New legislation which aims to provide adopted people access to their information, has passed all stages in the Oireachtas.
The Minister for Children has said the Birth, Information and Tracing Bill will provide a full and clear right of access to birth certificates, birth and early life information for all persons who were adopted, boarded out, the subject of an illegal birth registration or who otherwise have questions in relation to their origins.
The Clann Project, which represents many people who were adopted from institutions in the past, have described the bill as “paternalistic and unjust”.
Last November, the Government launched an Action Plan following the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby and County Home institutions.
Among the 22 actions that were outlined was the Birth, Information and Tracing Bill to enable adopted people access their information.
The bill was scrutinised by TDs and senators for some time at Committee Stage, before it moved through the Dáil and the Seanad.
Four amendments were brought from the Seanad back to the Dáil this evening, before it passed.
Speaking in the Dáil chamber, the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman acknowledged the “intensive scrutiny” of the bill and expressed “sincere gratitude for the debate,” which he said highlighted both the challenges and the realities people face.
“We all know that for far too long that people who were adopted, who were boarded out and who had their births illegally registered could not access the most basic identity information that the rest of us in the population for granted,” Mr O’Gorman said.
The minister noted a series of attempts to legislate for “this issue”, over a number of decades and said that since taking office, the legislation and the rights it extended was a priority for him.
He said he had spoken to many of those impacted by the legislation, who told him of the impact the lack of access to their information had on them.
“We can never truly know the deeply personal impact that has had on individuals, but I hope this legislation can ease that impact and I hope they will see that today belongs to them,” he said.
However, representatives of many adopted people say the bill “discriminatory and paternalistic”.
One of the reasons for this relates to a mandatory information session on privacy for adopted people, when a parent declares a no content preference.
Claire McGettrick of the Clann Project – who has scrutinised the legislation since it was published earlier this year – described it as discriminatory, singling out adopted people out as different; making them “less-than” in the eyes of the law.
“In the case of an adopted person who wishes to obtain their information, if their parent has registered a preference for no contact, that person will have to attend a mandatory information session about privacy and that means that in the eyes of the law, adopted people do not understand privacy”, she said.
Ms McGettrick added that it was deeply frustrating and deeply hurtful to everybody involved that the Minister for Equality would introduce an inequality in the law.
She said the 22 actions by the Government have been “a war of attrition against people who have been subjected to human rights abuses”.
“The 22 actions are wrapped up as redress measures, as in, making reparation for what happened, but I don’t know a single person who’s happy” she said.
The Clann Project representative pointed out that the bill would be subject to review in a number of years and they would continue to fight.
“Thankfully, we have a way to show people how to bypass this legislation legally, so that adopted people can already get their birth certificates and adopted people can already get their information or be it in a heavily redacted form,” she said.
“We will support people in how to resist paternalistic and unjust practices, and I understand the legislation will be reviewed in a couple of years and we will be ready for that review.”
The Birth, Information and Tracing Bill has been described as landmark legislation by Minister O’Gorman.
His predecessor Katherine Zappone made efforts towards introducing an information and tracing bill, but to no avail.
The Birth, Information and Tracing Bill that passed this evening underwent six sessions in the Dáil, eight sessions in the Seanad and more than 30 hours of debate this year.