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Adopted people will finally get access to records after President signs Bill into law

The Bill provides for the release of an adopted person’s birth certificate and early life information.

File photo of President Michael D Higgins.
File photo of President Michael D Higgins.
Image: RollingNews.ie

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has signed into law the legislation to provide adopted people access to their information.

The Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022 was brought forward by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.

It recently passed in both the Dáil and the Seanad and has now been signed into law by the President.

The Bill provides for the release of an adopted person’s birth certificate, baptism cert, birth information, early life information, and medical information, as well as the release of information to a next-of-kin of an adopted person who has since died.

It will also apply to people who were boarded out or were the subject of an illegal birth registration.

While some people have welcomed the passage of the Bill, others have said it does not go far enough in terms of access to records.

Campaigners criticised certain elements of the draft legislation when the Heads of Bill were published last year. The term ‘birth mother’ was subsequently changed to ‘mother’ in the text after some activists labelled the former term reductive.

Amendments 

Four amendments were brought from the Seanad back to the Dáil during a debate last week, before the Bill passed.

Among these amendments, Minister O’Gorman agreed to ensure that when a person is seeking birth information about themselves but none exists, they will be directed to other potential channels of information and support.

A previous iteration of the Bill required adopted people seeking records to attend a mandatory information session with a social worker if the person’s biological mother or father had opted not to be contacted.

This session has since been changed to a phone call, rather than an in-person meeting. However, activists have criticised this approach – saying it is unnecessary and demeaning to explain the concept of privacy to an adopted person.

The Clann Project, which represents many adopted people, previously described the Bill as “paternalistic and unjust”.

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Under previous legislation, adopted people were not entitled to their birth certificate or to information about their families of origin.

Under the new law, even if a biological parent says they don’t want their child to get their birth cert or related information, the adopted person will still get access.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

About the author:

Jane Moore

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