Cabinet to approve move to allow adopted people rights to records

Original birth certs with names of mothers are currently withheld on privacy grounds

The Cabinet is expected to approve a move to draft legislation to give adopted people the right to access their birth certificates when it meets next week.

The information and tracing legislation, promised by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman in the wake of the mother and baby home report earlier this year, will give adopted people the right to their original birth certificates with the name of their birth mother, as well as documentation from their early lives, for the first time.

It has been campaigned for by adopted people for many years but the State has always said the existing rights to privacy of the birth mother trumped the right of the adopted people to their early life documentation.

Now the Government, relying on European data protection legislation, says it can adopt a different approach to opening up the records.

The general scheme of the Bill – or “heads” – which summarises the intention of each section, is scheduled to go to Cabinet on Tuesday. If approved, the legislation will then be drafted, and it is expected to be presented to the Oireachtas later this year.

For years, many adopted people have experienced severe difficulty in accessing their early life records and have often been granted only partial access.

However, the new legislation will take an “expansive” approach to individuals’ rights to access records relating to their early lives, it is understood.

While the legislation is said to be complex, its most important aspect is a simple one – establishing a right to access documents that was previously denied.

Previous attorneys general had advised governments that granting an automatic right of access to documents to adopted people would be unconstitutional and several attempts to legislate over the past two decades have floundered.

The present Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, however, took a different view and it is understood that the right to access has been grounded in the European data law, the GDPR.

It is also expected that the Bill will provide for State assistance for adopted people to trace their birth mothers, and a contact tracing register that could facilitate contacts.