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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Joan Burton opens up on her own adoption in light of the Tuam baby scandal

Comments mark first time she has spoken publicly about her adoption since news of the Tuam baby scandal emerged

Joan Burton. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Joan Burton. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Joan Burton is standing for the Labour party leadership. Photo: Damien Eagers
Ailish O'Hora

Ailish O'Hora

LABOUR Party leader candidate Joan Burton said today that adoptees, like herself, should be given access to their birth certificates.

She was speaking on Newstalk's Breakfast programme, in a debate in light of the emergence of an inquiry into religious-run mother-and-baby homes and following disclosure of high mortality rates and questions over burial practices in the Bon Secour home in Tuam, Co Galway which was closed down just over 50 years ago.

"That legislation has existed in Scotland for decades, and in the UK. I think there has been a enormous amount of work done on it and there are different points of view."

"One is that the issue can be addressed legally and the other that a constiitutional referendum is required."

"Some people who have been adopted who wish to trace and some don't and you have to have this in mind, this has to be respected."

The comments marked the first time she had spoken publicly about her adoption since news of the Tuam baby scandal emerged.

The Social Protection Minister was put up for adoption three months after her birth and only managed to track down her family heritage years after her mother had passed away.

Ms Burton was born in Co Carlow to an unmarried woman in 1949 and was taken to Temple Hill Mother and Baby Home in Blackrock three months later.

She stayed there until she was fostered by Bridie and John Burton, from Rialto, and was then adopted. As an adult she decided to seek information on her birth mother and make contact ahead of her marriage.

"I have a personal interest in all of this, as a child I was adopted and the matters are of a very significant concern to me, as well as of political concern.

She added that when one looks at the kind of work done by Mary Raftery with 'States of Fear' you seen that this is part of a whole evolving picture of what happened to our children after Independence which essentially which was a kind of clerical control which, in turn, had social support from the wider community, and we also have to ask ourselves questions.

"What we want is children who are loved, children who are properly cared for and their parents are treated with respect. What we had in Ireland 40 or 50 years ago was a society which was utterly clerically dominated by a very puritanical form of christianity which was, basically if women had sex outside of marriage and if they became pregnant then that pregnancy was a cause of shame for the church authorities but more particularly as well to their families and their communities."

"I welcome that we're now going to have an inquiry, this is a personal view as well, that the format of a commission of inquiry that will allow for a structure which a number of issues will be addressed.

She added that 50,000 children in Ireland have been adopted since the introduction of adoption law and those children.

"Most of them if not  all of them went to loving, caring homes, and I think it's important that we think of the mothers that gave birth to the children and their fathers, which we rarely hear about."

Ms Burton is vying for the leadership of the Labour Party alongside rival Alex White.


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