Proposed law to enable adopted people to access birth data

Legislation will extend right to original birth certificates and documentation from early life

New legislation to give adopted people access to their birth information will be published next month, the Cabinet has been told.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman received Cabinet approval on Tuesday to progress the Birth Information and Tracing Bill.

The tracing legislation was promised by Mr O’Gorman following the report by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation earlier this year.

It will, for the first time, give adopted people the right to their birth certificates with the name of their birth mother, as well as documentation from their early lives.


Mr O’Gorman wrote to survivors of mother-and-baby institutions last week to inform them he would be publishing this legislation in mid-January.

Sources confirmed last night that a provisional date for publication has been set for the second week in January.

The law is largely drafted but there will be further work on technical amendments in the coming weeks. Once that is complete, it will be published and introduced in the Oireachtas shortly thereafter.

Medical information

The proposed legislation will allow adopted people to access records related to their own identity. The information covered includes birth certificates, birth, early life, care and medical information and other items.

Last month, mother and baby home survivors called for a referendum to be held that gives a constitutional assurance that parents and children separated at birth can properly access birth information from the State.

Previous administrations have grappled with the question of balancing an individual’s right to information with another person’s right to privacy.

Former attorneys general had advised previous governments that granting an automatic right of access to documents to adopted people would be unconstitutional. And several attempts to legislate on the issue over the past 20 years have floundered.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher, however, has worked with Mr O'Gorman to formulate new legislation.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times