Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly and his wife Angela at the Election count centre Citywest, near Dublin, Ireland, February 9, 2020
In the Dáil at the Convention Centre, Dublin.
Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly spoke during a debate on the Civil Registration (Right of Adoptees to Information) (Amendment) Bill 2021, sponsored by his party to allow adopted persons the right to access their birth records.
“When I was thinking about writing this speech I went to the person I know is an expert in this, my wife Angela, who was adopted in Dublin in 1968.
“These are her words:
‘I always knew I was adopted. I was told before I really knew what it meant. I couldn’t have asked for better parents. I loved them and my sisters dearly and was loved unconditionally by them.
Despite this, I always felt there was something missing! Something I couldn’t see, smell or touch but something very tangible all the same. I didn’t feel my parent’s ancestors were mine. Their family tree didn’t feel like my history.
I first approached the adoption board when I was 22 following my father’s death. I had felt that requesting my original birth cert would be disloyal to my parents, but following my dad’s passing I realised that we all only have one life to live.
I had a meeting with a social worker who gave me three pieces of non identifying information about my birth mother. There was no information on my file about my birth father.
What followed that meeting was years of intermittent contact with the adoption board. I’d try to put my adoption to the back of my mind and all the unanswered questions associated with it. But it kept creeping back into my consciousness.
When pregnant with our first child I was unable to answer background questions asked by the hospital.
When our first child was born, it was like I had been granted the greatest wish imaginable. I was acutely aware that Seán was my first biological link with the world.
After several years and several requests, the adoption board agreed to give me my original birth cert.
I have no idea how these decisions are made. Why I was granted my birth cert whilst many adoptees are not.
Seeing my birth mother’s name meant so much to me. Knowing I was a member of the O’Donnell family allowed me some knowledge of my ancestors and a sense of belonging.
I have since made contact with my birth mother and three new sisters, it has been a very positive experience for me. I would not have been able to achieve this without my birth cert.
For me it didn’t matter how much I was loved and cherished. I always knew I was adopted and so always felt deep down that someone hadn’t wanted me, always felt something was missing. Not knowing your biological history doesn’t seem like a big issue to those who have it but those who don’t feel its loss.
Being told that you don’t have a right to your own information is very difficult to accept.
Children placed for adoption signed no contracts, relinquished no rights, agreed to nothing.
Information on who you are is a very basic need and the absence of it is not without consequences for those affected by it.’