Apology over illegal birth registrations 'missed the elephant in the room'

Minister Roderic O'Gorman said he recognised nothing can undo the past
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.51 11 May 2022

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Apology over illegal birth reg...

Apology over illegal birth registrations 'missed the elephant in the room'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.51 11 May 2022

Share this article

A formal apology to people impacted by illegal birth registrations missed the elephant in the room entirely, according to the Adoption Rights Alliance.

On Tuesday, Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman offered a formal apology on behalf of the Government to people impacted by illegal birth registrations.

Speaking in the Seanad, he offered the apology directly as minister primarily responsible for the whole of Government response to the issue of illegal birth registrations.


But Minister O'Gorman said he recognised that nothing can fully right the wrongs.

"Since becoming Minister, I have engaged extensively with people whose births were illegally registered and I believe that these measures - while overdue - will make significant progress towards addressing the practical challenges and difficulties arising for affected individuals.

"However, nothing in these measures can undo the past and fully right the wrongs that these people have experienced.

"I deeply regret the pain and distress that this has caused and, again, I offer my sincere apology as a Minister of the Government, and on behalf of Government, for this."

Susan Lohan, co-founder Adoption Rights Alliance, told Newstalk Breakfast the apology missed the mark for a number of reasons.

"He failed, I think, to grasp the enormity of the State's inaction on all of this.

"And there was far too much reference, we felt, to correcting the official record.

"He referred to how children had been deprived of their right to an accurate birth registration: that's missing the elephant in the room entirely.

"They were deprived of the love and nurture and knowledge of their own family of origin - that's really what matters to people.

"And it's what the Government is going to do to redress that whole issue.

"And frankly the notion of putting forward Tusla as some sort of white warrior is not going to cut the mustard.

"The HSE - from which they are derived - have proven themselves inherently disinterested, under-resourced, under-skilled, unsuitable to manage any sort of professional tracing or information system".

'A lot of things unsaid'

She says she feels the delivery and venue was wrong.

"I thought it was very disappointing - apart from the total unsuitability of the venue, and the fact that it was Minister delivering the apology rather than the Taoiseach.

"And he didn't seem to know what he was he apologising for.

"He left a lot of things unsaid; there was a lot of dissembling.

"There was a pretence that 'The Government only became aware of these issues due to the recent publication of three reports'.

"Successive governments have known about the scandal of illegal adoptions for many decades".

And she believes the language was wrong, as it was not a State apology.

"I do wonder, actually, if the wording of that isn't rather deliberate.

"Normally we're used to hearing 'I apolgise on behalf of the State' - I think this is deliberately somewhat downgraded.

"But he doesn't refer to the fact that those who were knowingly involved in the illegal registration of births.

"That extends to the State regulatory body for adoption - i.e. now the Adoption Authority, historically the Adoption Board - who had regulatory and monitoring responsibility for private adoption agencies".

Minister O'Gorman told Senators the Birth Information and Tracing Bill had been amended, and now addresses "many of the issues" impacting directly on people affected.

He is also finalising a payment towards legal costs associated with - for example - a declaration of parentage.

He said he will establish a payment scheme to make once-off payments of €3,000 to those affected by confirmed illegal birth registration in the files of St Patrick's Guild.

These payments will be a contribution towards costs which may arise in relation to DNA testing or legal fees.

Apology over illegal birth registrations 'missed the elephant in the room'

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Main image: Composite image shows Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman speaking to media ahead of a Cabinet meeting in April 2022, and Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels in September 2014. Picture by: Leah Farrell/

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Adoption Rights Alliance Apology Elephant In The Room Illegal Birth Registrations Newstalk Breakfast Roderic O'Gorman Seanad

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