Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.21 12 May 2021


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New legislation, to give adoptees access to their early life documents, makes a clear distinction between access to information and contact of birth parents.

That is according to the Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman, who is bringing the proposed Birth Information and Tracing legislation before Government.

The changes, if brought into law, would give adopted people the right to their original birth certificate and early life documents.

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The legislation will likely change the long-standing situation where the right to privacy of the birth mother took precedence over the rights of the adopted person.

Minister O'Gorman told Newstalk Breakfast it is about a balance.

"What we're seeking to do there is balance a right to know your identity, to know your origins - a basic human need, which I think we all accept and recognise  - with that right to privacy.

"In doing so we've tried to make a clear distinction between access to information and contact.

"So whereas we say adopted people have a right to the information about their origins, we are putting in place a system where the natural mother clearly identifies that she doesn't want contact with the adopted person - we're putting in place an information meeting, where that clear preference is conveyed to the adopted person.

"The other thing we're doing [is] we are putting in place counselling supports for natural parents".

'Structured, mature conversation'

And Minister O'Gorman said he believes this structure is the correct one, and would be against any sanctions on adoptees who may break the rules.

"I don't want to go down the route of sanctioning, I don't think that's the right way to go.

"I think the right way to go is have that structured, mature conversation with the adopted person - making it clear that they will get full access to all their records, full access to all their information.

"But also just explaining that real importance of adhering to the preference for their natural parents for no contact.

"Certainly the vast majority of adopted people who I've spoken to are very conscious that they don't know the circumstances that their natural parent is in - and don't want to exacerbate any hurt that was done to them years ago".

Statutory tracing service

He said the bill would also see the introduction of a statutory tracing service.

"This bill will - for the first time - enshrine in Irish law, a right of access to birth certificates, to birth information and to early life information.

"That right will be given to people who've been adopted, people who were boarded out or people who were subject to an illegal birth registration.

"And as well as providing those rights to information, the legislation will also provide a statutory tracing service to enable families reunite after many years."

He said the system will also have a statutory contact preference register, as well as protecting records held by State, public and private bodies.

"It will be an offence to destroy or tamper with any records relevant to adoption or care", Minister O'Gorman explained.

Asked if it would be an offence for documentation that has been retrospectively altered, he said: "That is already an offence.

"Those who were subject to illegal birth registration - and I brought forward proposals to address the issue - those who were impacted by the illegal birth registration by St Patrick's Guild, what happened there was already an offence.

"But this is the more general tempering or destruction of documents related to adoption and care".

Adoption legislation has 'clear distinction between access to information and contact' - O'Gorman

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Main image: Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman publishes proposed Birth Information and Tracing legislation at Government Buildings in Dublin. Picture by: RollingNews.ie / Julien Behal Photography

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Adoption Rights Birth Information And Tracing Legislation Early Life Documents Original Birth Certificate Roderic O'Gorman

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