LEGISLATION HAS today been published which will allow adopted people in Ireland to access their original birth certificates.
Adopted people have been campaigning for decades for legislation to address these issues for decades after a court ruling in the late 1990s found that the adopted person's right to information had to be balanced with their parent's right to privacy.
This meant that adopted people who wanted to access basic documents such as their birth certificates could be denied that on the basis it would be an infringement of their parent’s right to privacy.
The Bill, known as the Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022, will provide a statutory right to every adopted person in Ireland, those adopted people now living abroad, and others with questions in relation to their origins to access full and complete information about their birth, early life and origins.
Following pre-legislative scrutiny in December, a number of changes were made to the Bill.
Crucially, the requirement for a physical information session where a parent has expressed a no-contact preference has been removed, with a short phone call or video call sufficing if desired.
Next-of-kin will be now able to avail of the legislation to access information about a family member in specific circumstances.
The definition of 'early life information' has also been expanded to provide for the release of baptismal certificates and entries on the baptismal register.
The new legislation will also establish a national tracing service to facilitate people who wish to establish contact with their birth relatives, and a contact preference register for people to register their preferences for contact.
The legislation will now also use the term ‘mother’ instead of ‘birth mother’.
The Bill comes one year after the Commission of Investigation Report into 14 Mother and Baby Homes and four sample County Homes was published.
Speaking on the published Bill Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O'Gorman said:
"This legislation has been an absolute priority for me. For decades in this country, adopted people have been failed in being denied clear access to their identity information.
"With this bill, we are restoring to adopted people the information that so many of us take for granted as part of our own, personal stories. The Bill ends Ireland’s outlier status in terms of having legislation that provides access to information about one’s origins.
"Over the past year, I have spoken to hundreds of persons affected by adoption, illegal birth registration, the system of boarding out or the legacy of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions. I know how important this legislation is to so many of them and that is why I am absolutely committed to advancing it as quickly as possible this year.
"While the legislation aims to help those with questions on their origins, it also provides important services relating to contact and sharing of information. I hope that these other services will be valuable, not only to adopted persons, but also to mothers seeking contact with, or information on, their adopted child, as well as other family members."