Thursday 23 March 2017

New law will give adopted people access to birth certs

John Downing

John Downing

Averil Power
Averil Power

Campaigners for adopted people's right to know their identity have welcomed a legal change, which is expected to be cleared by the Government tomorrow.

Labour TD Anne Ferris and Independent Senator Averil Power welcomed the move, which will enable adopted people to have access to their birth certificates.

The draft law is also expected to help parents and children make contact with one another - but protections will be put in place to protect the privacy of people who do not want to be contacted.

Ms Power was herself adopted and she drafted legislation which was accepted in principle by the Government in the Seanad last year.

Precisely a year ago, Ms Ferris made a very moving Dáil speech, recounting her own story as an adopted person who, as a teenager, gave up a child herself for adoption.

The Wicklow TD warmly welcomed the draft law and said she was sure it would be enacted before the general election.

"I believe the draft legislation is there and it will be put before the Oireachtas soon after the end of the recess in September," she said.

Government officials confirmed last night that the new bill is expected to be cleared by the Cabinet at a special meeting in Lissadell, Co Sligo tomorrow.

The child and family agency, Tusla, is expected to be charged with overseeing the operation of the new scheme, although many of the details have yet to be finalised.

Ms Power said it was a great shame that it took so long for the change in the law, as adopted people in Britain have had this right for some 40 years. She said the primary issue was the right to identity and also to be informed of medical history.

Ms Power said parents who gave up their children for adoption were often keen to meet up with those children years later.

However, she added: "In some cases, people won't wish to have contact and that has to be respected. We need to be sensitive to people's needs."

Under current procedures, adoptees have no right to their birth certificate, which lists their original parents' names. This is due to various legal obstacles, including the right to privacy under the Constitution.

The new Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill will provide for a statutory declaration to be signed by the adopted person seeking the information that they will respect their birth parents' wishes about contact. It is not clear what penalty would be applied if this obligation was breached.

But Ms Power argued that in practice this was unlikely to be a big issue in the future.

She said the retrospective aspect of the legislation was important, as it would extend to some 50,000 adopted people in Ireland.

She also said that advice and support must be made available to people involved in this delicate situation.

Irish Independent

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