Saturday 20 January 2018

Referendum may be needed to help children find out about their birth parents, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said a referendum may be needed to clear a planned law helping adoptive children get more information about their birth parents.

Mr Kenny's comments came as Social Protection Minister Joan Burton spoke for the first time since the mother-and-baby home controversy about her own circumstances as an adopted child.

Ms Burton said she also understood constitutional difficulties – but insisted that adopted children should have access to information about their origins.

Speaking in the Dail, the Taoiseach said the issue of adoptive children getting information on their backgrounds was full of legal difficulties.

He told Sinn Fein TD Sandra McClellan that senior officials were working on the draft of a new law aimed at improving access to information.

"This legislation has been around and talked about for a while. It is a very complex matter. There are constitutional requirements here relating to privacy and it would appear that a referendum will be required in respect of some of the privacy issues involved here," Mr Kenny said.

Officials said senior officials were continuing work on the so-called heads of the Adoption Information and Tracing Bill and this work indicated that a referendum may be required to overcome the legal problems identified.

Mr Kenny did not say when the referendum would be held but he promised more information for the Dail as it became available.

Ms McClellan said the draft law had been promised for last year.

Mr Kenny's comments came just hours after Ms Burton told Newstalk that adoptive children should be entitled to information about their origins and their birth parents.

"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 constitutional referendum is required," she said.

Ms Burton was put up for adoption three months after her birth She was born in Co Carlow to an unmarried woman in 1949 and was taken to Temple Hill Mother and Baby Home in Blackrock, Co Dublin, three months later.

She stayed there until she was fostered by Bridie and John Burton, from Rialto, and was then adopted. Ms Burton only managed to track down her family heritage years after her birth mother had passed away.

"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," the Social Protection Minister said.

Irish Independent

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