Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Second Stage
The Minister is welcome to the House. Thank you, Acting Chair, for always being willing to share your story. A high-profile person such as Senator Boyhan sharing his story does so much for those who have no voice. I wish to recognise that today.
I thank the Minister for making an apology on behalf of the Government. I await an apology on behalf of the State. I do not believe the State has made an apology. That needs to come from the Head of the Government, the Taoiseach himself.
I agree very much with what has been said by my colleague Senators this evening. I came here to speak against this Bill. I toyed with the issue all last night. Since I became a Senator in 2014, I have been confronted with legislation that I never wanted to be a part of and yet finished up supporting. I supported the gender recognition Bill. I supported the marriage Bill and referendum. For an auld fella like me, who comes from a conservative background, it takes quite a lot to move there. What has moved me this evening to now wanting to support the Minister is the word "illegal". I grew up in an Ireland that is so different to the Ireland we have today. A girl getting pregnant in my home town disappeared and she returned no longer pregnant, or she never returned. Those who did have children, even though they may have given the child up for adoption, which in most cases they were forced to do, when they came back their reputations were destroyed and not only their reputation, it extended to their family in some cases.
As I think about that this evening, I think about the lies that have been told to those who were adopted, to friends and relations, in order to cover the fact that an illegal registration of birth had taken place, the professional people involved - people that we looked up to. In my young days, people like doctors, priests, nuns and teachers had a position in society which was above the rest of us, and we looked up to them, yet here we had this criminal behaviour going on in institutions around this country.
This Bill is vitally important, but I do have great sympathy for the mothers that are about to be exposed, because a lot of them were children themselves when they were pregnant. Many of them were the direct result of rape or incest and it was all buried under the carpet. In my home town, a few priests were used and when a girl was pregnant, irrespective of how she became pregnant, she was moved on. In the society we live in, even today, girls are expected to be the ones that will say "No, stop, I do not want to do this. I do not want to get pregnant." Where are the fathers in this Bill? Where are the men who brought about or participated in bringing about the pregnancy? We will never know them.Some of them hold responsible positions in society today and they are delighted that their little misdemeanour, as they would have thought of it, was moved on. Whether we like it or not, institutions in this country sold babies and that is the truth of it. I want to know how we will recover that. How will we make these institutions repatriate to the State the moneys they took for selling citizens of this State? They sold them to America and all over the world and it is disgraceful.
They say in the medical profession, "First, do no harm". My advice to the Minister is not to do any more harm; we need a balance of harms. I was thinking last night of an 82 year-old woman sitting in her sitting room with her husband and children with this dark secret sitting in the background that may be 65 years old, waiting for the knock or the registered letter and waiting for her past to come back and abuse her for a second time. I am not so sure that every mother was happy about the adoptions they were forced into and I am not so sure that those girls have ever forgotten the hurt that was done to them. I lived in those years and I saw what went on. I commend the Minister on bringing this forward and I will work with those who want to bring amendments forward. I will support the Minister and I complement him on what he has done. I hope he does not take any personal insult from me requesting the State to make a proper apology. The Minister has done a great job in bringing this Bill forward and I know how committed he is to this. I complement the Minister on his work but I want the State to step forward.