In 2003, Mr. Lenihan launched a consultation process on the revision of the Adoption Act in the light of economic and social developments. The new legislation resulting from the consultation process will also enable Ireland to ratify the Hague Convention. Their 1996 annual report stated that the ban on private adoptions “would ensure that all birth mothers willing to give up their children for adoption have the opportunity to seek professional advice and that all couples who wish to adopt are recognized as prospective adoptive parents. This reflects the pressure on single mothers in Catholic Ireland to abandon their babies for adoption, but they had more children later in life. The 81-year-old, who was researching his dates of birth, was reportedly adopted informally, as adoption was only legal in 1953 – a difficult task for anyone looking to find his biological parents before the new legislation. Patricia Carey, IAA Executive Director, said: “We are very encouraged by the number of people who have signed up. In October, when free services are opened under the law, adoptees finally have the right to access all their birth information, which is stored by the state. That wasn`t the case before, so it`s a big problem.

Claire McGettrick, co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance, said many Irish adoptees have already found their birth certificates and with them the names of their mothers (and sometimes fathers). But many of these people, she said, still hoped to get information about their births, early years and health care, as well as the legality of their adoptions. “Just recently, we received two boxes of baby ID tapes from a nurse who worked in a mother-child home,” she said. “They were on the babies when they came out of the hospital, and she put them aside. We also receive random photos and other souvenirs and memories. They will go to the people when they can be located. “In the past, there was shame about childbirth, adoption,” said Patricia Carey, the agency`s executive director, “but now people are more willing to see that confronting her will end the shame, that they really have nothing to be ashamed of.” Anne Hennon, a woman who gave a son up for adoption and later found him, said some birth mothers felt excluded by the new system because it did not give them the right to know what had happened to their children, while others feared persecution. Mr Wolfe said there was no way this couple could have adopted baby A. “We could not have accepted an adoption application because private placements are illegal.” Authorities have up to 30 days to respond to requests, and adoption rights activists are waiting to see if the service is working well. But they said the potential to be an important step in settling scores with a painful national legacy of abuse inflicted on single mothers and their children. DUBLIN – For tens of thousands of people who have been adopted in Ireland – or who have given up children for adoption there, often under intense pressure – knowledge that has been shrouded in secrecy and shame for decades may now be just a click away. The Birth Information and Traceability Act allows adoptees or their family members to register their preference for contact with a parent of the child by October, when the tracing process can legally begin.

In October, they can request to receive the data. As with publicly arranged adoptions, an adoption decision should be made by the Adoption Board, which must ensure that the couple is an appropriate adoptive parent and that the birth mother is satisfied with her decision. However, it can be difficult to determine when private adoptions are agreed between the mother and the adoptive parents. An adoption committee was established, first under the Ministry of Justice and then under the Ministry of Health. However, this essentially had a registration role, and the actual adoption process was managed by 20 independent agencies, all but one of them Catholic. Religious apartheid was strictly maintained, with a ban on the adoption of Catholic children by non-Catholic parents. The proposed legislation will address this sensitive area by creating a voluntary register of preferential contacts. This will allow adoptees and their birth parents to record their contact preferences, include a preference not to be contacted at this time, and indicate preferred forms of contact. Details will be released later this year following an information campaign.

The new legislation also provides for information rights for future adoptions. The Minister of Children is proposing the biggest change to adoption law in half a century, writes Carol Coulter.