Irish adoption: New rights to birth identity information proposed in draft law

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly, launched the proposed bill in Dublin on Monday Image copyright PA
Image caption Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly, launched the proposed bill at a press conference in Dublin on Monday

The Irish government has published proposed legislation to give adopted people the right to access their birth certificate for the first time.

At present, adoptees in the Republic of Ireland have no automatic right to know their own birth name or parents' names.

But the draft law also includes plans to protect parents' "right to privacy".

It proposes that adopted people sign a "statutory declaration" promising not to contact their birth parent, unless they agree in advance to be contacted.

Draft details of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill were published by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly, on Monday afternoon.

The minister described the proposals as a "major breakthrough" and a "key step forward" in given adopted people a legal entitlement to identity information.

"The Bill will give an adopted person aged 18 years or over, who was adopted prior to commencement of the Bill, a statutory entitlement to the information required to apply for his or her birth certificate, following a request to the Tusla, the Child and Family Agency," he said.

At present, adoption agencies take into account the wishes of birth parents in respect of birth certificates, and can refuse to release them if a parent objects.

The new bill will operate "on the basis of a presumption in favour of disclosing information, in so far as is legally and constitutionally possible".

The minister acknowledged it was a "complex" issue and said the privacy declarations were necessary to prevent future legal challenges.

When details of the declarations were leaked last week, the Adoption Rights Alliance criticised the measure.

However, the minister said: "While this Bill is about providing a right to information it is critical that birth parents' constitutional right to privacy is protected.

"I believe that by allowing birth parents an opportunity to specify the extent of contact, if any, in addition to the other safeguards to be put in place will ensure that this important right is protected."

The government is also planning a year-long awareness campaign to publicise the planned legal changes and to give birth parents time to register their decision on whether or not they wish to be contacted by their children.

The bill also includes provision for counselling services for both adopted people and birth parents at all stages of the tracing process.

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