Taoiseach ‘more than willing’ to offer State apology for illegal birth registrations

Campaigners express disappointment at apology made in Seanad by Minister for Children

The Taoiseach has said he is “more than willing” to offer a State apology in the Dáil to people who had their births registered illegally.

It comes after adoption campaigners and politicians expressed disappointment that a Government apology for the practice was made in the Seanad by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman with just a day’s notice.

Mr O’Gorman’s apology was made on Tuesday ahead of a debate on the Birth and Information Tracing Bill 2022 – the proposed legislation to allow adopted people access to their birth records.

He said illegal birth registrations are a “historic wrong with deep and enduring impacts” and those who knowingly did it “committed a grave offence”.

He added: “I can only imagine the deep hurt and anguish that people must have experienced on learning of their illegal birth registration ... For this I am truly sorry and I apologise on behalf of the Government.”

Campaigner groups like Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and In It Together – Who Am I? criticised how the apology was made in the Seanad and called Mr Martin to issue a State apology in the Dáil.

On Wednesday, Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said there is “considerable disappointment” at the Seanad apology.

He asked Mr Martin: “Will you do the right thing and will you with proper notice give this apology on behalf of the State in the Dáil?”

The Taoiseach said Mr O’Gorman has led “a lot of very important work” on the Birth and Information Tracing Bill and the Government “felt it was appropriate that in that context that an apology would be made on the behalf of the Government by the Minister.”

He added: “That said, I’ve heard what survivor groups and victims have said.

“Of course I’m more than willing to do this and will engage now with the Minister and also with other groups, in terms of timing and how that would be done.”

‘Shocking’

Mr Martin said that the illegal registration of births was “shocking” and it amounted to “depriving people of their basic right to identity, and also consequential access to all information pertaining to their records.”

He issues relating to the access of birth records have “gone on for decades” and he welcomed the new legislation saying it will give a “comprehensive, unprecedented level of access.”

In 2018 a sampling review of adoption files revealed that 126 births in 1946-1969 had been falsely registered with the names of the adoptive parents incorrectly recorded as the birth parents.

The errors were disclosed when Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, investigated files marked "adopted from birth" held at former adoption society, St Patrick's Guild.

Tusla later said it found more cases of this on St Patrick’s Guild files, bringing the total to 151.

A later sampling review of just under 1,500 documents from 25 adoption agencies found language in the files that could indicate an improper registration.

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

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

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