SUCCESSIVE Irish Governments have been “running scared” of the thousands of women and children separated by forced adoption to protect the State’s reputation, a leading campaigner has said.
Susan Lohan, co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance, claims the scale of forced adoption dwarfs the Magdalene Laundries scandal.
But those affected by the practice have only been given ‘tea and tissues’ meetings where ministers ask about their suffering without legislating to help them find their families.
“This is all about damage to the State’s reputation and money, because they have been forced to pay out for the two other failed Church-State partnerships; the industrial schools and Magdalene Laundries scandals,” she said.
The comments from Ms Lohan, who has met with five different children’s ministers since 2000, come after Britain-based campaigner Theresa Tinggal vowed to give up on lobbying current children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Following an unsuccessful meeting with the Fine Gael TD last September, Ms Tinggal said she would instead look to the European courts to pressure the Irish Government into releasing large numbers of files on illegal adoptions.
Ms Tinggal and Ms Lohan have called on the Government to release more than 60,000 files from Ireland.
They claim the move is needed to help reunite masses of mothers and children who were forcibly separated in brutal homes for unmarried women but now have no right to be given information they could use to find one another.
Minister Fitzgerald said she is “deeply aware” of the distress caused to people by adoption regimes practised in previous decades.
The Fine Gael TD also acknowledged that illegal adoptions, such as those where adoptive parents were named as natural parents on birth certificates, had taken place.
Referring to her long-delayed legislation on tracing rights for those impacted by forced adoption, she added: “My overriding policy objective is to provide as much information as possible to adopted persons while respecting the Constitutional rights of all parties.”
But Ms Lohan said such legislation would be “meaningless” unless the minister takes legal action to reverse a 1998 Supreme Court ruling protecting the anonymity of women whose children were taken in mother and baby homes.
“Frankly, there is no point in bringing in the legislation if it does not help the 60,000 people adopted in the past who are already clamouring for information about their identity,” she added.