Sunday 18 March 2018

Illegally-adopted woman slams ‘waste of money’ legislation

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

A WOMAN illegally adopted almost 60 years ago has accused the Government of not going far enough to help her and thousands of others.

Theresa Tinggal fears new legislation will do little to assist ageing men and women who want to discover who they are or learn their family medical history.

The 58-year-old said Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald must include illegal adoptions under proposed laws on information and tracing and set up an inquiry so those records can be collected.

"If that (legislation) doesn't include all adoptees it's a waste of money and time to deliver it," said Mrs Tinggal, founder of support group Adopted Illegally Ireland.

"This has been going on several years now. Nothing has been done

"I feel we are being fobbed off the whole time."

Campaigners believe at least 2,000 babies - but possibly tens of thousands - were illegally registered as the natural children of adoptive parents over decades.

The minister has previously rejected calls for an independent inquiry so a dedicated team could look for hidden files that will uncover the extent of the scandal.

While thousands of births were in private nursing homes and not State run institutions, Mrs Tinggal maintains records would have been held by former Dublin Archbishop John McQuaid to ensure siblings never married.

Her records surfaced two years ago when the family member of a former nurse discovered a book of 1,000 births in the attic of a former nursing home, which opened six years after she was born. Her adoptive parents were listed as her birth parents.

She called for anyone who finds birth records in their homes to hand them over to authorities.

Elsewhere approximately 25,000 files have been transferred to the HSE Regional Adoption Service in Cork from the Sacred Heart Adoption Society, which had responsibility for three mother and baby homes.

The minister has admitted there has been "very significant demand to access these files", but that the service has not been able to respond as quickly as would have been hoped.

Mrs Tinggal said while authorities in Spain and Australia have investigated and apologised to people who were illegally adopted, Ireland still will not acknowledge it took place.

"I think they are afraid of opening a can of worms," she added.

Mrs Tinggal, who lives in Bournemouth in England, only discovered she was adopted 11 years ago.

Her campaign is backed by United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly, who claimed it was the next big scandal in Irish history.

"I think it's one of these horror stories, unfinished business, of Ireland in the past," she said.

Paul Redmond, of Adoption Rights Now, said more than 100,000 people have been adopted since the foundation of the state, with 60,000 still alive.

"Of all the Catholic institutions in this country - the industrial schools, Magdalene laundries and everywhere else - the mother and baby homes are the last dirty little secret from Catholic Ireland and in my opinion the worst," he said.

"Three Sacred Heart homes have three graveyards which were corners of fields on consecrated ground and there's somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 babies in those angels plots.

"That gives some idea of the scale of this thing."

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, who met Mrs Tinggal this week, said she empathises with those who lives have been affected by illegal adoptions and the illegal registration of births which have left no personal records and information.

"Efforts have been made by the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the HSE, within their legal remit, to facilitate the investigations individuals are undertaking in endeavouring to establish medical and/or identifying information about themselves and facilitating access to the national contact preference register," said Ms Fitzgerald.

The minister revealed an interagency meeting has already been held involving the General Registry Office, Adoption Authority, HSE and her department to examine legislative and administrative options in relation to accessing records which may exist.

"I am also examining provisions in this regard in the forthcoming Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill," she added.

"I have recently received further legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General in regard to complex legal and constitutional issues which have arisen during the course of drafting the Heads of Bill.

"These issues are currently under consideration in my department."

Press Association

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