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Adopted people will not get automatic access to birth records over parent's right to privacy

Minister Zappone said she was “personally deeply disappointed” that a consensus could not be reached on the issue.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

ADOPTED PEOPLE WILL not be given unrestricted access to identity information and birth certificates under planned changes to legislation due to concerns about birth parents’ rights to privacy.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she was “personally deeply disappointed” that a consensus could not be reached on the “complex and emotive issue of the release of birth information” but that the issue should be put aside for other important issues to be progressed in the area of adoption such as tracing for the purpose of reunion or contact and safeguarding records. 

The Adoption (Information) and Tracing Bill 2016 had been contested as it would allow adopted people to seek out details that were previously impossible to obtain under privacy laws.

Zappone announced her decision to progress with the Bill after it proved impossible to reach an agreement on the issue despite “everyone involved making significant efforts to reach consensus on the issue of release of birth information”. 

“I hope this can be progressed in the future, but my priority, for now, is to move forward with those issues on which there is general consensus,” she said. 

The Minister’s legal advice on the matter was that there must be some protection of birth parents’ constitutional right to privacy reflected in the legislation.

“There are two rights at play, the right to identity and the right to privacy, and legislation must seek to harmonise these rights. However, this advice is contrary to the desire of advocates for unrestricted access to identity information and to birth certificates,” a spokesperson said. 

The Minister is now pursuing a revision of the Bill which will mean that other personal adoption and related records will be transferred to the Adoption Authority of Ireland to be appropriately safeguarded.

Offences are also to be created for anyone found to have destroyed, concealed, altered or falsified a record.

“To complement this, the current National Adoption Contact Preference Register will be put on a robust statutory footing. This register provides an invaluable service to those seeking contact and this will ensure its effectiveness and most importantly, its compliance with data protection requirements,” Zappone said. 

She added that those whose relatives do not register a preference for contact, an application can be made to Tusla to trace that person for the purposes of contact/reunion. 

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Adam Daly

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