Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Second Stage
Go raibh maith agat a Chathaoirligh Gníomhaigh. The Minister is very welcome to the House. It is a really important day. We all know this Bill is long overdue. I am nervous about this contribution because it is so important. We have really important people with us today and I acknowledge their presence. We do not have enough of them, to be honest. I am distracted by the Minister's apology. I am also distracted by the fact there are very few people in our Visitors Gallery today when it should be overflowing with people who have been affected by illegal birth registrations. They do not want to be here. They have continuously worked hard to try to find resolutions to the situation. While the Minister's apology is offered in such good faith and is genuine, today is not an appropriate day for it. I am sorry to be that dissenting voice but today is about a Bill. It is the Second Stage of a really historic Bill. It is about information and tracing and getting the Bill through this House. I genuinely feel the apology should have been made by itself, to acknowledge the severity and the trauma those illegal birth registrations have caused those people in the Visitors Gallery today. For what it is worth, I am sorry there was not more work done before this apology. I was disappointed there was only 24 hours' notice given. There are many people from all over the country and abroad who were not able to make it here. I will leave it at that because I want to acknowledge the importance of the apology but also the upset and the fact the State is not ready for that apology just yet.
Returning to the legislation, which is all we should be speaking about today, it is landmark and a game-changer for people's identity. It fundamentally addresses the needs of adopted people and people who have questions about their origin of birth. It will achieve this through the guaranteed provision of full and unredacted birth certificates, birth and early care information, the statutory tracing service, the contact preference register and the safeguarding of all the adoption-related records. All this is so good. We have done really well. I commend my fellow Senator, Senator Seery Kearney, who worked tirelessly on this Bill, and all members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. Blood, sweat and an awful lot of tears went into this Bill in working with all stakeholders, listening to the heartache and the trauma and people's lived experience of their lives being turned upside down and inside out and having to deliver their most intimate details to us, in public and in private. As such, today is a really important day for this Bill. I am very proud to have played a little part as a cog in bringing change for so many people.
I am not going to speak about the detail of the Bill because we are going to go through it in fine detail on Committee Stage. There is an awful lot of discussion to be had on that Stage. Today I am emotional and I am also distracted by that apology. We should not be distracted by an apology. We should be concentrating on this Bill to apologise for the desperate wrongs that were done. The State knew about them from the 1950s and had evidence of them from the early 1990s but failed to act. I am sorry for that but it is not for me to be sorry. I again acknowledge the faces I have met from the In It Together and Who Am I? groups that are not here today. I hope they are watching because I know the Minister is genuine in his apology, but it was misplaced today.
Again, I really commend this Bill to the House. It is a game-changer for people who have been abused and mistreated for generations and decades. The Bill will, I hope, create the framework that will allow people start to trust in our institutions again. The Minister well knows the stories of trauma from people who have had to engage with the Adoption Authority of Ireland and with Tusla. They felt they were asking for a kidney and not just information. They felt like they owed Tusla something to get their information and they begged for that information. Today is the start of that framework. I hope the framework builds that trust so we can stand tall in our systems and show people their legacy and their trauma mean something and that change will come because of that.