ADOPTED people in Laois might find their pursuit of identity rights a little easier in the future after the council unanimously agreed to write to the minister for children and youth affairs to have these rights made statutory.
Bizarrely, adopted people in the Republic of Ireland have no legal right to their own birth certificates, unlike every other citizen, and adopted people are systematically denied medical and other family information.
At the February meeting of Laois County Council, a motion brought by cllrs Aidan Mullins and Caroline Dwane Stanley on behalf of Aitheantas (the adoptee identity rights group) calling on minister Catherine Zappone “to acknowledge identity rights and give adopted people a statutory right to access their birth certificates, adoption files, medical history and family heritage” was adopted by the council.
Cllr Dwane Stanley brought to light some of the serious difficulties this omission causes adopted people.
“When asked for their family medical history by GPs and other professionals, they have to reply ‘unknown’ and this affects not only adopted people but their children and grandchildren,” she pointed out.
She went on to compare “this discriminatory policy” with that of Northern Ireland, where adopted people were given an automatic right 32 years ago to their birth certificates and adoption files on reaching the age of 18.
Similar rights were given to adopted people in England and the rest of the UK way back in 1975.
Cllr Dwane Stanley illuminated the plight of adoptees with a quote from a 56-year old.
“The law is a farce. I know more about my dog’s parentage than I do about my own. How can that be right? For thousands of Irish people, their parentage is a state secret. It’s time we moved on from the 1950s.”
Aitheantas believes Ireland’s policy of sealed records and denial of information to adopted people contravenes Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), of which Ireland is a signatory, which recognises the right to identity, including name and family relations.
Birth mothers’ constitutional right to privacy is consistently used by state agencies as an excuse to deny adopted people their birth certificates and adoption files, but a 1998 Supreme Court case found that the constitutional right to privacy is not absolute and must be balanced with the constitutional right to identity.
A right to privacy is not a right to anonymity. A birth is a matter of public record.