Incredible claim by @rodericogorman that adopted people may not want their medical information because there’s “something about their history they don’t want to know” as a reason for turning down one of @HollyCairnsTD’s amendments pic.twitter.com/MIwK2lFYnb
— Stephen Doyle (@dubsoulrebel) April 27, 2022
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.”
And there you have it. I had a physical reaction to this. Sick. I wonder how many of them hadn’t a clue what they were voting on. #InfoBill #MotherAndBabyHomes #MyRecordsMyRight pic.twitter.com/M4OlciI9gz
— Thérèse (@teabiccy) April 27, 2022