Illegal adoptions another Irish ‘horror story’

New laws urged to tackle ‘industrial scale identity theft’

The Government was urged today to urgently legislate to address the “industrial scale identity theft” of thousands of people illegally adopted over decades in what was described as another Irish “horror story”

Organisations representing illegal adoptees accused Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald of "fobbing" them off when it came to addressing the issue and said her promise of new 'search and trace' laws in 2014 was unacceptably late.

At a press conference in Dublin today, the groups called for an independent public inquiry into the issue of illegal adoptions, a new contact register and a counselling service catering for illegal adoptees.

Theresa Tinggal of Adopted Illegally Ireland and Paul Redmond of Adoption Rights Now also appealed to anyone who may have information about illegal adoptions to come forward with that.


Independent TD Claire Daly said the issue of illegal adoptees was “another horror story” illustrating more “unfinished business” of a past Ireland. “Mother and baby homes are the last and worst secret of Catholic Ireland,” she added.

Ms Tinggal (59), who only learned of her adoption 11 years ago after a chance remark by an uncle, said she was disappointed with the outcome of a meeting with the Minister for Children and felt “ fobbed” off.

She said proposed new laws must be adequate to ensure illegal adoptees can establish their identities and urged the Minister to introduce them earlier than 2014.

Since she went public about the issue of illegal adoptions, she had been contacted by 1,302 others. Given the number of mother and baby homes, both she and Mr Redmond said they estimated thousands of people were illegally adopted long after the 1952 Adoption Act outlawed that. “Most people are not interested in prosecutions,” she said. “They just want to find out who they are.”

Mr Redmond said: “Identity theft in this country is on an industrial scale and the Government is doing nothing about it.” The failure to act breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments entitling people to know their true identities, he added.

He called for the Government to legislate for files held by church organisations to beopened up so illegally adopted people could discover their identities.

The true names of many illegal adoptees were held at the Catholic Archbishop’s house in Dublin and should be made available, he added.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times