Archbishop was against proposed Adoption Bill


Proposals to introduce an Adoption Bill in 1945 were dropped following the disapproval of the then Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Charles McQuaid, of the idea.

A letter from the Department of Justice, dated June 11th, 1945, to the Attorney General, Mr Kevin Dixon, outlined how the Department had approached Dr McQuaid to ask whether he would have any objection to an Adoption Bill on the lines of the British Act, "but containing a provision prohibiting the Court from making an adoption order in any case where it is not proved . . . that the religion of the adopter and the . . . child are the same".

Dr McQuaid, said the letter-writer, did not feel "such a Bill would provide satisfactory safeguards".

"We deduced from the general tone of his reply that he was not in favour of any legislation on the subject," said the letter. "In the circumstances, the Minister decided to drop the full adoption proposals."

A campaign to introduce a legislative basis to adoptions rumbled on through the 1940s and early 1950s and saw the founding of the Adoption Society (Eire). It sought legal adoption to ensure adopted children could use the adopted family's surname, adopted children would have a birth certificate which did not show them to have been illegitimate, and adopted children would have the same legal and citizenship rights as non-adopted children.

Others, including the church, believed children's religious welfare would be undermined by State intervention in the adoption process.

The Irish Times came in for vitriolic attack for the line it took in favouring legal adoptions. At the inaugural debate of the Law Students' Debating Society, at King's Inns, on February 13th, 1951, the Attorney General, Mr Charles Casey, spoke against legal adoptions.

Describing it as a "bitterly anti-Catholic paper", he said The Irish Times had criticised the Minister for Justice, Gen MacEoin, for saying the law as it stood gave ample protection to people who had adopted children.

"Perhaps The Irish Times may be forgiven for not knowing the law," said Mr Casey, going on to attack the newspaper's editorial line three more times.

He sent a copy of this speech, before delivering it, to Dr McQuaid. The Adoption Act was passed in early 1952.