Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman

Minister for Children apologises on behalf of Government for illegal birth registrations

A report made to the Government in September called for a state apology and a full inquiry into illegal adoptions.

LAST UPDATE | May 10th 2022, 6:59 PM

MINISTER FOR CHILDREN Roderic O’Gorman has issued an apology on behalf of the Government to people who have been impacted by illegal birth registrations.

O’Gorman made his second stage speech on the Information and Tracing Bill in the Seanad this evening, which will give added rights to people with falsified birth certificates.

“In the case of children affected by illegal birth registration, what happened was a historic wrong with deep and enduring impacts,” O’Gorman told the upper house.

“Those who are knowingly involved in the illegal registration of births committed a grave offence, which robbed children of their identity and their right to an accurate birth registration.

“I can only imagine the deep hurt and anguish that people must have experienced on learning of their illegal birth registration, on learning that the foundations upon which their entire identity is based are false.

For this I am truly sorry and I apologise on behalf of the government. I deeply regret the anguish experienced by those who’ve been affected by illegal birth registration.

O’Gorman added that the State is actively implementing measures aimed at addressing the situation faced by people affected by illegal birth registrations in a comprehensive manner.

He said the Information and Tracing Bill provides clear and guaranteed access to identity information, as well as full information on the circumstances of their illegal registration. 

The legislation provides a lawful basis for the sharing of information to enable the correction of the birth register. It also provides for the identity by which a person has lived to be legally recognised by means of a new register, where that is their wish.

The Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother-and-Baby Homes, published last year, stated that illegal birth registrations seemed to have been known to the Department of Health as far back as the 1950s.

These involved birth certificates which list children as having been born to their adoptive parents.

A statement from the Minister issued earlier today stated: “The Government approved this apology as part of approving the Government’s overall response to the Special Rapporteur’s report Proposals for a State Response to Illegal Birth Registrations in Ireland.

In its published response, it committed to the Minister placing an apology on record of the Houses as part of advancing the Birth Information and Tracing Bill.

The apology stands alongside the very significant measures which the Government is introducing to address issues arising for people affected by illegal birth registration.”

A report by the Government’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Professor Conor O’Mahony, recommended a State apology to be made to the people affected.

His report was made public in March and those who engaged with O’Mahony’s report have been informed that the apology is taking place this evening.

In response to O’Mahony’s report, O’Gorman confirmed in March that the Government will set up a scheme whereby people affected by illegal birth registrations will receive one-off payments of €3,000.

However this applies only to people whose illegal adoptions were facilitated by St Patrick’s Guild, a former Catholic adoption society.

This payment has been intended to contribute to the cost of DNA testing or legal fees with people with illegal birth registrations may face.

The move was criticised at the time by Kathleen Funchion, Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Children,  who labelled it “an insult”.

“For decades now, adopted people have been calling for a full and comprehensive investigation into the practices of agencies and individuals involved in the adoption trade in Ireland. They also called on the State to take responsibility for the part it played,” she said.

An independent study commissioned by then-Minister for Children Catherine Zappone in 2019 used records from Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland to estimate that there may be as many as 20,000 cases of illegally registered births.

Most of these incidents were in relation to children born between 1946 and 1969.

Additional reporting from Céimin Burke

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