Wednesday, 10 March 2021
Adoption (Information) Bill 2021: First Stage
That leave by granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for improved information access for adopted persons in relation to their birth, for that purpose to amend the Adoption Act 2010 so as to provide for access by adult adopted persons to their entry in the index maintained by an tArd-Chláraitheoir of connections between entries in the Adopted Children Register and the register of births, and to provide for connected matters.
I would like to share time with Deputy Connolly.
I am delighted to introduce the Adoption (Information) Bill 2021 in conjunction with my colleague, Deputy Connolly.
I note the Private Members’ Bill of Deputy Funchion of Sinn Féin, which was debated earlier. I know the Government accepted it but this Bill needs to go in as well to keep the pressure on and make sure it is brought to a satisfactory conclusion. I note also Labour Senator Bacik's Bill in the Seanad.
It seems that many of us were moved to take action after listening to survivors. We are keeping this hugely important issue on the agenda. Late last year there was a huge show of public support and solidarity for survivors of mother and baby homes. Dr. Maeve O’Rourke, Ms Claire McGettrick and others from the Clann Project have been disparaged by some members of Government because of the power of survivors’ campaigns. One such campaign is #MyRecordsMyRight for adoptees to have access to their birth certificates and their files that were in possession of the now dissolved Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
This is a simple Bill but would mean so much to survivors. The purpose of the Adoption (Information) Bill 2021 is to provide unconditional access to birth certificates for adopted persons. The Bill amends section 86 of the Adoption Act 2010 so as to allow An tArd-Chláraitheoir to provide adopted persons with access to their entry in the index that makes traceable the connection between each entry in the adopted children register and the corresponding entry in the register of births.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis cúpla focal a rá faoin mBille seo. Is Bille thar a bheith díreach agus simplí é. Is é seo an tríú Bille ar an ábhar sin atá os comhair na Dála. Léiríonn sé sin cé chomh tábhachtach is atá an t-ábhar seo. Tá cearta bunúsacha i gceist. Chinnteodh an Bille go mbeadh rochtain ag daoine atá uchtaithe ar a gcuid eolais phearsanta.
My colleague, Deputy Pringle, has laid out the Bill. It is straightforward and provides for access to birth certificates for adopted persons. I struggle for words that something as basic as this remains contentious in the 21st century. We are 20 years from a particular group on the ground asking for legislation. Prior to that, in 1984, we had a committee which reported that, even in 1984, it was a basic human right to give basic information to adopted people who came looking for it, though the majority of that committee wanted it not to be retrospective. It has been discussed in the Supreme Court and teased out in different courts on many occasions, particularly in the Supreme Court in a 1998 case.
On top of that, we have had many reports, the latest being yesterday's report, in relation to illegal adoptions. It was a scoping exercise and I emphasize that. It set out to scope the nature of the problem and of the files. The narrative that talks about no false registrations being found is a false narrative.
On the basic right to information, the rapporteur for child protection went out on a limb in 2015 and said the right to access the birth certificate is a minimum core of the right to identity. In order to comply with our international human rights law obligations, this should be an automatic entitlement of every adoptee with no exceptions or qualifications.
I have given the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, the benefit of the doubt and I do not doubt his bona fides. I know he will come forward with comprehensive legislation but we need action in relation to this aspect where people adopted as children who come forward looking for basic information should have it as of right. That is what this Bill and the Bill from Sinn Féin earlier today are about. I thank that party for bringing it forward. I presume that is what the Bill Senator Bacik is bringing forward is about as well.
Can we take action now to restore trust? Trust is at an all-time low given the way people on the ground have been treated in relation to the commission's report, the leak and the failure to give the report, not to mention the language used.
The language yesterday in "A Shadow Cast Long" and the report is excellent. It is respectful, it finds facts, is well-written and is set out very clearly, whether one agrees with it or not. I ask that the Bill move onto the next Stage.