Zappone to brief advocacy groups on Adoption Tracing Bill

Minister says legislation raises complex issues in relation to identity and privacy

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is to meet advocacy groups to brief them on her Adoption Tracing Bill. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/ The Irish Times

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is to meet advocacy groups to brief them on her Adoption Tracing Bill. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/ The Irish Times

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone is to hold meetings with advocacy groups this week to brief them on legal issues arising from her adoption Bill.

Ms Zappone said she would also brief the organisations on the issue of incorrect birth registrations.

The Minister revealed last month that up to 126 people whose births were incorrectly registered between 1946 and 1969 were to learn that their parents were not their birth parents.

The incorrect registrations were uncovered in an analysis of the records of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption society.

The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 will create for the first time a statutory right for adopted persons and those who have been the subject of an incorrect birth registration to information, including birth certificate information.

It has passed second stage in the Seanad and is awaiting committee stage.

Complex questions

Ms Zappone said, however, that the Bill raised “complex questions of constitutional law as it has implications for the rights to identity and privacy which sometimes may be in conflict with one another”.

She said there were a number of substantive issues still to be addressed prior to committee stage, including compelling reasons as to why birth mother information should not be released, and the introduction of an undertaking/ statutory duty for all persons involved to commit to not contacting other parties.

Ms Zappone said she was “acutely aware that people are waiting to receive information that is key to their identity”.

“During the second stage of the Bill in the Seanad on May 17th 2017, many Senators spoke in favour of unfettered access to birth certificates for adopted persons. I personally support this stance,” she said.

“Approval from the Attorney General, however, is necessary to ensure that the Bill is constitutionally sound.”

She said the Bill sought “to respect the rights to identity and privacy, which sometimes conflict with one another”.

Ms Zappone said that given the constitutional context, “striking the balance between these rights is proving challenging”.

She said she would continue to engage with the advocacy groups, with her colleagues in the Dáil and Seanad, and with the Attorney General’s office.

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