Birth Information Bill sparks right to privacy against right to info debate

The Birth Information and Tracing Bill will give adoptees priority to access information, while birth mothers can state “no contact” if they prefer.
Birth Information Bill sparks right to privacy against right to info debate

By Rebecca Black, PA

Ireland’s Minister for Children has insisted a right to privacy must be included in a new Bill to help those who are adopted to find their birth parents.

Roderic O’Gorman made the comments as amendments to the Birth Information and Tracing Bill were discussed at an Oireachtas committee.

Under the legislation, adoptees would be given priority to access information, while birth mothers will be able to state a “no contact” preference, which will be relayed to adopted children, if they wish.

Successive governments have failed to legislate on the issue, saying the right to privacy of the mother outweighed the rights of adopted people to information such as birth and baptismal certificates.


Mr O’Gorman said the “whole purpose of the legislation” is to “provide adopted people with information, as well as provided items”.

He emphasised to the Select Committee on Children, Equality, Integration and Youth that every definition in the Bill “has been thought about in a lot of detail to ensure it interacts properly with the rest of this legislation and other pieces of legislation as well”.

A number of proposed amendments to the Bill were discussed during a lengthy committee meeting on Tuesday.

There were robust exchanges over the right to information and the right to privacy.

Mr O’Gorman described a “robust statutory tracing service” which allows information to be shared or requested while maintaining a level of contact a person is comfortable with.

It is “important that the contact tracing service allows the person initiating the trace or on the other end of the trace to have the say in terms of the degree of contact that they want”, he told the committee.

Some TDs queried whether the Bill is being unduly protective of the privacy rights of the birth mother.

Mr O’Gorman responded by saying the current National Adoption Contact Preference Register has around 4,500 parents whose children were adopted, with the “vast, vast majority” of them looking for contact.

“(The number of those who don’t want contact) is tiny but they are still rights holders … they still have a right to exercise their constitutional right to privacy and if they decide they don’t want contact with the child they gave up for adoption, that is their right,” he said.

Meanwhile, adoptees and survivors of Mother and Baby Homes staged a protest outside the Department for Children and Equality in Dublin city centre to mark International Women’s Day.

Supported by campaigner and former TD Ruth Coppinger, speakers called on Mr O’Gorman to listen to their concerns on the redress scheme.

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