By David Young, PA
An independent review of historic adoption practices in Ireland has found no confirmed evidence of further illegal birth registrations.
The probe, which was triggered in 2018 after evidence of illegal registrations were discovered in the files of the St Patrick’s Guild Adoption Society, did however find evidence “suggestive” of incorrect registrations in a significant number of files.
As part of the review, Tusla and the Adoption Authority examined records of 30 agencies, including adoption societies and nursing homes. Sampling of 1,496 files uncovered no further confirmed cases of illegal registration.
The examination of the files, which was overseen by an independent reviewer, did not identify evidence of a unique marker to signify incorrect registrations, similar to the marker used in the St Patrick’s Guild files.
The exercise did flag concerns around issues such as informed consent, adoption to other jurisdictions and child protection issues.
Last week, an RTÉ Investigates documentary shone a fresh light on the decades-old St Patrick’s Guild scandal.
At least 151 births between 1946 and 1969 were falsely registered by the Dublin based adoption society, which was run by the Sisters of Charity.
Children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman published the findings of the independent review on Tuesday.
He has now requested the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Professor Conor O’Mahony to examine the issue of illegal birth registrations and propose next steps to the Government.
Mr O’Gorman said he would also be bringing forward legislation designed to improve processes for tracing of records and information about adoptions.
“The results of this independent review have shown that the St Patrick’s Guild files were unique in that there was a clear marker on the files which, when examined, correlated to illegal birth registrations,” said the minister.
“The contents of the close to 1,500 records sampled for this review contained no such markers.
“The review of the sample of records referenced potential concerns about historic practices, including issues relating to informed consent, adoption to other jurisdictions, and child protection issues.
“This will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the many revelations, over many years, about how women and children were treated in Ireland in the past.”
The Minister added: “I know significant concerns remain about the practice of illegal birth registrations, and for that reason I have also asked the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection to consider the very significant complexities and challenges, including the deep ethical issues, which arise in relation to the issue of illegal birth registrations, and to propose an appropriate course of action.”
“The Independent Reviewer is clear on the importance of an effective information and tracing service. I have committed to urgently progressing legislation in this area, and am working intensively with the Office of the Attorney General to this end. I am hoping to bring Heads of Bill to Cabinet in the coming weeks.”
Mr O’Gorman said an interdepartmental group was examining issues impacting those whose births were illegally registered in the St Patrick’s Guild files.
Those include issues around inheritance, amending birth registrations, taxation, identity documents.
“This group will report to me with proposals within a two month window, and I will continue to engage with my Cabinet colleagues on the matter,” the minister add.