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Varadkar says there'll be 'difficult conversations' as some Irish people find out they were adopted

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, “This really needs to be dealt with with the ultimate sensitivity in the period ahead.”

Updated 2.30pm

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR says there will be “difficult conversations ahead” as some people who were adopted find out their parents are not their birth parents.

It comes after it was revealed yesterday that at least 126 children adopted from St Patrick’s Guild in Dublin were incorrectly registered as the biological children of their adoptive parents.

Speaking this morning, the Taoiseach told reporters: “Some people will know this already, but they won’t all.

“We think it’s right and appropriate to share that information with the people who were affected, those people now in their 50s, 60s and 70s who were adopted in this way and that is going to be difficult.

Some people will find out that they were adopted in this way having thought for the past 50 or 60 years that they were the natural child of the people who brought them up.

“And it’s going to be really difficult for those parents who did bring up those people. These are people now in their 70s, 80s and 90s who are going to have to have a really difficult conversation with the children they brought up.

“This really needs to be dealt with with the ultimate sensitivity in the period ahead.”

He added that people have been aware of the issue of illegal registrations and that adoption rights campaigners have been highlighting the issue for many years.

This is not something that is entirely new … what’s different is the fact that these records were transferred from St Patrick’s Guild over to Tusla in recent years.

“Documentary evidence was found of these illegal registrations, it has been difficult to identify in the past precisely because it was concealed and there were no records, or there were fake records.”

‘Tip of a very large iceberg’

Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA), the advocacy organisation that campaigns for equal rights for adopted children and adults, says that number of 126 is “a mere fraction of the total number of such cases”.

Yesterday it was revealed that St Patrick’s Guild in Dublin registered 126 couples as the birth parents of the children they were adopting between 1946 and 1969.

At least 79 people had no contact with St Patrick’s Guild and may be entirely unaware that they were adopted. A further 31 had contact with the adoption agency but they were not provided with any information.

ARA said that in its experience, illegal adoptions were also facilitated by private homes or individuals, as well as the registered adoption societies.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions today, the Taoiseach said he agreed the figures may well be the tip of the iceberg.

Explaining what will happen now, Varadkar said an initial scoping and sampling exercise of the records and of other adoption societies will take place..

“If that indicates… that there is evidence of illegal registrations in other adoption societies we will do a full analysis of those records. It is potentially a mammoth task if that is the case and it is potentially the tip of the iceberg.

“We need to be sensitive in our language and not assume all these things. Let us act quickly but let us always act on the basis of the facts,” he said.

Varadkar said Tusla is keenly aware of the sensitivities involved in informing those impacted.

A social worker has already been assigned to each of the 126 individual cases, and counselling and support will also be offered.

“There will be no sudden phone calls or unannounced visits to people’s doors.  The process of offering contact and then supporting those people affected will be handled very carefully on a case-by-case basis and at the pace of the individual concerned, the pace they believe is appropriate given their personal circumstances,” said the Taoiseach, who added that no information will be delivered over the phone or by cold calls.

Varadkar agreed with many in the Opposition benches today that the news revealed was not “new”, adding that the issue of illegal adoptions is something that has been raised in the past with previous governments, been reported on by many journalists, and featured in movies such as Philomena.

Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors has released a statement saying the adoption community has been calling for an audit of Saint Patrick’s Guild files, and other agencies, for over 20 years.

This is just the tip of a very large iceberg of fraud, forgery, baby trafficking, child abduction and criminal activity by rogue Irish adoption agencies who have destroyed tens of thousands of innocent peoples’ lives.

Everyone who was affected by the false registrations at St Patrick’s Guild will be contacted directly by Tusla when the Child and Family Agency has verified their identities.

The Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) is also calling for an investigation to take place into all such adoptions which it regards as illegal.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has announced that an independent investigation will be set up to sample the records of other non-governmental adoption agencies and boards to see if any other similar false registrations were carried out.

The review will be conducted by Marion Reynolds, a former Deputy Director of Social Services in Northern Ireland, andis expected to be completed within four months.

‘Human rights issue’

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said: “These cases raise serious human rights issues for the people affected.

Ultimately, they were deprived of their first family through a false registration process, and their identity and heritage could be difficult to uncover.

“We are calling for the Information and Tracing Bill 2016 to be fast-tracked as a matter of urgency to help the people affected. Section 34 of the Bill imposes a duty on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to conduct enquiries to establish whether a person has been subject to what it calls an ‘incorrect registration’. The Bill also provides the adopted person with an entitlement to any information that might be uncovered through this process.

We have been talking about this legislation for a decade and an entire generation of children have grown up while we talked about giving them the right to an identity. We must act now. Many people will be waking up today and will be traumatised by the news.

“At the very least we need to provide them with a statutory basis to establish the truth.”

With reporting by Christina Finn

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