Lifestyle Health

Saturday 24 February 2018

Adoption rights bill 'challenging', says Fitzgerald

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald

Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent

Drawing up new legislation on adoption information and tracing is proving complex, according to Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.

She said her department was continuing to work on the Heads of Bill for the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and she hoped to be in a position to seek Government approval to publish the Heads of Bill as soon as possible.

"As I have stated on a number of occasions, it is important to note that complex legal and constitutional issues have arisen in the drafting of the Bill.

"A particular challenge has arisen in the attempt to reconcile an adopted person's request for information about his or her identity with the right to privacy of his or her birth parent where consent has not been provided.

"My department is continuing to consult with the Office of the Attorney General on this and on a number of related issues," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said in a parliamentary reply to Deputy Ann Ferris that "one reason for the discussions with the Attorney General was to continue to tease out precisely how this can be done in the context of what I must state is extremely strong legal advice about the constitutional protection of the rights of the natural mother to privacy."

A number of European court cases also have addressed this issue and highly complex legal and constitutional issues have arisen.

"I continue to explore how far the Government can go in building into legislation that right of the adopted person to get access to information without breaching the Constitution.

"This is the reason that it is taking this length of time to draft the Heads of Bill.

"I intend to submit the Heads of Bill for Government approval as soon as these issues have been addressed," Ms Fitzgerald said.

She added: "I am not in a position to give a comprehensive account of the provisions of the proposed legislation until the Heads of Bill have been agreed by Government.

"Once approved by Government, the Heads of Bill will be sent to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for its detailed consideration.

"The process of sending the Heads of Bill to that committee will ensure that the provisions of the proposed legislation will be subject to public scrutiny and it is of course open to that committee to invite and encourage submissions from all interested parties," she said.

"In the meantime, I am open to any proposals or suggestions in relation to policy on this matter that assists in achieving as much access as possible in a manner that is legally and constitutionally sound."

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