Senator Alice-Mary Higgins welcomes “important shift in policy and approach” as Minister O’Gorman publishes legislation to give adopted people access to birth certs and early life information

Image Mother Baby
Image Mother Baby

Senator Higgins has welcomed new draft legislation published by Minister O’Gorman yesterday “as an important shift in policy and approach which could finally give adopted people proper access their birth certificates, and birth and early life information.”

Speaking today Senator Higgins said “This proposed legislation seems to offer long-overdue recognition and support for the rights of adopted people to access their birth certificates, and birth and early life information.”

“This is a significant improvement on previous proposals in this area, including the ‘Adoption Information and Tracing Bill 2017’ which myself and Senator Lynn Ruane strongly opposed in the Seanad. That 2017 Bill, which did not become law, would have placed a number of conditions and obstacles in the way of adopted people seeking their own personal information, including the signing of a waiver, something which was deeply unacceptable to individuals, their advocacy groups and ourselves as public representatives.”

“It is good to see that the same mistakes are not being made in the new legislation and that the Minister seems to be taking a more empowering approach based on a GDPR frame, something I pressed for very strongly back in 2017.  The new proposals recognise ‘a full and clear right for people to access information relating to their identity at birth’ and huge credit is due to individual survivors and groups such as Aitheantas, the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance ,  Adoption Rights Alliance and the Clann Project who campaigned long and hard to win this shift in policy and understanding.”

“Under the new law, if passed, ‘relevant persons’, including adopted people, will be able to access their own birth certificates and a broad range of birth, early life, care and medical information that may be contained in institutional or other records.”

“Information and contact tracing are very different things and the new Bill recognises that. There will be an opportunity for adopted people and birth parents to indicate a preference as regards ‘contact’ or ‘no contact’ on the Contact  Preference Register but that will not be allowed to limit or compromise the right to identity and information.”

“If, for example, an adopted person seeks a copy of their birth certificate and a birth parent named on that has indicated a preference for no contact, the adopted person will be informed about that preference and the associated right to privacy, but will still be given an unredacted birth certificate.”

“It will of course be important to really examine the detail of how this might operate and it is proper resources, training and staff must be put in place to deliver on these rights quickly and effectively Too many people have already waited far too long.”

“For this reason, it is also important that the Department continue and accelerate delivery of responses to the many Subject Access Requests which are already being made under GDPR.”

“I will be engaging with and if necessary, amending the Bill further when it comes before the Seanad in the coming months and I will be listening very closely to the views of the many individuals and groups whose lives are affected.”

Senator Higgins added “I will continue to press for serious investigation and action on Ireland’s history of illegal adoption, while also pushing for a more open and progressive future policies.”

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