Seanad debates

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Second Stage


2:30 pm

Photo of Pauline O'ReillyPauline O'Reilly (Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister. As a member of a party in government and as the leader of the Green Party in the Seanad, it is appropriate for me to join the Minister in apologising. I would also like to hear apologies from the other parties in government, which I am sure they will join with me in making.

Fundamentally, what lies behind this is a denial of rights that has been going on for decades. The campaign has also been going on for decades and while this is an historic day, it does not change much of the hurt that this illegality has caused. It is not just the hurt of not knowing where one has come from but also the generational impact on all of those who come after a person who is impacted by illegal birth registration. All of the healthcare that people have received over generations has been impacted but now, finally, there will be a vindication of their rights and that is very welcome.

It is important to put on the record my thanks to those who have campaigned for decades to get to this point. I also express my thanks to all of the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, who have done extensive pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill. An unprecedented amount of work has gone into this Bill, both by committee members and by stakeholders including the Clann Project and the Adoption Rights Alliance, who appeared before the committee. The fact that 1,200 amendments were submitted on Committee Stage in the Dáil speaks volumes. We will go through our own Committee Stage in the Seanad but given that the average number of amendments submitted per year is 4,500, the figure of 1,200 is significant and shows how much all of us want to get this right. There were 83 recommendations from the Oireachtas committee. The Minister engaged with the committee extensively and in order to avoid any delays, a mere month after the pre-legislative scrutiny concluded, he brought this legislation to the Dáil.I think that it is important to show how urgent this legislation is but in the past there have been delays. A couple of Ministers had attempted to do something similar, and it is fair to say that was the subject of some of the recommendations made by the committee. One of the recommendations concerned a veto, which was quite a significant issue for those who are adopted, that allows, as had been possibly suggested, for parents to have a veto. I think that this matter has been addressed. We must strike a balance between the right to identity and privacy, which is what the information session is there to do, but there have been many changes by the Minister as he took on board the views of the members of the committee, and the hundreds of the people with whom the Minister has engaged who are impacted by this legislation, in order to arrive at an information session that is appropriate in the circumstances. I will discuss further on Committee Stage.

It has been shown that the legalistic language, which is used in legislation, is quite inappropriate for the legacy issues that we face in this country. It has been shown that it distances people from legislation that has a major impact on their lives. The term "birth mother" was used in the original legislation. There was strong opposition to the term and the Minister responded to this matter. I do not like using the phrase "to commend the Minister" because on a matter like this, it is an absolute duty for the Minister, which I think he recognises.

I will not speak for much longer because it is important that we discuss issues in detail on Committee Stage. I have outlined the most essential issues that have been discussed, having looked through the debates. We will discuss many other smaller pieces, which the Minister has taken on board as he has tabled amendments and engaged on Report Stage.

Finally, I say to everyone who is listening to this debate that there is nothing that I can say that will right the wrongs that have been done but I hope that people feel that we have made progress. It is not the end of the line but this legislation will enable people to access records that they never could access before. Gaining access was an unequivocal underlying fundamental job for this legislation and that has been done.


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