Dublin, 30 May 2018
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) today welcomes the decision of Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, to establish a process of investigation into illegal adoptions where adoptive parents were registered as natural or birth parents on the child’s birth certificate. We also welcome the Minister’s explicit recognition of the information and identity rights of people who have been adopted and agree that “people have the right to know of their true origins”.
We call on the Government to acknowledge fully the rights, particularly the right to information, of all people affected by Ireland’s system of forced and illegal adoption. This includes natural or birth parents, adopted people, and other family members of people forcibly separated through Mother and Baby Homes, adoption agencies, maternity hospitals, Magdalene Laundries and other institutions.
Director of ICCL, Liam Herrick, said:
“At present, the State is refusing to provide these individuals with information about their own identities, the circumstances of their separation, the whereabouts of their relatives who disappeared, and the system of forced separation of mothers and children that caused widespread and grave human rights violations from the foundation of the State until the 1990s.”
We note that Tusla has transferred records of illegal adoptions to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. ICCL has previously argued that the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 is not a suitable mechanism for providing information to people whose rights have been violated. The Commission is limited to investigating a small fraction of the institutions and agencies involved in separating women and their children, and it has refused to hold public hearings. Witnesses to the Commission are not allowed to have a transcript of their evidence, and it is a criminal offence for any person to publish evidence given to the Commission in private. The evidence being gathered by the Commission is not available to those who are affected by the issues, nor is the evidence admissible in later civil or criminal proceedings. The Commission is immune from individuals’ ordinary right of access to their own data under the Data Protection Acts, and it is also immune from the application of the Freedom of Information Acts.
Mr. Herrick continued:
“In addition to the secrecy of the Commission of Investigation’s process, adopted people do not have a statutory right to their own birth certificate or to the records relating to their early life, adoption or medical records. Mothers and other relatives are unable to discover what became of their family members. In this way, the abuses of the past are continuing. They are not ‘historic’.”
ICCL has raised the State’s continuing denial of information rights with several international human rights bodies, including most recently the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children. We call on the State to implement the repeated recommendations of human rights bodies to ensure that all those affected by the past system of forced and illegal separation and adoption are provided with information, as a crucial part of redress.
Notes to editors:
In July 2017, the UN Committee Against Torture made the following recommendations regarding the system of forced and illegal adoptions in its Concluding Observations on Ireland’s second periodic report to the Committee:
Accountability for past institutional abuses: Mother and Baby Homes
While the Committee appreciates the State party’s creation of a Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in February 2015, it is concerned at reports that its terms of reference do not allow it to investigate all institutions in the country at which abuses, including forced and illegal adoptions, may have occurred and that following the expected conclusion of the Commission’s work in February 2018, its archives will be closed and will not be made available to the public (arts. 2, 4, 12, 13, 14 and 16).
The State party should ensure that it carries out an independent, thorough and effective investigation into any allegations of ill-treatment, including cases of forced adoption, amounting to violations of the Convention at all of the Mother and Baby Homes and analogous institutions, that perpetrators of any such acts are prosecuted and punished and that all victims of violations of the Convention obtain redress. The State party should ensure that information concerning abuses in these institutions are made accessible to the public to the greatest extent possible.