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Adoption group urges support for new law to stop adoptees 'feeling like pariahs'

James Reilly has said that the Adoption Bill will benefit from further consultation.

Philomena Lee at her son's grave.
Philomena Lee at her son's grave.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE ADOPTION RIGHTS Alliance (ARA) has welcomed the Government’s decision to not oppose the new Adoption Bill.

The legislation will give adoptees a right to their birth certs, listing their original names and their natural parents’ names.

It will also establish a process through which adoptees and natural parents may contact each other if they wish.

The ARA has said that under current legislation adopted people are “made to feel like pariahs for simply requesting basic information that other citizens take for granted”.

The group said that successive governments have failed to address the issue.

During a meeting with Children and Youth Affairs Minister James Reilly earlier this week, the ARA said they drew his drew attention to the “ongoing discrimination against all Irish adopted people and their siblings in particular, who are denied the knowledge of each other’s existence”.

A spokesperson for Reilly confirmed that he has ”no difficulty, in principle, with the objective of the Bill”.

However he has been made aware that constitutional issues may arise from provisions of the legislation. The spokesperson noted that the Private Members Bill would share information without providing any requirement for consent on the part of the parent.

“There are real issues to be considered,” he said, adding that Reilly feels the Bill would benefit from wider consultation.

The Government has agreed that it should be referred to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for discussion.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs will also give consideration to the Bill, parts of which could be incorporated into the Government’s own legislation on the issue which is said to be “well advanced”.

Philomena’s Law

The Bill, which was produced by Averil Power and co-sponsored by Jillian van Turnhout and Fidelma Healy Eames, will be debated in the Seanad today.

Power, who is herself adopted, welcomed the Government’s decision not to oppose the Bill and reiterated the need for it to be enacted as soon as possible.

“It is vital that the legislation is not delayed. Too many people are relying on us to make this change”, the Fianna Fáil Senator said.

File photo: Senators debate Adoption Identity Bill Senator Averil Power Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The Bill has been dubbed ‘Philomena’s law’, after Philomena Lee – the woman whose 50-year search for her son Anthony attracted worldwide attention through the Oscar-nominated film Philomena.

“Philomena’s brave decision to tell her story touched all of our hearts. People were rightly outraged that her son Anthony died believing she had rejected him when this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Not only had she not wanted to part from him in the first place, she spent fifty years trying to find him, only to be refused information and lied to by the nuns who handled the adoption,” Power stated.

“Unfortunately, this new law is too late for Philomena and Anthony but it will help other mothers who were separated from their sons or daughters through adoption and wish to reunite”, she said.

Power said that the Bill “would also make a huge difference to 50,000 Irish adoptees who for too long have been denied basic information about themselves that everyone else takes for granted.”

‘My son died believing I had rejected him’: Philomena Lee calls on Senators to support Adoption Bill

Philomena Lee to tell world conference about her forced adoption in Ireland

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Órla Ryan

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