On the publication of the Heads and General Scheme of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2015


For many years, adoption in Ireland happened very much in the shadows, with little or no regulation and great secrecy. Children were put up for adoption, often against the will of the mother, usually under the auspices of religious bodies, and without legal protection for them or their adoptive parents. The birth mother was told that her identity would be kept secret and would never be disclosed to her child, or anyone else. As an adopted person myself who discovered the true identity of my parents only after an exhaustive and deeply emotional search in the late 1990s, by which time they were dead, I alwajys thought that was grievously wrong.

That is why I welcome the publication today of the Heads and General Scheme of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2015 as a very important step in remedying this situation.

This legislation, when enacted, will fulfill the Programme for Government commitment to reform the law on adoption. Crucially, it will enable a person 18 or over adopted before the enactment of this legislation to obtain his or her birth certificate – because there will be a newly created statutory entitlement to the information required to apply for a birth certificate.

In addition, while Constitutional provisions oblige the State to strike a sensitive balance between the rights of the adopted person and the privacy of the birth parent, the Bill will also enable the release of vital information relating solely to the adopted person. This will include, for example, early personal medical information, a matter of huge importance to adopted people. Importantly, persons who were the subject of “informal adoptions”, or wrongfully registered, will also be enabled to avail of the information and tracing services envisaged under this legislation.

I want to thank Minister Reilly for his compassionate and considered approach on this issue, and the Attorney General for her extensive work to help us arrive at this point – a proposed scheme that would greatly improve access to information, including provision of an adopted person’s birth certificate, with appropriate protections and an appeal mechanism to protect the rights of all parties. The heads and general scheme will now be referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for detailed consideration, which will offer the opportunity for any concerns about the legislation to be heard.

I hope adopted people, and the organisations advocating tirelessly on their behalf, will see this proposed legislation as a welcome development, and the Government will continue working with them to get the best possible legislation enacted.