Taoiseach should offer State apology for illegal birth registrations, says Rapporteur

Long-suspected practice of illegal birth registration was confirmed by Tusla in 2018

The Government appointed Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Prof Conor O’Mahony has said that the Taoiseach should offer an apology to people affected by illegal birth registrations.

Prof O’Mahony’s comment follows an apology by the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, on behalf of the Government in the Seanad on Tuesday evening. Mr O’Gorman said what had happened “was a historic wrong with deep and enduring impacts”.

His remarks came ahead of a debate on the Birth and Information Tracing Bill 2022 – the proposed legislation to allow adopted people access to their birth records.

Illegal birth registrations happen when a birth certificate is falsified to register a child as having been born to his or her adoptive parents.

Mr O’Gorman said that in 2018, the long-suspected practice of illegal birth registration, was confirmed by Tusla after it found documentary evidence of specific cases of illegal birth registration in St Patrick’s Guild.

It was estimated that 5,500-20,000 files may have “markers” that could indicate an improper registration within the wider State archives, consisting of about 100,000 records.

The 24 hours notice of the apology had been "less than ideal" Prof O'Mahony told RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland. While the idea of an apology was good, the short notice was unfortunate as people wanted an opportunity to prepare and to attend.

Some felt that the apology in the Seanad was a “lesser form of apology” and was not of the same stature of previous apologies by the State which had been delivered by the Taoiseach in the Dáil, he said.

Prof O’Mahony said that the people involved had experienced wrong doing for a long time. Illegal birth registrations could take a variety of shapes and forms and people who felt that their birth may have been illegally registered should have an opportunity to pursue the matter.

DNA had an important role to play in filling in the gaps of evidence, he said. Prof O’Mahony said he was in favour of court orders compelling family members to provide DNA evidence, but the Government did not accept that.

When asked why a one off payment of €3,000 had been agreed for people registered at St Patrick’s Guild, he said that cases at St Patrick’s Guild had been confirmed, and he felt that the scheme should be extended and made available to all on an equal basis.