Tag Archives: Adoption

Yesterday evening.

Dail Eireann, Dublin 2.

TDs debated the Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022 (Report and Final Stages), including the requirement for adopted people to take part in ‘information sessions’ before they can access records, in cases where their natural parents have said they do not want to be contacted,

During the debate, Minister for Children said he fully accepts his legislation will be challenged in the courts.

Independent Galway TD Catherine Connolly said:

“It sounds very serious when we say we have to balance the rights of the parents who do not want any contact. If the exercise in relation to the balancing of rights is necessary, it would be much more effective and in keeping with that obligation, if that obligation exists, to do what [Labour[ Deputy Ivana Bacik’s amendment is proposing, namely, to send a registered letter to everyone. Without a doubt, what the Government is doing here is, once again, infantilising women. I note the Minister is shaking his head. However, that is exactly what the Government is doing.

We are continuing here, as if this balancing of rights is something positive, after much struggle and debate, when it is perfunctory in the extreme. It can happen on Zoom or it can happen on a partly connected phone call, given the way that our phones are interrupted on a constant basis. It is simply perfunctory, insulting and unacceptable. For me, it is key that this requirement is dropped from the Bill. Unfortunately, my name is not on the amendment. Otherwise, I would certainly be pushing it to a vote. I cannot accept this. It has been pointed out by those who will suffer the most, and who have suffered the most. It has also been pointed out by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and other human rights organisations. This is not a proper balancing of rights, if that is what needs to be done. We cannot set up the fundamental right to know one’s identity against privacy in this manner.”

Minister for Children O’Gorman replied:

“The information session is about the balancing of two sets of fundamental rights. There is the fundamental right to identity information of adopted people, and it is a right we all know has been denied for so long. There is also the fundamental right to privacy of a parent. The information session would apply in a very small number of circumstances because it will only apply where a parent has proactively indicated on the contact preference register a “no contact” preference

…In engaging with the Attorney General and in particular since the introduction of the GDPR, which is a much stronger recognition within EU law of privacy rights, we have been able to find a mechanism that seeks to balance those two sets of rights.

Minister O’Gorman added

“I strongly believe that at some point the legislation will be challenged. There is a very high likelihood that will happen. It is legitimate for someone to do that. We have waited 20 years for this legislation and seen four, five or six attempts at drafts of legislation not getting through this House because of an inability to resolve this matter. I do not want a result where the legislation, on which all of us in the House have worked very hard to get broad definitions and processes that are working well, would be at risk of constitutional challenge.

We went into the proposal of a registered letter. Notwithstanding the possibility of somebody signing to indicate receipt of the letter, there is the question of whether the point would be conveyed.”

Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns said:

“The committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny report was unambiguous in recommending that the mandatory information session should be removed from the legislation and that alternative appropriate safeguards should instead be provided for, such as the sending of correspondence by registered post. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated the information session presented an obstacle and potentially a complete barrier to individuals accessing long-sought information.

“The Council of Irish Adoption Agencies described it as contradictory to the spirit of the Bill. Others classified it as insulting, discriminatory and restrictive. That it is still in the Bill in its current form is deeply concerning. It is ignoring the wishes of people affected and human rights experts. If we accept the Minister’s argument that some mechanism is necessary to address balancing the rights to accessing information and privacy, then the registered post option should be pursued rather than the paternalistic and insulting requirement for an adopted person having to sit down with a State agent who explains what the person already knows. Adopted people are already very knowledgeable about access to information and privacy. They have been forced to be so by this and previous governments.”

Ms Cairns tabled an amendment that would ensure when ‘a relevant person applies for their personal data, the relevant body or the Authority will make available all medical records to the relevant person regardless of whether they have explicitly requested those items.”

Minister O’Gorman replied:

 “As we have made very clear, a person will be able to tick a box and apply for all information. We have also made it clear that people can select which types of information they wish to receive. I think it is a good thing we give people agency over their determination about what information they can receive.

There may be reasons – and I do not know what those reasons are – people do not wish to receive medical information. There may be something about their history they do not want to know. If they wish to make that choice, that is a choice they should make, and the legislation should not constrain or compel them to receive information that they may not wish to receive.”

Later…

Last night.

Thanks Breeda

This afternoon.

Earlier…

This morning.

Government Buildings.

Earlier…

This morning.

The Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022 has been published

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman (top) has written to Mother and Baby Home survivors, former residents, their families and advocates, saying:

The Bill seeks to enshrine in law the importance of a person knowing his or her origins. It aims to remove the long-standing obstacles faced by adopted people and others in gaining access to their own birth and early life information.

For the first time, the Bill will guarantee the full and un-redacted release of all such information to persons who have attained the age of 16 years.

The main features of the Bill provide for:

· The release of full birth certificates, birth information, early life information, care information and medical information for all persons who were adopted, boarded out, the subject of an illegal birth registration or who otherwise have questions in relation to their origins;

· A statutory tracing service for persons wishing to make contact, share or seek information;

· A Contact Preference Register, established in law, through which people can register their preference in relation to contact with a child, or genetic relative, as well as lodge personal communications or updated medical information; and

· The safeguarding of relevant records.

Minister O’Gorman added:

The Bill also amends the Civil Registration Act 2004 to address key issues arising for people affected by illegal birth registration by:

· Providing the relevant individual with an entitlement to live under whichever identity they prefer (i.e. their birth identity or the lifelong identity by which they have lived) and to have their social parents recognised in law through the mechanism of a parallel register; and

· Providing a robust legal basis for the transfer of information to the GRO, thereby vindicating the right of relevant individuals to an accurate birth registration.

It is intended that the Bill will also contain further measures to address issues arising for people affected by illegal birth registration, particularly succession issues.

Now that the Bill is published, the first stage (introduction to the Dáil) is complete and I intend to commence Second Stage in the Dáil next week.

The Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022 here.

RollingNews

Thanks Breeda

Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Yesterday evening.

Children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman sent out an appeal for ‘all persons affected by adoption or issues relating to knowing their origins or their early life information’ to contact him.

This morning, he brings to cabinet a bill that aims to provide information for people who were subject to illegal birth registrations, people who were boarded out, and to adoptees.

Minister O’Gorman wrote:

I wish to confirm that I will be bringing a Memorandum to Cabinet [this morning] to seek approval for publishing the heads of a bill to provide for access to birth certs and birth, early life and care information.

I will host an online presentation for those directly affected by this legislation to outline some key aspects and the next steps.

Access to this online presentation will be available on Thursday, May 20 at 4.30 p.m..

I am giving you an opportunity to put forward questions, by email, on the proposed legislation, which I can then address during the presentation. These questions can be sent to: questions@equality.gov.ie (active from 9am tomorrow, Wednesday)…

Referring to previous leaks to the press, Mr O’Gorman added:

Please note it is my intention that persons directly affected by adoption or issues relating to knowing their origins or their early life information are the first to hear about the legislation.

Previously: Rights Of Access To Personal Information Key To New Law (RTÉ, March 10)

RollingNews

Thanks Breeda

Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly and his wife Angela at the Election count centre Citywest, near Dublin, Ireland, February 9, 2020

This morning.

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.

He said:

“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.’

Oireachtas.ie

Timid Staffie ‘Skye’

‘sup?

Looking for a pet?

DSPCA write:

This little stray of sunshine is Skye. She came to the DSPCA from another veterinary clinic after she was found as a stray. She some cuts and bruises and her skin was in very poor condition. Thankfully she has recovered well and is feeling so much better now. She is ready to find a loving home (see below)…

She has made friends with one or 2 dogs here in the shelter however she is best as the only dog in her new home. She can be a little nervous at meeting new people so soon settles. She doesn’t like to be left alone for too long so her new home should have someone around a lot and help her to build up her confidence in being alone a little longer – this can be achieved in baby steps over a period of time.

She is a very sweet girl and will certainly bring lots of love to her new home.

Arf.

Skye (DSPCA)

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, above from left: Professor Mary E. Daly, Judge Yvonne Murphy, Dr William Duncan, will deliver its report today

Today.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission, led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, is scheduled to hand over its report into mother and baby homes to the Government.

It will be reviewed by the Attorney General and Department of Children and Youth Affairs before it is published in what could be a number of months.

Ahead of this, last night The Irish Times reported that a Cabinet meeting yesterday heard that the report will “increase pressure on the Government to issue a State apology and move forward with a financial compensation scheme for victims”.

It also reported that:

“Ministers were also told that a referendum or new legislation will be needed to deal with confidentiality and privacy issues where birth parents do not want their data released.”

However…

…Last night law lecturer and Director of the Child Law Clinic at University College Cork tweeted that no referendum is needed on tracing legislation – a point, he said, which has been repeatedly made by his academic colleagues Dr Maeve O’Rourke, David Kenny and Fergus Ryan.

In 2015, Dr Conor O’Mahony (above) appeared before the then Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to speak about on the then pre-legislative scrutiny on the then Heads of the General Scheme of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, a bill which subsequently lapsed with the most recent dissolution of the Dáil and Seanad.

Dr O’Mahony told the committee:

“I am grateful for the opportunity to address this issue today. I will focus briefly on some of the competing rights issues that have already been discussed this morning in the context of the Constitution. I will also say a little about international human rights law.

“As members are aware from earlier contributions, much of the discussion in this area is informed by the 1998 decision of the Supreme Court in the I O’T v B case, [where the court found that the natural mother’s constitutional right to privacy outweighed the child’s constitutional right to identity] which addressed the competing rights of adoptees and natural parents.

The court recognised that the adoptee has a constitutional right to identity and that the natural parent has a constitutional right to privacy. The court stressed that neither of those rights are absolute, as each of them may be qualified to an extent by the other.

Much of the discussion that takes place when constitutional concerns about laws of this type are raised is based on this case and on what I would see as a greatly exaggerated concern about possible constitutional issues. Much of the discussion is based on focusing on the outcome in the I O’T v B case rather than on the principles established in that case. The outcome of that case was a ruling in favour of protecting the mother’s privacy. The court made that ruling in the context of something of a legislative vacuum. This law is seeking to fill that vacuum.

“With regard to the laws enacted by the Oireachtas on issues like adoption identity and tracing, the court said that it is for the Oireachtas and not for the courts to establish how to balance competing rights and how to deal with sensitive matters of social policy. In the vast majority of cases, the courts will defer to the balance struck by the Oireachtas unless there are extreme consequences of doing so. That is the key message set down in the decision in the I O’T v. B case. We have seen that message repeatedly emphasised in subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court.

“Some recent examples include a challenge against the law on the age of consent, a challenge against the law criminalising assisted suicide and a case involving the allocation of parentage in surrogacy arrangements. In all of those cases, the Supreme Court stressed that complex social matters should be addressed by the Oireachtas and not by the courts.

“For that reason, I think the key message to take from the I O’T v. B case is that it is up to the Oireachtas to legislate in this area and to reconcile competing rights.

“Any future court would be exceptionally slow to second guess that and to strike down any law that is enacted in this area. It is important to stress that.

“Aside from the fact that the constitutional impediments are greatly overstated, there is also a legal imperative to enact laws of this nature. That legal imperative derives from Ireland’s international human rights law obligations, in particular, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and, to a lesser extent, the European Convention on Human Rights, both of which recognise the right to identity as a key right recognised by international human rights law.

“There are various degrees and levels to that right but the minimum core is to know one’s origins, parentage and conditions of birth; in other words, to have access to a birth certificate as a minimum core. Ireland’s international human rights law obligations require the enactment of this legislation.

“As long as the legislation remains unenacted Ireland is vulnerable to findings by international human rights committees, such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, that we are in breach of our international human rights obligations. Far from there being a rights-based reason to not enact the law, there are rights-based reasons to go ahead and enact this law forthwith.

Equally, there is an issue of consistency internally within Irish law. Identity is strongly protected by the Children and Family Relationships Act in the context of donor-assisted human reproduction. If it is important in that context it is equally important in the context of adoption and far more people are affected. If we are to be internally consistent in our laws, this law is necessary to bring the area of adoption in line with the area of assisted human reproduction.

“If the law is to be enacted, it is important that it is done properly. I mentioned the idea of the minimum core of the right to identity being at the very least a bare minimum of access to a birth certificate.

The notion that the law would potentially qualify that bare minimum create exceptions to that is unfortunate. If there is legal advice that suggests that it is constitutionally necessary to qualify that I am not sure I would agree with that advice and I would like to see it in more detail.

“Ultimately, if one has a right which sets birth certificate as a bare minimum, not files, medical history or contact information, that is a bare minium. Any suggestion that be denied on the basis of a potential threat to safety, especially in a context where there is extensive civil law and criminal law, in particular, the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act which provides other protections in those circumstances, is not necessary.

I do not believe there is any constitutional reason or any justification for qualifying that bare minimum right of simple access to the birth certificate, balancing it, of course, in the context of contact information, that makes more sense. When it comes to the bare minimum or the birth certificate I do not believe that is necessary. Rather than defining the idea of compelling reasons, I submit that the preferable course of action for just that level of access to information would be simply to remove the qualification altogether and remove the idea to define that idea of compelling reasons.

“Finally, an issue mentioned at the earlier discussion and which I mentioned in my written submission is the issue of step-parent adoption. I will not explain all of that in detail again because we are well aware, by now, of what it involves, except to note that a commitment was given during the debate on the Children and Family Relationships Act that the issue would be dealt with in this Bill. The Bill, as drafted, does not propose to do that. There is a very simple solution available, based on the English legislation.

“A simple short miscellaneous provision, modelled on the English legislation, included in this Bill could resolve that issue. Last year, of the 112 domestic adoption orders, 74 were step-parent adoptions, so I think this is an issue which needs to be addressed. It can be addressed very easily and this Bill presents an opportunity to do that.”

Meanwhile…

A 13-page legal opinion from November 2019 on the application of the Irish Constitution and GDPR on the now lapsed adoption bill by Dr O’Mahony, solicitor Fred Logue, Dr Maeve O’Rourke, law lecturer James Gallen, law lecturer Eoin Daly, legal academic Mairead Enright, Dr Sinead Ring, solicitor Rossa McMahon and law lecturer Laura Cahillane can be read here.

On the first page, it notes how “the GDPR is supreme over all Irish law including the Constitution”.

Meanwhile…

Transcript via Kildarestreet.com

Alternatively…

Um.

Last night: If You Come Here You’ll Find No Mass Conspiracy

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone

This morning.

In the Irish Examiner.

Conall Ó Fátharta reports:

During questioning from forum [Mother and Baby Home Collaborative Forum] members, the delegation was shown an almost entirely redacted death cert the agency sent to a 69-year-old woman.

The woman was among the 126 cases of illegal birth registrations Tusla discovered in the records of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. Its records transferred to Tusla in 2016.

The certificate was for the woman’s mother, but all information apart from a doctor’s signature and cause of death was redacted by Tusla, including details of the registrar general.

As the recipient of the record had never been legally adopted, the delegation was asked what legislative basis Tusla had “to start interfering with public records”.

“I think the reason to redact all of that is to ensure that it can’t be found in the GRO [General Registration Office] because it is third-party information as per GDPR,” the Tusla representative said.

Mr Ó Fátharta also reports:

The Irish Examiner has obtained an audio recording of that meeting [between the forum and representatives of Tusla] in which a member of the delegation said the agency carries out a “risk assessment” as to the “likelihood of someone being harmed or not harmed” before it decides whether or not to release personal information to adopted people about their early lives.

….The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) has said there are around 150,000 adoption records in existence and approximately 100,000 of these are currently in the custody of Tusla or the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). Tusla has held many of the records since 2014.

Tusla censored death cert so it ‘can’t be found’ (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner)

Tusla relying on ‘flimsy grounds’ to justify redacting records and birth certs (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: “Who Are They Trying To Protect Here?”

Conflating And Confusing Privacy And Secrecy

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

From Tusla’s Quarterly Service Performance and Activity Report for the first three months of 2019

A quarterly report from Tusla – for the first three months of 2019 – states there were 699 new inquiries made to the agency’s Adoption Information and Tracing Service during that period of time.

These are inquiries made by adopted people, birth parents, adoptive parents, siblings
of adopted people and other birth relatives and people raised in long-term foster care.

The 699 figure represents a 173 per cent increase when compared to the first quarter of 2018.

The same report states there was also a rise in tracing applications made with 291 new tracing applications received by Tusla in the first quarter of this year.

In regards to the length of time people who have made an application have to wait for personal information and/or the allocation of a social worker, it varies.

Those seeking personal information under GDPR legislation have had to wait anything from six weeks to six months, when Tusla’s own target is eight weeks.

Those waiting to be allocated a social worker, as part of a priority 1 application – where a birth parent is older than 70 – have had to wait anything up to 14 months, as opposed to Tusla’s target of three months or less.

Those waiting to be allocated a social worker, as part of a priority 2 application – where the applicant has a non-life limiting medical condition and/or were previously in state care – have had to wait anything from six weeks to six months, as opposed to Tusla’s target of six months or less.

Those waiting to be allocated a social worker for all other types of applications have had to wait anything between three months and more than three years, compared to Tusla’s target of 12 months or less.

The report can be read in full here

Tusla struggles to cope with adoption record demands (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner)

Previously: Who Do You Think You Are?

Conflating And Confusing Privacy And Secrecy

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Zappone said she had listened to the concerns of adopted people and the changes, in her view, balance the right to privacy with the right to identity.

The new law, which will move to the committee stage in the Seanad today, has been delayed because of concerns about the privacy of natural or birth parents in cases where an adopted person is looking for information.

It is now proposed that the child and family agency Tusla would contact birth parents in relation to any request for information and, if they object to its release, the Adoption Authority of Ireland would make a decision.

Zappone – Adoption law giving access to records ‘a step forward’ (RTÉ)

Mairead Enright writes:

It is not at all clear how adopted people’s rights will be safeguarded by the above process, especially given Tusla’s poor history

This proposal is completely out of step with European norms. It is also a disproportionate measure which assumes adopted people are a “threat” to their natural parents’ wellbeing.

Once the new legislation is passed, the Attorney General is proposing that people adopted in future should have automatic access to their full file once they reach adulthood.

So these are discriminatory provisions affecting people adopted in the era of the laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes.

Together with proposals under the Retention of Records Bill 2019, which will seal testimonies of records of child abuse for 75 years, this legislation shows that the state is not willing to face up to the past.

If anything, this imposition of state control reinscribes the shaming and silencing mechanisms used against natural mothers under Ireland’s regime of forced (and often illegal) adoption.

People must have access, at a minimum, to their unredacted early life records *and* to their birth certs (which are already public records).

Natural mothers should also be able to access their state records.

Amendments to the Bill could also be used to establish meaningful information, matching and tracing services and an independent archive of relevant records.

There is a lot more wrong with the Bill, but the basic assumption that this category of adopted people should be quarantined in this way is highly objectionable and should be resisted.

Oh and before the AG says “but the Constitution”, there is no absolute constitutional right to anonymity. The right to privacy of natural mothers must be balanced against the right to identity.

And anyway framing this as “mothers vs adopted people” isn’t the point. Adults are capable of navigating this information regime, and the state should assist them to do so, not continue to frustrate them.

Meanwhile…