Seanad debates

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Second Stage


2:30 pm

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

That last contribution was quite a remarkable one and I relate to it on so many levels because of my age and because I grew up in a similar society to Senator Craughwell. I relate to the things he said. It was a remarkable and profound contribution and I commend it for its considerable reflection on a number of fronts. Having said that, I thank the Minister for this work and I thank the members of the committee who are here. The Minister's apology is appropriate on a number of levels. It is appropriate coming from a man of such patent sincerity and commitment to dealing with this. It is appropriate that it is taking place in the Seanad, which has, to mention recent phraseology, always been the place for minority voices and major change. It is not an inappropriate setting. It is a fulsome and good apology and it is appropriate coming from the Minister. If other apologies follow then well and good but it stands alone and I would say to the people in the Visitors Gallery and to their friends outside that they should value and accept this apology as wholesome, thorough and full.

I want to allude to one aspect of Senator Craughwell's contribution, which I was impressed with, because I grew up in that same world and it is hard for a lot of those here to relate to that, which is understandable and thank God they do not relate to it. The Senator has a point that there will be mothers for whom this will be traumatic. There are people who have lived with a dark secret for years, which they have held from their new children from their new relationships and from their grandchildren. As Senator Craughwell said, this can explode on them now. I know there is a clause on this and I have heard the Minister say that their wish for privacy will be relayed to the victim, which is fair enough. The Minister might return to that fundamental point in his response and it might merit considerable thought on support or counselling and on how we deal with the mothers. That is a relevant point and I do not mind dwelling on it a little. Senator Craughwell brought an interesting dimension to the debate, which is not to in any way detract from all the other things that are correct. It was a horror that people's identities were kept from them, that there were illegal adoptions, that new and false identities were created for people and that they could not access the truth. That was wrong. It is important that full information would be made available now and that there will be a pathway to that information. It is also important that there will be tracing and genealogical services and that there will be counselling and full disclosure. That is all well-spoken of and documented, which is good. The Minister summed it up in a nutshell when he said: "The shame was not theirs. It was ours, and it remains our shame."

It is also so important that children abroad are included and one would not need a degree in science to understand that the medical records are important. Neither would one need a degree in science to understand that the early life care dimension is important. I relate to that as a teacher and a parent and it is important that they would be made aware of that. I commend the Acting Chairman in the way Senator Craughwell did as he displays great courage in the way he speaks to this House. He is giving extraordinary leadership, courage, support and hope to others in that regard. All of those supports are necessary, including early life care, but I want to make the point that the holistic care, as identified by Senator Craughwell, must be understood. While some people might, understandably, be a little impatient for more change, for people like Senator Craughwell and I and for our generation, this is a monumental and momentous evening. This is transformational, progressive, major and wonderful movement. We celebrate, laud and commend it and we are proud to be part of it. People used to say they would love to live to see a united Ireland; well I would say that I am delighted that I lived to see this and that I am part of it.

We all owe an apology to the people in the Visitors Gallery. Whether it was in the attitude of the men, whether it was in the attitude of society or whether it was the fact that we pushed away responsibility, we all owe them an apology on so many fronts. Those of us who lived through that time particularly owe them an apology and those who did not owe them an apology for not getting on to this quicker. They are in our hearts and thoughts and we treasure and respect them but we all owe them that apology. I will leave it at that. It is an important evening and one I probably thought I would never live to see but it is wonderful to see it. It is just as important to see this as it is to see a united Ireland.


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