Monday 18 November 2019

'Let adopted children know names of parents' - Burton

Tánaiste Joan Burton
Tánaiste Joan Burton

Daniel McConnell

Tánaiste Joan Burton has said she supports the rights of adopted children to have access to the identities of their birth parents. Addressing the Burren Law School last night, Ms Burton, who is an adopted child, said she would like to see pending Government legislation in this area named after Philomena Lee, whose story was made into a box-office smash film.

"For a very long time, the argument has been accepted that the birth mother's right to privacy is absolute and the child has no right to know who his or her birth mother is or was. Having thought about this, I am convinced that we should no longer accept this proposition," she said.

"I do accept that the child's right to information must be balanced against the birth mother's right to privacy, and striking that balance is sensitive and legally difficult. That said, I am convinced that we must deal with this issue and I expect that this Government will legislate before the end of this term," she added.

"We could perhaps tag it as 'Philomena's Law' in honour of the remarkable efforts of Philomena Lee to promote this issue through the book and film she made with journalist Martin Sixsmith," Ms Burton said.

The Labour leader said that the entire process of adoption in Ireland has for many years, "happened very much in the shadows".

"For decades after the establishment of the State, there was little or no regulation of adoption," she said. "Children were put up for adoption, often against the will of the mother, usually under the auspices of religious bodies, without legal protection for them or their adoptive parents."

"The birth mother was told that her identity would be kept secret and would never be disclosed to her child, or anyone else. In recent years, there has been a marked change of view on this question," she said.

"In my view, it is an essential part of a child's identity that they should be entitled to know who their mother is. Children have a right to their identity," Ms Burton added.

Sunday Independent

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