Almost 1,900 adopted people seek information about births

Minister for Children says repudiating mother and baby homes investigation report would have ‘huge’ unforeseen consequences

Almost 1,900 people have sought information about their births since a State service to help people who were adopted find out more about their past opened on Monday.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman told the Oireachtas joint committee on children on Tuesday that 1,898 queries had been received by the birthinfo.ie website since the service began.

The Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022 became law in June, opening previously sealed adopt records through the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the child and family agency Tusla.

Under intense questioning from committee members, Mr O’Gorman defended his response to criticism from mother and baby homes survivors about their personal testimonies being discounted or excluded from the final report of a commission of investigation into the institutions.

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Not under oath

About 500 survivors gave testimonies to a confidential committee but they did not form part of the report because they were given in private and not taken under oath. Mr O’Gorman initially considered setting up an independent review on the testimonies but later abandoned this idea.

The Minister said he believed the “most meaningful opportunity” to address the concerns of survivors was to record and preserve the personal testimonies in the National Archives.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns told Mr O’Gorman that the survivors had been treated disgracefully by a “make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach” and had been deprived of justice.

“I actually don’t understand why there isn’t any kind of shame with these inconsistencies in misleading people,” he said.

Mr O’Gorman said that there were “significant legal complexities” if the Government tried to retrospectively alter or interrogate the independent commission’s findings or methodology.

“A decision by a government to repudiate an independent commission of investigation report has huge consequences and consequences that I think are really unforeseen,” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent