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Our country’s denial of basic human rights to adopted people is utterly shameful

Dr Aisling Parkes and Dr Simone McCaughren


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Scene: The nursery at Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home, Roscrea, Co Tipperary.

Scene: The nursery at Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home, Roscrea, Co Tipperary.

Scene: The nursery at Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home, Roscrea, Co Tipperary.

The renewed controversy about the basic right of access to birth information for adopted people often misses a key point – the very same issues are facing adopted children born today. Successive Irish governments have failed to resolve the long-standing need to guarantee a basic right of access to such information. The very real impact of this is a lack of human rights of children adopted now – just as was the case for those adopted in the past.

The reason we find ourselves in this no man’s land is due only in part to a history of adoption built on secrecy and denial. It is also a result of an interpretation given to a Supreme Court decision of IOT v B in 1998. Subsequent interpretations of this judgment, which relates to two cases of informal adoption, has had a huge knock-on effect on the disclosure of birth information to adoptees. It has resulted in an overly conservative approach that continues to suppress the needs and rights of adoptees and prioritises the privacy rights of birth mothers.


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