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Leo Varadkar promises full support of the state for those affected by illegal adoptions

Latest: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised the full support of the state for people affected by illegal adoptions.

Mr Varadkar apologised on behalf of the Government and said another “dark chapter” had been opened in the country’s history after it was announced 126 births were illegally registered over a 23-year period.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at the launch of the Project Ireland 2040 funds in Government Buildings, Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Children and Youth Affairs minister Dr Katherine Zappone revealed yesterday that an independent review will be launched into the cases between 1946 and 1969, in which those affected may not know their parents were not their birth parents.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail today: “This is potentially very traumatic for a lot of people and I am so sorry for it.

“I hope that we can deal with this, not just as a Government, but as politicians in a way that is really sensitive because it must be.”

The Taoiseach said the people affected had a right to know their identity and their birth story.

He added: “What was done was wrong, what was done robbed children, our fellow citizens, of their identity.

“It was an historic wrong that we must face up to and again on behalf of the Government I’m very sorry for it.”

The Taoiseach said the priority now was to contact all those people affected in a sensitive way.

“Nobody is going to get a knock on the door and suddenly have this information disclosed to their family,” he said.

Earlier today, Mr Varadkar recognised how difficult it will be for the families concerned.

“People are going to find out that they were adopted in this way having thought for the past 50-60 years that they were the natural child of the people who brought them up,” he said.

“It’s going to be really difficult for those parents who did bring up those people. They are going to have to have a very difficult conversation with the children they brought up.”

- Press Association

Update: 85 people contact helpline to find out if they are involved in adoption scandal

The Children's Minister has said 85 people have contacted their helpline to find out if they are involved in the adoption scandal.

Yesterday it was revealed 126 people were illegally adopted from St Patrick's Guild, and many may not know their parents are not their real mother and father.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says a sampling exercise of other adoption agencies will take place to establish if more people are affected.

Minister Katherine Zappone says a social worker has been assigned to each of the cases who will provide counselling and support.

"They are going through the file one more time, looking for the contact information for the individual who was placed with the family. But also for the adopted parents, as well as the birth mother.

"We also set up a helpline for people who might be concerned about 'is it me?'

"So far we've had 85 callers already. Most of those calls, I understand have lasted up to about an hour."

- Digital Desk

Update: Richard Boyd Barrett: I was adopted via St Patrick's Guild in the years affected

By Daniel McConnell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has issued a fresh apology to those affected by the illegal adoption cases in the Dail today.

During Leaders' Questions, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett revealed he was adopted through the St Patrick's Guild and spoke movingly about the impact the scandal is having on those involved.

He said: "I was adopted via St Patrick's Guild in the years affected.

[quote]"I don't actually know if I am one of the cases involved, probably not, but I have questions now."[/quote]

He described yesterday's revelations as a “bombshell” despite it being known about for more than 20 years.

Mr Boyd Barrett said this scandal typified the “toxic relationship between Church and State”.

Facing questions from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Labour's Jan O'Sullivan over delays to the 2016 Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, Mr Varadkar said it has not been allowed to drift.

The Taoiseach said Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is treating the bill as a priority but that the matters contained in it are complex.

The Dail heard that she is due to brief Opposition spokespeople in relation to the scandal in the coming days in a bid to speed up passage of the legislation.

He also stopped short of giving a guarantee as to when the legislation would be passed as he is head of a minority government and that other legislation has been blocked and slowed down in the Dail.

In his powerful contribution, Mr Boyd Barrett said that St Patrick’s Guild sought €50,000 from Tusla in 2015 for transfer of adoption records.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett

Mr Varadkar conceded that this is not a new scandal and is something that has been known for a long time.

He paid tribute to the work of Irish Examiner journalist Conall Ó Fátharta for his work on this subject over many years.

Mr Varadkar also told the Dail that Tusla has handed over 10 sample cases to the Gardai in relation to illegal adoption scandal.

Tusla has informed the Commission of Inquiry of the illegal adoption cases identified, the Taoiseach also said.

He reiterated that a sample exercise will now happen to check if any more people are affected by this illegal adoption scandal.

He described the adoption scandal is another dark chapter in our history, which needs to be handled with the utmost sensitivity. He said the Ireland of the past is akin to a foreign country.

The Adoption Bill is seeking to provide for the acquisition and maintenance of records relating to the adoption, incorrect registration or placement in informal care arrangements of children.

It is also seeking to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a register to be known as the Register of Adoption Contact Enquiries and to provide for the making available by the Child and Family Agency of a service for the tracing of certain persons, their birth relatives and other persons.

Update: Taoiseach describes illegal adoption scandal as 'another dark chapter in our history'

By Elaine Loughlin

The revelation that adoptions were illegally registered by St Patrick's Guild opens "another dark chapter in our history" the Taoiseach has said.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone yesterday confirmed that the natural parents of 126 people were not listed on their birth certs by the agency and were illegally registered between 1946 and 1969.

Speaking in Government Buildings this morning Leo Varadkar said it is "right and appropriate" that information is now shared with people.

He said: "These are events that happened between 50 and 70 years ago and I know some people will say that what's in the past should stay in the past and perhaps we should not open this can of worms in many ways, but we have taken a different view as a Government.

"We have now very clear evidence that there were illegal registrations in St Patrick's Guild and we feel we have to share that information with the people who were affected.

However, he said it is "far too early" to be talking about providing free DNA testing or the roll-out of a redress scheme.

[quote]"The sense that I have from people who have been affected by this is they are not looking for money from the taxpayer or they are not looking for retribution, they are looking for information about their identities, they want to know who they are, they want to know what their birth story is and our focus has to be around that."[/quote]

Asked about the fact that the Department of Children had been first informed of illegal registrations in 2013, he admitted this is "not something that is entirely new" but said evidence was only uncovered in recent times when files were handed over to Tusla.

"I think we have all been aware of the issue of illegal registrations, it's not something that people were unaware of. As Minister Zappone has pointed out, it isn't something new, journalists have been writing about it for many years, adoption rights campaigners have been raising it for many years and many of us will know the tragic story of Philomena Lee and her son.

"This is not something that is entirely new, it has been known in the past, what's different is the fact that these records were transferred over to Tusla from St Patrick's Guild in recent years and the analysis of the records has shown documentary evidence of these illegal registrations," he said.

Earlier: The Justice Minister says the adoption scandal is ‘another step out of the dark shadows of the past’.

Charlie Flanagan has apologised to those he says have been hurt and distressed by the controversy.

[quote] "This is another step out of the dark shadows of the past and I believe its important now that we set in train a process that will uncover the truth and provide information to all those who need it.[/quote]

Between the 1940s and 1960s, St Patrick's Guild illegally listed some couples as birth parents, despite the fact that they had adopted children.

Earlier, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the issue of children incorrectly registered is a failure by the State.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Donohoe said it now falls to the Government to respond to those affected.

Patricia Carey, CEO of the Adoption Authority of Ireland says finding the truth will be a long process.

She said: "These people are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

"The Child and Family Agency first need to find out where they are.

"They certainly won't be phoning them or writing to them with this information, they need to make contact and meet them.

"They need to provide a range of supports in terms of possibly psychological supports and ongoing support for these people to take onboard information which could be life-changing."

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said today: “These cases raise serious human rights issues for the people affected.

"Ultimately, they were deprived of their first family through a false registration process, and their identity and heritage could be difficult to uncover."

Geoffrey Shannon Katherine Zappone Cormac Quinlan

Earlier: 126 babies incorrectly registered as thousands may have been illegally adopted

By Conall Ó Fátharta and Elaine Loughlin

A scoping exercise into hundreds of thousands of the State’s adoption records may reveal thousands of people who have no idea they were illegally adopted.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone revealed that Tusla had identified 126 cases where people had their births illegally registered between 1946 and 1969.

The cases were identified during an analysis of some 13,500 adoption records that were transferred to Tusla by the former adoption society, St Patrick’s Guild.

Illegal birth registrations occur where a child is placed with a couple or individual that are not the parents or parent, but the birth is then registered as if the child had been born to that couple or individual.

Following an initial examination, Tusla identified the illegal registrations because there was a marker specifying ‘adopted from birth’ on the individual file.

Having cross-checked the records with those of the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and the General Register Office (GRO), Tusla identified 126 incorrect registrations as follows:

  • Nine people who have had no contact with St Patrick’s Guild and may be entirely unaware of the true circumstances of their birth;
  • 14 people where a relative had contact with St Patrick’s Guild, but where it is not clear whether the person affected are aware of the incorrect registration;
  • 31 people who have had previous contact with St Patrick’s Guild and who may or may not be aware of the incorrect registration;
  • Two people who, though later adopted legally, were the subject of an illegal registration initially;
  • In the case of a further 16 people, Tusla found insufficient evidence to determine whether an illegal registration had taken place.
  • Of the 126 cases, it was confirmed 20 children were placed outside of Ireland. Seven went to the North, 11 to Britain, and one to the US.
  • Tusla is expected to publish details soon of how they will contact people. It has notified the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes, and transferred relevant records to it. Gardaí were first contacted in February about the cases and on their request, 10 sample files were sent on.

    The Irish Examiner revealed in 2015 that an AAI delegation told representatives of the Department of Children and the GRO in June 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild was aware of several hundred cases of illegal birth registrations.

    At that time, the department said an audit of adoption records “would yield little useful information”, as there would be “little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements” on the files.

    Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone

    However, Ms Zappone yesterday committed to a sampling exercise of the approximately 150,000 adoption records held by the State to ascertain if a full audit is required.

    This will be carried out in the first instance by Tusla and the AAI and will be overseen and quality-assured by an independent reviewer, Marion Reynolds, a former deputy director of Social Services in the North.

    Ms Zappone said more victims of illegal registrations may be identified.

    “I have tried to put myself in the shoes of those who are going to be given this news,” she said.

    “Quite frankly, it is impossible. Our identity goes to the heart of who we are. For people who are in middle age or older, to be told at this stage in their lives that their parents are not their birth parents and that their births were deliberately falsely registered, this will be nothing short of traumatic for them and those around them.

    [quote]“It is hard to estimate the true extent of incorrect registrations of birth because this practice was concealed.”[/quote]

    AAI chairman Geoffrey Shannon said it was crucial the scale of illegal registrations was “comprehensively addressed”.

    “The sampling exercise its an exercise that will determine the scale and the extent of any illegal registration process, that involves a process that will be overseen by an independent person which will ensure transparency and public confidence in that system,” he said.

    “It’s very difficult at this stage to determine whether the practice was systemic practice or it was confined to an agency, but I think a robust process has been put in place to determine that issue.”

    This story first appeared on IrishExaminer.com