Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 09 October, 1997

Written Answers. - Adoption Contact Register.

59. Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans, if any, he has for developing a contact register for adopted persons; and, if so, the timetable for developing such a register. [13822/97]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Fahey): I would like to deal with the question of the establishment of a contact register within the context of the wider issue of access to birth records by adopted persons.

At present, access to birth records by adopted persons is restricted under section 22 of the Adoption Act, 1952. Where circumstances permit, an adoption agency will do what it can to facilitate contact between adopted persons and [614] birth relatives by mutual voluntary consent provided it is satisfied, through counselling, that both parties are fully cognisant of the considerations and implications involved in such a step. The increased volume of tracing requests to adoption societies and health boards in recent years is an indication of the strength of feeling and strong desire for information by the parties concerned.

There is a clear need for legislation on this issue in order to provide a structured, coherent and equitable post-adoption contact system. However, it would be prudent to await clarification of a number of constitutional and other legal issues surrounding the question of access to birth records, heard by the Supreme Court in July, before proceeding with legislation in this very sensitive area of human relationships. The issues heard by the Supreme Court go to the very heart of post-adoption contact as they deal with the right of a child to know the identity of its birth mother and the right of the birth mother to confidentiality. It is expected that the Supreme Court will deliver its judgment in the case shortly.

An adoption contact register is only one element of a post-adoption contact system and, on its own, will not provide a solution to those experiencing difficulty in tracing a birth parent or child given up for adoption. Therefore, I do not propose to proceed with the establishment of such a register before finalising proposals on the structure of the wider post-adoption contact system.