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File photo, Katherine Zappone Leah Farrell
balance of rights

Parents' right to privacy delays Zappone's adoption bill

The Bill aims to give adopted people and people who have been the subject of an incorrect birth registration the right to birth cert information and other information on their identity.

MINISTER FOR CHILDREN Katherine Zappone has said that the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 is being held up over concerns about birth parents’ rights to privacy.

The Bill aims to give adopted people and people who have been the subject of an incorrect birth registration the right to birth cert information and other information on their identity.

”The Bill has passed the second stage in Seanad Éireann and is awaiting Committee Stage. However, the bill raises complex questions of constitutional law as it has implications for the rights to identity and privacy which sometimes may be in conflict with one another,” Zappone said in a statement.

Zappone says that she supports the unfettered access to birth certificates for adopted persons but that ”striking the balance between these rights is proving challenging”.

I personally support this stance. Approval from the Attorney General, however, is necessary to ensure that the Bill is constitutionally sound.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Zappone said that the Bill also aims to provide a footing for an information and tracing service, which will be run by Tusla.

However, Susan Lohan, co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance told Morning Ireland that Tusla is too under-resourced to provide the service.

”One of the biggest flaws of this bill is that Tusla shall be the sole service provider of adoption information.

”Tusla is so under-resourced that they already operate a waiting list between two and three years.”

Lohan also said that the Bill presents no real change as many people won’t have unconditional access to their files.

”In our opinion at ARA, this stops just short of criminalising adopted people for perhaps taking the next step of tracing their family of origin.

”We are not getting unconditional access to our files, this is merely just to have birth certificate information.

”We will only get that rather minimal information if we sign this odious undertaking and that’s an undertaking promise not to contact our natural parents ever nor to induce anyone to contact them on our behalf.

”As we know from last week,  in many cases the birth certs are not worth the paper they’re written on.”

Zappone said that a probe is currently underway into the illegal birth certificate registrations at St Patrick’s Guild Dublin, but campaigners have asked for the probe to be widened to other institutions.

”We’re taking a very significant first step in terms of doing this targeted sampling across a huge number of agencies which would hold approximately 100,000 records of adopted people in relation to are they illegally adopted or incorrectly registered.”

The minister will hold a series of meetings this week with advocates and members of the opposition on the Adoption Bill on how to find “a constitutionally permissible route in this Bill” to ensure the respect and right for contact in relation to the birth parents.

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