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Number of mums tracing adopted children soars after 'Philomena'


Dame Judi Dench and Philomena Lee attend a screening of ‘Philomena’ at the Odeon Cinema in London in October 2013.

Dame Judi Dench and Philomena Lee attend a screening of ‘Philomena’ at the Odeon Cinema in London in October 2013.

Dame Judi Dench and Philomena Lee attend a screening of ‘Philomena’ at the Odeon Cinema in London in October 2013.

The number of people who are putting their names on an adoption contact register to retrace a birth mother or child has soared in the wake of publicity generated by the film 'Philomena' and the Tuam babies controversy.

The register is open to a birth mother or adopted child to put their name on it saying they would be interested in meeting or getting medical information.

The register is operated by the Adoption Authority of Ireland since 2005 and it has arranged 700 matches after the parent and child put their names down seeking contact.

Kieran Gildea, acting registrar of the Adoption Authority, said the rise was mainly due to the film 'Philomena' which told the story of Philomena Lee who was sent to the convent of Roscrea after falling pregnant.

When her baby was a toddler he was taken to America for adoption. Philomena, who is played by Judi Dench in the film, spent the next 50 years searching for him.

He had also been searching for her but tragically he died before the pair got to meet.

"We are now two to three times above the normal number of inquiries," said Mr Gildea.

"In June there were 183 inquiries and 88 of these were applications to go on the register. This compared to June of last year when we got 61 inquiries and 31 applications."

However, the rise means that while the agency could previously process an application in two to three days it is now taking three to four weeks.

The authority is under pressure due to staff shortages and must give priority to statutory elements of its work. The register is voluntary and non-statutory.

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No efforts to secure a match can be made unless parent and child are registered.

"The child may have a request for medical information only. If the birth mother wants a meeting and the child does not you have to mediate so that the mother is not totally devastated to such a degree she won't even release the medical information," said Mr Gildea.

"The child may only want medical information now and a meeting in two to three years."

The number of enquiries started to rise when the film was released – and jumped even further thanks to the publicity over the Tuam mother and babies home.


Meanwhile, following a fall in the number of children adopted here from abroad in recent years, efforts are ongoing to secure a bilateral agreement on adoption between Ireland and the Russian Federation.

Following a meeting with a delegation of Russian officials in October 2013 the Department of Children and Youth Affairs prepared revised draft wording on a number of specific points.

This was forwarded to the Russian Authorities in February 2014. In transmitting these revisions it was suggested that should these revisions be acceptable to the Russian Federation, it would be useful for both sides to meet again for further discussions.

The Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation has advised the Irish Embassy in Moscow that all proposed adoption agreements are on hold. The Russian government is considering proposals in relation to how they deal with adoption in general.

It is understood that the Russian Federation's Supreme Court recently made recommendations regarding adoption agreements and these are being considered by the Russian Government. It is hoped that following the Russian Government's consideration of these matters they will be in a position to examine and respond to the Irish proposals.

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