Up to 20,000 adoption files could relate to irregular birth registrations – report

Phrases or ‘markers’ found in sample files that could indicate ‘suspicious practice’

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has asked the special rapporteur on child protection to consider the complexities and ethical issues that have now arisen and to propose an appropriate course of action. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has asked the special rapporteur on child protection to consider the complexities and ethical issues that have now arisen and to propose an appropriate course of action. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A review into the prevalence of illegal adoptions in Ireland has found that up to 20,000 files could potentially relate to irregular birth registrations.

The review team examined 1,496 records from 25 adoption agencies and found that there were specific phrases called “markers”, or language that could indicate an improper registration or a “suspicious practice” on 267 records – nearly 18 percent of files.

Based on the prevalence of these “markers” within this sample, the review estimates that between around 5,500 and up to 20,000 files may have similar indicators within the wider State archives, consisting of about 100,000 records.

Both the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and Tusla warned they had found limited direct evidence of further illegal adoptions, with AAI saying its search for indicators of incorrect registrations “did not yield any meaningful information”.

Further analysis

However, while the review has stopped short of recommending a full inquiry into the files, it does call for further analysis. It also said that an absence of clear evidence of incorrect registration does not mean “that the markers or wording suggestive of markers, or suspicious terminology identified on the records examined, can be ignored”. It said a significant number of records may have information which could “indicate a potential for illegality in relation to the registrations of births”.

“The potential for illegality cannot be dismissed in these cases,” it found.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has asked the special rapporteur on child protection to consider the complexities and ethical issues that have now arisen and to propose an appropriate course of action in terms of any further investigations within the next six months.

The report, which was considered by Cabinet on Tuesday, found that a more detailed analysis of the relevant records could “serve to either remove any suspicion of wrongdoing in these cases or confirm that incorrect or illegal birth registrations occurred in a number of instances”.

Birth certificates

The Government also decided that it will not oppose a Sinn Féin Bill which will be tabled in the Dáil on Wednesday to give adopted people a right of access to their birth certificates.

Ministers considered the Sinn Féin Bill at the Cabinet meeting and resolved to allow the Private Members’ Bill to proceed though the legislative process, rather than use the Government’s majority to vote it down this week.

Although the Sinn Féin Bill is likely to be overtaken when the Government’s more comprehensive legislation is brought forward in the coming weeks, the spokesman said there was “no compelling reason to prevent it from being considered by deputies”.