Connolly presses for unconditional access for adoptees to their birth certs

Independent TD says obstacles are not about mothers but protecting system

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said she gets ‘nauseous when people talk about protecting mothers because we’re not protecting mothers, we’re protecting a system that doesn’t want anything to come out’. Photograph: Alan Betson

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said she gets ‘nauseous when people talk about protecting mothers because we’re not protecting mothers, we’re protecting a system that doesn’t want anything to come out’. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Adopted persons should have unconditional access to their birth certificates and adoption information, Independent TD Catherine Connolly has said.

She was speaking as she introduced the Adoption (Information) Bill in the Dáil to give adoptees automatic right to their birth certificates. It is the latest in a series of Bills which aim to give such rights to adopted people.

Ms Connolly referred to law around the rights of mothers not to be identified. She said she gets “nauseous when people talk about protecting mothers because we’re not protecting mothers, we’re protecting a system that doesn’t want anything to come out”.

And she pointed to a report commissioned by the former minister for children Katherine Zappone on incorrect birth registrations.

It was completed in 2019 but only published earlier this year and never debated in the Dáil. The report found that what those responsible for creating incorrect birth records had done to conceal their actions “is, was and remains a criminal offence”.

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman said the Government would not oppose the legislation but Ms Connolly hoped that did not mean “killing the Bill by another method” but that he would go further and accept it.

Mr O’Gorman signalled however that he would prioritise a Government Bill, currently under pre-legislative scrutiny, when he said “I believe we can and we must achieve more than what this Bill proposes”.

He said consideration would be needed on how the Independents’ Bill would impact “the range of complex legal issues which have been flagged in the past during previous attempts to legislate for a right of access”.

He added that the Government’s proposed legislation contained an “integrated set of necessary proposals to provide for access to information. It provides the crucial access to a full and unredacted birth certificate, but it goes far beyond this.”

“The Government Bill will address a set of long-standing legal arguments which have served to prevent a right of access by adoptees in the past. Furthermore, they will provide for a right of access not only to adoptees but also for boarded out persons and those whose birth was illegally registered.

However, Independent TD Thomas Pringle who co-sponsored the Bill with Ms Connolly said that adoptees “have waited long enough for this basic right”.

He said they should have complete and untampered access to their birth certificates and adoption information without having to “ask, never mind beg and plead” for their own records.

Irish adoptees under current law cannot obtain their birth certificate without a court order or an order of the Adoption Authority.

The Donegal TD pointed out that under the 2004 Act, all born in the state have a right to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate on application to the Chief Registrar.

“Despite this, we continue to discriminate against adopted persons who have no entitlements to access their birth certificate or their adoption records.”

He asked “how much longer must we continue let these people down” and “how can we justify continuously ask them to fight this fight when they have already been through so much? “These people deserve support and solidarity, not obstacle after obstacle.”

Mr Pringle added that adoptees were entitled to “complete, untampered, unredacted, unconditional access” to their birth certificates and adoption information.