Wednesday 22 August 2018

Charges are 'not likely' after Garda probe into adoptions

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A Garda investigation into illegal adoptions from St Patrick's Guild is unlikely to result in any prosecutions, according to sources.

Ten sample files were handed over to An Garda Síochána by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, in February.

Officers are probing whether fraud offences were committed under the adoption law when children's births were incorrectly registered.

It was revealed in recent days that 126 people who were given up for adoption were led to believe their adoptive parents were in fact their biological parents.

The cases were uncovered when Tusla was sorting through 13,500 records from St Patrick's Guild that were filed between 1946 and 1969.

While some would have discovered their true identity over the decades, as many as 79 have no idea they were adopted.

Speaking earlier this week, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said the practice of recording adoptive parents as the natural parents "was, and still is, a criminal offence".

However, sources have told the Irish Independent they have "very little expectation" that prosecutions will follow.

St Patrick's Guild was linked to the Sisters of Charity but it's understood that most, if not all, of those involved in administering adoptions in the years under review have died.

It is understood gardaí may also face difficulties associating the practice with any one individual.

While the practice of illegal adoptions was long suspected, the Government went public in relation to St Patrick's Guild after index cards were found attached to 126 files with the words "adopted from birth".

"This phrase raised suspicions", Ms Zappone said.

Asked about the investigation into the adoptions, Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin said they were "examining that at the moment, and it would be inappropriate at this juncture to comment any further".

Speaking in general terms, Mr Ó Cualáin said there would be "issues around following the chain of evidence, wherever it leads us, in the context of any historical investigation and that will be a challenge".

Identity

Meanwhile, Ms Zappone is to call a meeting with opposition parties for June 13 in a bid to reach agreement on the long-stalled Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016.

It will create for the first time a statutory right for adopted persons and persons who have been subject to incorrect birth registration access to their birth and other information about their background. Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the Dáil it was hoped to have the bill enacted by the end of the year.

He said Ms Zappone was "very anxious" to talk to other political parties, saying its passage had not been stymied by the Government side.

Former Labour Party leader Joan Burton, who is herself an adoptee, said it was a "human right" for people to be given access to the information about their identity.

Irish Independent

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