Probe of illegal adoptions to identify extent of scandal
A preliminary probe into illegal adoptions has been tasked with finding "sufficient reliable evidence" of the practice ahead of a possible wider investigation of the scandal.
Marion Reynolds, a former deputy director of social services in Northern Ireland, has until mid-October to deliver a report on the latest controversy from Ireland's past, under the terms of reference for her examination published last night.
In recent days, it was revealed 126 people given up for adoption were led to believe their adoptive parents were in fact their biological parents.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, uncovered the cases during a trawl of records from the former St Patrick's Guild adoption agency that date from the years 1946 to 1969.
While some people would have discovered their true identity over the decades,up to 79 have no idea they were adopted.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone published the terms of reference of Ms Reynold's initial investigation, which will involve examination of a sample of tens of thousands of adoption files.
Tusla was able to identify the cases from the St Patrick's Guild files due to a marker placed on them specifying the child was "adopted from birth".
The terms of reference says Ms Zappone wants an investigation into whether there is "sufficient reliable evidence" that can be extracted from other adoption agencies.
Ms Reynolds's analysis will be a sampling exercise.
It's estimated that Tusla alone has 70,000 records from former adoption societies; the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) holds 30,000 relevant records; and other existing and former agencies have a further 50,000 records - around 150,000 in total.
The sampling exercise is designed to help the minister in deciding what action might be taken to identify more fully the scale of incorrect birth registrations.
It is to reach a conclusion on whether "key identifiers or markers" signalling incorrect birth registrations in other adoption cases, exist.
Ms Reynolds is to agree a procedure with Tusla and the AAI over how the initial probe will work within two weeks.
She is to make recommendations to the minister on the most appropriate next steps.
Ms Reynolds is expected to deliver a report to the minister within four months of a sampling methodology being established.
This would mean a final report is due in October. Interim reports can be delivered before then if Ms Reynolds considers it appropriate.
She will be responsible for ensuring timescales are adhered to and to inform the minister of any potential slippage and the reasons why it occurs.
The chairman of the AAI, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, will lead the work on the matter within that organisation and Cormac Quinlan, Tusla director of transformation and policy, is involved for that agency.