Ireland gives adopted people their data to end ‘historic injustice’

DUBLIN: Ireland will give adopted people automatic access to their birth certificates for the first time under new laws that the government hopes will end a “historic mistake”, including thousands secretly sent for adoption by Catholic institutions.

International laws say that all children must be able to identify themselves, but tens of thousands of adopted people in Ireland are not automatically entitled to their birth certificates or access to criminal investigation services.

The legislation was published a year to the day since an investigation found that thousands of babies died in Irish homes for unwed mothers and their descendants, mainly run by the Catholic Church from the 1920s to the 1990s.

Many babies were also taken from mothers and sent abroad for adoption, that report, the latest in a series exposing some of the Church’s worst abuses.

Children’s Secretary Roderic O’Gorman said the new law, if passed, would provide for the full and unedited release of birth, early life and medical information to anyone over the age of 16, regardless of their parents’ wishes.

“We know that historical injustices have been done to adopted people. With this bill, we are restoring information that so many of us take for granted as part of our own, personal stories,” O’Gorman said, in an effort to end to Irish “outlier status”.

Successive governments had argued that a 1998 Supreme Court ruling prevented them from opening adoption files because it emphasized the mother’s right to privacy.

A 2019 bill to improve access to data was scrapped after opposition in parliament and from interest groups.

Opposition parties broadly welcomed the new bill, but criticized the fact that adopted people would still have to hold an “information session” with officials over the phone when a parent has expressed a contactless preference.

An earlier version of the bill included a mandatory meeting with a social worker.

Some campaigners also said that the level of information proposed by the bill was still insufficient and that the sources from which the data can be collected should be extended to all agencies and institutions.

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