Adoptees and parents urged to register contact preferences as ‘historic’ legislation enacted

Birth Information and Tracing Act provides access to birth and personal information

The process of enabling adoptees’ access to birth certificates and other personal information has begun after new legislation was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman on Friday commenced the first suite of provisions in the Birth Information and Tracing Act.

The legislation has been hailed as “historic” by politicians, as it provides for full access to birth information, early life care and medical information for any person who was adopted, boarded out, had their birth illegally registered, or who otherwise has questions in relation to their origins.

The steps taken by the Minister on Friday mean a new contact preference register has been established and is open to applications.

It will allow people to state whether or not they want to make contact with relatives, as well as their preferences regarding the sharing and receiving of information.

Under the Act, the register must be open for a minimum period of three months before applications for birth certificates and related birth information will be accepted. The information and tracing services will commence from October.

When records are released, only contact preferences recorded on the register at that point in time can be released. However, contact preferences can still be registered at a later date.

The register will be facilitated by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI), which currently has responsibility for the national adoption contact preference register.

Mr O’Gorman said he has spoken to many people affected by the legislation, and they have told him about the impact the lack of access to fundamental information about their own identity has had on them.

“I sincerely hope that this historic law finally provides the answers that so many people have sought for so long,” he said.

Patricia Carey, AAI chief executive, called on adoptees and parents to record their preferences in relation to contact with others and the sharing and receiving of information.

Tusla described it as a “momentous day” for many people affected by adoption.

Maree Ryan O’Brien, of adoptee identity rights advocacy group Aitheantas, said the new law is progress but is “not what we hoped for”.

“We were strongly opposed to Tusla and AAI being involved, which is an issue we raised numerous times. Our aim was to have a new agency, so that everything would be centralised,” she added.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times