Adoption Rights Alliance is opposed to the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 in the strongest possible terms, as it is discriminatory, unworkable and abhorrent to the people it is meant to help. During the first week in June we learned that Minister Zappone was introducing Seanad Committee Stage amendments and that she intended to rush the Bill through before the summer 2019 recess.
On 18th June, ARA wrote to all TDs and Senators, explaining why we consider the Government’s Bill and its recent Committee Stage amendments are deeply discriminatory, and setting out our proposals for a different legislative framework. The letter is available here.
We also asked for your help, and as a result, hundreds of adopted people, natural parents, natural family members and allies emailed TDs, Senators and Minister Zappone to express their concerns about the Bill.
On Wednesday 19th June, the Bill was ‘paused’ to allow for further discussion and consultation.
A big thank you from all of us in Adoption Rights Alliance to everyone who emailed TDs and Senators!
We are continuing to work on challenging the Bill as it currently stands and we will publish further information in due course. In the meantime, please phone or call to your local TD clinics, and let them know your views on the Bill.
Thank you once again for all your help!
Update: 14th November, 2019
In early November, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD circulated four ‘Options for a Legislative Pathway’ on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 (see here and here).
In brief, the four options are as follows:
- Option 1 would mean proceeding with the Bill as is, including the Government amendments proposed earlier this year.
- Option 2 would mean proceeding with the Bill as is, including Government amendments, but the Bill would contain a presumption in favour of the release of birth information to adopted people.
- Option 3 would 1) safeguard records, 2) implement a statutory tracing service and 3) put the National Adoption Contact Preference Register on a statutory footing.
- Option 4 would safeguard records.
what is ARA’s position?
ARA is opposed to Options 1 and 2 in the strongest possible terms. Either of these would enshrine in legislation a wholly discriminatory system against adopted people, as outlined below.
After much discussion and careful deliberation, ARA is prepared to support Option 3, but with strict conditions, which are set out in a letter to Minister Zappone, available here.
Please note: ARA’s support for Option 3 should not be construed as an endorsement of the government’s position, nor does it signal the end of our campaign to achieve equal rights for adopted people and their relatives. We are hugely disappointed that once again, the Irish government is failing tens of thousands of adopted people, their relatives, and other people affected by the human rights abuses perpetrated by Church and State against vulnerable women and children. Rest assured that we do not consider this the end of the matter.
Why is ARA opposed to Options 1 and 2?
1. Restrictions on access to birth certificates
Under Option 1: Tusla would automatically attempt to locate and contact both natural parents as soon as an adopted person requests access to their birth certificate. Where there is an objection, the adopted person will have to attend a hearing at the Adoption Authority of Ireland to make their case, with the possibility of review proceedings in the Circuit Court and High Court. This proposed ‘system’ is a grave interference with the privacy and information rights, and the dignity of, both natural parents and adopted people.
Under Option 2: The Government will give natural parents a defined period of time to ‘opt in’ to stating their objection to the release of an adopted person’s birth certificate. If an adopted person’s natural parent has ‘opted in’, once the adopted person requests their birth certificate they will then have to go through the hearing process described above.
Presumption in favour of disclosure
The Minister’s Briefing of 5th November 2019 explains that, under Option 2, there will be a ‘presumption in favour of disclosure’. According to the Briefing, this means that ‘where there is an objection to the release of birth information by the natural parent, if the case between the adopted person and the birth parent are equal, the Adoption Authority of Ireland will be obliged to release the information’.
Option 2 is a slight departure from the government’s previous position, however, ARA will not support legislation that gives equality to some but not all adopted people.
2. Censorship of files
Under Options 1 or 2, it appears that Section 40 of the Bill, as initiated, would be retained. This section requires Tusla to provide adopted/informally placed people with a written ‘statement’ interpreting their early life information instead of a full copy of all original personal data held on file. The statement will be written so as to ‘not contain information that would identify a birth parent or a birth relative of the applicant’, even when the person is in possession of their birth certificate. Tusla’s involvement in interpreting files and providing statements instead of original records is deeply disturbing because it denies information that people are entitled to under the EU GDPR and other legal instruments. It would also create inordinate delay.
Options 1 and 2 do not represent equality for all.
ARA is not prepared to leave a single adopted person behind.
All Irish birth certificates are already public records, available to the general public in the General Register Office.
ARA is not willing to support legislation that discriminates against adopted people by denying them automatic access to a public record that proves they were born.