on this basis, an Irish passport was issued to him.
In April 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Dowse moved to Azerbaijan and gave Tristan into the care of an Indonesian couple who, in turn, placed the child in an orphanage. The Dowses made some attempts to have Tristan's adoption in Indonesia annulled so that he could be re-adopted. However, none of their actions so far have been accepted by the Irish Adoption Board as sufficient. Tristan's entry in the Registry of Foreign Adoptions may only be cancelled by an order of the High Court.
The focus of my Department's efforts has been to work with the Irish Adoption Board and with the Dowses to unblock the case. The Dowses, who are Tristan's legal parents, must be involved in this process as they have both rights and responsibilities regarding his welfare and future. From April 2004 to the present, my Department had been repeatedly asking them what steps they intend taking. These contacts have been made through their solicitors for most of the time, as they insisted on a formal legal channel of communication.
A question has recently arisen for the first time regarding the legality of the original Indonesian adoption order. Last week, on the instructions of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Irish ambassador to Singapore travelled to Jakarta to meet directly with ministry officials and to visit Tristan at the orphanage. He found Tristan to be in good health and spirits.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
During the ambassador's visit last week, the Indonesian social affairs ministry confirmed that it was preparing to initiate legal proceedings to have the Indonesian adoption order revoked on the basis that it was not granted in accordance with legal requirements. These proceedings have not yet commenced. In order to help ensure that there is the earliest possible movement, the Minster for Foreign Affairs instructed the ambassador to return to Jakarta again this week, arriving on Tuesday, 26 April.
Following the ambassador's visit last week, discussions have taken place between my Department, the Irish Adoption Board and the Attorney General to consider the next steps to be taken. As a result, it has been agreed that senior officials from the Irish Adoption Board and my Department will travel to Indonesia in the coming days to assist the ambassador in helping to find a satisfactory solution to this matter. While awaiting further clarifications from Indonesian, the Irish Adoption Board has invited the Irish solicitors for the adoptive parents to meet with them.
I assure the House and the many people who have been touched by Tristan's story that we will continue to do everything we can to resolve this complex and sensitive case and that our efforts are at all times dedicated to the welfare and best interests of young Tristan.
I am delighted to see that a parliamentary question can provoke a flurry of activity on the part of the Minister and his Department within 24 hours. As the Minister of State has now conceded that the child is an Irish citizen, what is the attitude of the relevant authorities to these parents in this appalling situation? If they return to Ireland, will they be charged with the neglect and abandonment of the child?
Deputy Allen did not listen to my answer. I have gone back as far as 2001 and I appreciate that parliamentary questions are wonderful instruments to elicit information.
We have acted in the most humane, honourable and professional manner in the best interests of this child. The Deputy asked a pertinent hypothetical question. This child is an Indonesian and an Irish citizen. He is currently domiciled in an orphanage in Indonesia. Our priority as a nation is to ensure the maintenance and protection of the child's welfare. We must take into account the complexity of the situation, the difficulties that are involved and, above all, the welfare of the child. This issue is being guided by outstanding diplomats who are dealing with this issue on behalf of Ireland.