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Column: So you think adoption has nothing to do with you?

Adoption affects more of us than we realise. 900,000 people are directly affected by adoption or close to 20% of the current population of Ireland, writes Paul Redmond.

Paul Redmond Author

IF ANY ADULT who was adopted walks into the General Registry Office (GRO) and asks for a copy of their birth certificate, they will be handed a fake birth certificate with their adoption details instead of their real birth details.

An adoptee who knows the system can request an additional  ‘adoption certificate’ but it will have the same details as their fake birth certificate.

If someone doesn’t know that they are adopted, and only asks for a birth certificate, the GRO will simply issue the fake birth certificate and say nothing.

Finding out the hard way

However, the civil servants assigned to the roll out of the new public services card are not as diplomatic. Many adoptees have found out the hard way that their fake birth certificates are not listed with the rest of the “regular” birth certs.

The civil servants have returned to the room and declared that they cannot find the person on their national database. Then they have asked bluntly if the person is adopted? Sometimes in front of other people waiting their turn.

Many adoptees have found this demeaning and humiliating.

60,000 adopted people

Some estimates put the number of adopted people in Ireland at up to 60,000 and a small minority of them were illegally adopted in black market transactions involving money.

The majority of these cases do not have official fake certificates like legal adoptees; they have certificates of fraudulent birth registrations in the names of their adoptive parents.

Just to complicate matters, many parents who legally adopted one or more children made the choice not to inform their children. Those who never find out, whether legally or illegally adopted, will spend their lives giving doctors and nurses, false and potentially lethal, medical histories. When the unknowing adoptee becomes a parent, they will continue to supply a partly fake medical history for their children.

Still, perhaps having your life turned upside down by a random civil servant is better than the myriad of ways adoptees have had their entire lives thrown into chaos. Those occasions when extended family get together for weddings or funerals is common enough, from a drunken uncle or cousin who never liked you anyway.

Going through your parents’ paperwork after their deaths, when you are in your 40s or 50s is another common time.

20% of us directly affected

But this really does not apply to you – you’re not one of those 60,000 adopted people in Ireland today and you’re sure of that? You have your birth certificate to prove it. This issue doesn’t concern you or your extended family.

Those 60,000 adoptees have both natural and adoptive families so add in four parents, an average of, say, six siblings (three in each family) and eight grandparents. That’s 900,000 people directly affected by adoption or close to 20% of the current population of Ireland.

In your case, your brothers and sisters are definitely not adopted, and you are sure no aunt or great aunt or sister of yours lost a baby to adoption? You’re positive about your
grandmothers too?

Finally, there is no possibility that your mother was in “one of those terrible places” and has being hiding it for 50 years. Thousands of elderly and frightened women are still hiding their history and the reality is that they are our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts.

Now, that just leaves the problem of the 60,000 natural fathers who continue to live secretly among us.

Paul Redmond is the author of The Adoption Machine – The Dark History of Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes and the Inside Story of How Tuam 800 Became a Global Scandal, published by Merrion Press.

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Paul Redmond  / Author

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