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'A historic moment': Adopted people can access information about their birth from today

The new law allows people who were adopted or boarded out to access information about their origins.

Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman
Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Oct 3rd 2022, 10:20 AM

PEOPLE WHO WERE adopted, boarded out or subject to an illegal birth registration can access birth certificates and birth and early life information from today.

The Birth Information and Tracing Act, which was signed into law earlier this year, provides a full and clear right of access to information for people who have questions about their origins.

It also enables people to access this information where their parent has died, and for access by the next of kin of a child who died in an institution.

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.

The Act also introduced a range of new measures to support people affected by illegal birth registration, including free counselling.

Information requests can be made to the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and Tusla through the bespoke website BirthInfo.ie. All information falling within the categories of information defined in the Act must be released, without exception, where it exists.

The new law also establishes a Contact Preference Register to which applications can be made by those wishing to make contact, to request privacy, or to seek or share information with a relative.

More than 16,600 people have signed up to the register to date, with over 400 people (mainly parents) registering a no-contact preference.

In a press statement, Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman said he is “acutely aware of the long and difficult road so many had to travel to get to this point”.

“I am pleased and thankful though, that the day has arrived where people can with certainty and confidence access what is rightfully theirs,” he added. 

Patricia Carey, CEO of AAI, said: “This is a historic moment. The new birth information and tracing services are about bringing comfort and understanding to the many families in Ireland who have been touched by adoption.

“They are about providing thousands of adopted people with information that they’ve wanted for a very long time – information that was always their own but which only now they are legally entitled to receive.”

Siobhan Mugan, the national manager of adoption and birth information and tracing services at Tusla, said the agency has recruited additional staff for its contact and support centre, “who will help people with their information and tracing requests”.

“We have also put in place small, dedicated, locally-based teams across the country to provide information to people, and we have enhanced our tracing services which will support people in getting timely and efficient access to tracing a relative, including genealogical support when that service is needed,” she stated. 

Records being withheld

Adoption rights campaigner Claire McGettrick is among those to raise concerns about how the new Act will work in practice. She said the way records are defined “will lead to records being withheld”.

“Data controllers in this area blame their poor record on the GDPR. I don’t buy it. There’s a prejudice against adopted people & that doesn’t change overnight. I’d love to be proven wrong. Time will tell,” she tweeted.

A previous iteration of the legislation 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 advocates on behalf of many adopted people, previously described the Bill as “paternalistic and unjust”.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

Applications for the information and tracing services can be made to the AAI and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. More information can be read here

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