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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 17 Jun 1976

Vol. 291 No. 9

Adoption Bill, 1976: Second Stage.

I move:

That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

Deputies will be aware of the background which has led to the preparation of the Bill. In a case decided early this month the Supreme Court declared an adoption order made in 1971 to be invalid and awarded custody of the child to its natural parents. The court decided that the board had not discharged the statutory onus that is on it to be satisfied that the mother of the child was informed of her right to withdraw her consent to the making of the adoption order up to the time the order was actually made. The fact that the board did not ensure that the mother was aware of what in one of the judgments is called the date of the hearing was also criticised by the court. The point also arose that the mother did not know or may not have known her rights and that she was entitled to know them—this point being distinct from the board's duty to satisfy itself that this was the case.

While, as was emphasised by the Chief Justice in his judgment, the combination of factors in the case decided by the Supreme Court was a very unusual one, some of the defects on which the decision of the court was based may have been present in some of the adoption orders that have been made. The intention of the Bill in this regard is to validate all of the orders concerned to the extent that they may be invalid by reason of the defects in question. Accordingly, the first substantive provision in the Bill—section 2— is that, provided a consent was duly given, the board shall be deemed to have discharged the onus I have mentioned notwithstanding that it had no evidence that the persons who gave their consent were aware that they could withdraw it at any time before the adoption orders were made or that they knew the dates on which the board proposed to make the orders. I might add that the board's practice not to seek information in respect of these matters was based on the assumption that it was unnecessary for it to do so. A further provision in the Bill, linked with the first, proposes that the fact that a person who gave consent to the making of an adoption order was not aware that he could withdraw it up to the time the order was made or was not aware of the date on which the board proposed to make the order or of his right to be heard by the board shall not invalidate the order.

As regards future cases, the problems that arose in relation to the case recently decided probably could be completely avoided by changes in procedure on the part of the board, but the difficulty is that the changes in procedure that would appear to be necessary if the board were to be sure that it was fully complying would be changes that virtually everybody involved in adoption work would undoubtedly regard as very undesirable. Consequently the Bill has to authorise the board to adopt procedures which the present law, according to the courts decision, would not allow. The main difficulty arose from the obligation which, on my reading of the judgments, the Supreme Court consider lies on the board under the existing legislation to inform a consenting party of the date of the hearing.

I think I should explain at this juncture that there are, in fact, no proceedings before the board at which the various parties to an adoption arrangement are present or represented. The board's practice is first of all to scrutinize the formal documents —application form, consents, and so on—and then to seek and study various social reports on the placement. These include reports from inspectors who have visited the home and so on. Towards the end of the procedure, all going well, the board interviews the prospective adopter or adopters. This interview takes place in all cases. If any other interested person has indicated his wish to discuss the case or if the board wishes to interview some other person, the interview takes place on a separate occasion. The board, for obvious reasons, wishes to maintain this practice. The intention is to permit the board to continue its practice in this regard, but section 3 provides for the giving of additional information to persons who consent to the making of orders.

Section 4 provides that the board may authorise suitable persons to make inquiries on its behalf and may act on the basis of their reports. It would appear from the Supreme Court decision that it is not sufficient for the board to have before it the sworn affidavit of consent and that, even if the consent form were to show on its face that the person giving consent fully understood the nature and effect of an adoption order and of the consent, including the fact that he or she may withdraw the consent, it would still be necessary for the board to have that fact confirmed independently.

The provisions I have mentioned are intended to deal with the problems raised directly by the decision of the Supreme Court. There are, however, two further provisions which deal with wider issues. Section 5 provides that in proceedings for a declaration that an adoption order is invalid, the High Court, having regard to the interests of the child and to the rights under the Constitution of the persons concerned, may decline to make the declaration if it so thinks proper, and section 6 is intended to ensure that if, nevertheless, in a particular case an adoption order is declared invalid, no order relating to the custody of the child will be made without adequate notice to the adopter or adopters and then only on the basis that the decision will be made in accordance with the provisions of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964, which specifies that the welfare of the child is to be the first and paramount consideration.

The Supreme Court decision has generated considerable interest and quite an amount of emotion. Some people's reaction has been to denounce our adoption laws in toto and to call for a completely new approach. I hope, however, that this Bill will be accepted as an adequate response to the immediate problems. It has obviously been prepared quickly to meet a proven need. I have an open mind on the question of the desirability of some further changes in the adoption code and it is a subject which will be receiving my attention. I have, however, already announced that the Government intend to bring forward proposals for an amendment of the Constitution to ensure that in any adoption situation the interests of the child shall prevail. I think that the present Bill serves a useful purpose and I would ask the House to accept it and to give its approval with the minimum of delay.

The Fianna Fáil Party welcome this Bill, one which is clearly, as the Minister himself suggested, an emergency measure to try and restore the situation as it obtained prior to the recent decision of the Supreme Court.

I am sure the Minister and the House appreciate that the production of emergency legislation, hurried legislation, is something about which all sides of the House have at all times been worried. Whereas we realise it is necessary, nevertheless we want to make sure that we are doing the right and proper thing. Because of the importance of this Bill I am glad that we are dealing only with the Second Stage this afternoon.

My party are very firm in their belief that once an adoption order is made it cannot and indeed should not be set aside. The adoption order is and must be a permanent order for all times. If the situation were otherwise chaos would exist and an unbelievable amount of unnecessary suffering and agony on many fronts would follow.

In a debate such as this we must be extremely careful of the fundamental rights of parents. I am sure everybody will agree that those fundamental rights of parents cannot and should not be interefered with in any way. In this Bill I note that we have to rely on the help of section 3 of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964, for the protection of the welfare of the child. In the operation of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964, it must be remembered that the welfare of the child under this Act takes precedence, in that we would have a situation where the two legal parents would have difficulty in deciding on the welfare of the children, perhaps each looking for the custody of the children. Certainly here the welfare of the child must take precedence.

Under the Adoption Acts and up to and until the adoption order is made the fundamental rights of the parents must take precedence over the welfare of the child. I do not believe there is any disagreement on this point, but nevertheless I feel I should mention it because if the welfare of the child were to take precedence over the fundamental rights of the parents then we could have a situation where wealthy parents could adopt a child because they could look after the welfare of the child better than the natural parents. Perhaps they might be in a position to provide a better standard of living or better education for the child.

I am trying to point out the important difference between the underlying fundamental principles in the Adoption Acts and the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964. Under the Adoption Acts the rights of the mother and the adoptive parents have to be taken into consideration. The adoption agency places the child with the full consent of the mother and then the State takes the necessary steps to validate the agreement entered into and to protect the rights of the child. Up to the time the adoption order is made the welfare of the child should not supersede the fundamental rights of the natural parents.

The mother of the child being placed for adoption must be fully aware of her rights under the Adoption Acts. I believe this is vitally important. I do not support those who condemn our adoption laws out of hand. I believe those people are unfortunately allowing their emotions to run away with them. In a situation such as this after the decision of the Supreme Court and where we have 23,000 adoption orders made since 1952 I believe we must exercise extreme restraint and extreme caution in our choice of words for the very real fear which exists of making the situation worse for those who are involved. In the course of this debate on this emergency legislation Members of the House should show the same restraint and caution I have just mentioned. We must do everything we possibly can not to allow a situation to develop where we would unduly worry the many adoptive parents who are anxiously watching and waiting the new Bill which we are discussing today.

I believe there are a few questions which must be asked. There are some things I am not too happy about. Let us take, for instance, the talk, about the constitutional referendum. I have no doubt that since the question of the need for a constitutional referendum has arisen that it will cause worry to many people. The mechanics of a constitutional referendum are so great that it is a worry to practising politicians never mind ordinary people and those who are emotionally on tenterhooks at the present time because of the result of the Supreme Court decision.

The Minister should spell out in detail why this constitutional referendum is necessary. Is it necessary to render the Bill we are now discussing constitutional? Is it, as I gathered from the Taoiseach this morning on the Order of Business, necessary to render the 1952 Act constitutional? I would like to hear the Minister telling us if we can amend the Constitution retrospectively. This is a very serious matter. It might be best if it could be clarified at this early stage.

Another point I would like to mention is that during the course of a recent debate in the House on the wealth tax and the capital acquisition tax it was discovered that both of those Acts have sections in them which say in effect that an adopted child, whether it was adopted here or abroad, is to be treated as a natural legitimate child of the parents concerned. I am slightly worried why we have to have a provision such as this in the Acts I have mentioned. There are other Members of the House who have the same worry and who would like to know why a provision such as this has to be written into the Bill.

I would have thought that the Adoption Acts would have provided for all legal purposes of the child, that an adopted child should be treated in exactly the same way as a natural legitimate child of the parents concerned. I am sure most people believe that the adopted child has full rights, has the same rights as the natural legitimate child. I understand the Adoption Acts do not have blanket cover for the full rights of the adopted child. If this is so I believe this Bill, which is to remedy the position of adopted children, should have a provision to guarantee them full rights. Those couple of points are vitally important particularly to the children in question but also to the parents who adopt them. Perhaps the Minister would have a look at them and if he needs more time on them perhaps during the course of the Committee Stage on Wednesday next, if business is so ordered, we can have further discussion on them.

I would like to intervene very briefly on this subject with particular reference to one issue Deputy Collins raised which concerns the question of amending the Constitution and the feelings of adoptive parents and indeed adoptive families. First of all, I would like to say that I speak as one who is involved in that, as other Deputies are. I do not like to make too much of that because I know that many people who are not adoptive parents fully share their feelings and understand them. It has been one of the more reassuring and finer things about this. I would also like to express my appreciation of the considerateness and, if I may say so, gentleness shown by Deputy Collins in his approach to this and his concern that nothing should be said here that would further trouble those families who are inevitably troubled by the discussion which has been set loose.

The one substantive point I want to make concerns the question of the need for constitutional amendment. Deputy Collins rightly said that many parents and indeed many children are on tenterhooks about this because many of the adopted children are old enough to get some sense of this debate. Even surprisingly young children get a sense of it. Nothing will permanently allay that sense of anxiety and uncertainty except a constitutional amendment. That is fact. Unless this is done the uncertainty will continue to hand over these families and will never go away although it might prove to be an unfounded uncertainty and may never be challenged. Therefore, both as a member of the Government and as one of those affected by this legislation, I welcome the Bill and, in particular, I welcome the intention to amend the Constitution. It has been a subject of much gratification to all of us that no one has endeavoured, either on this side or on the other side of the House, to make a political football out of this issue.

I should hope sincerely that the Minister would not think that I gave any indication of being against a constitutional amendment in this regard.

I am glad to hear that. I should hope that both sides of the House would have a meeting of minds on this matter and that an appropriate constitutional change can be put before the people, a change which we can recommend unanimously from this Parliament and which will have the effect of rescuing people from the uncertainty and anxiety that exists.

I join with Deputy Collins in welcoming this measure. It might be said that nothing which has occurred in our political life for some considerable time has caused such widespread anxious reaction as the decision of the Supreme Court in relation to an adopted child. In common with other Deputies, I have had many communications by way of telephone calls, letters and personal calls, in relation to this situation. The Government are to be commended on the way in which they have responded to the need for the amending legislation. What is essential is that adoptive parents and others be reassured as quickly and as fully as possible about the situation.

I find it very difficult to understand the reasoning of the Supreme Court in reaching their decision. As a consequence of that decision, it was absolutely necessary that the Government act quickly. The Minister asks that we accept the Bill as an adequate response to the immediate problem and he goes on to say that the legislation was prepared quickly to meet a proven need. We should be very careful to look on this piece of legislation in exactly the light in which it is put before us. We have a sudden crisis situation which calls for a response from this Parliament and we are giving that adequate response. It is very important, though, that we confine our thinking and our comments at this stage to that immediate problem, to the vital matter of reassuring adoptive parents and of stipulating that existing adoptions are as safe and as secure as the law of this land can make them.

I am satisfied that in this legislation we are doing that exactly. We are giving these people the reassurance that they are seeking desperately. I trust that the passing of the legislation will have the desired effect in that regard. However, when we bring in legislation dealing with adoption we open up a very wide area. Again, the Government are right at this stage in mentioning the need for an amendment to the Constitution and in not attempting to involve that amendment in this matter. The amendment to the Constitution will be necessarily a much more serious and difficult question than the question of the immediate response which was necessary to meet the Supreme Court decision. It is something about which we shall all have to think very long, anxiously and sincerely.

I support fully Deputy Collins when he says that there is an important difference between the Guardianship of Infants Act and the Adoption Acts in that they deal with separate and totally different situations. The Minister mentioned proposals for an amendment to the Constitution to ensure that in any adoptive situation the interest of the child shall prevail. I am not very happy about that statement. Admittedly, this question is at an early stage and we must have much more information in regard to it. However, we must be very careful that the fundamental rights of parents are protected adequately by our Constitution and by our laws. In the case of the invocation of the Guardianship of Infants Act there are involved two parents who in every respect are equal before the law but who, unfortunately, are arguing about the future of a child. Therefore, the fact that the welfare of the child should be the paramount consideration is entirely appropriate but the Minister here uses the phrase "in any adoption situation". That possibly means a situation before an adoption order is made. It is something I wish to mention at this stage as being a matter to which we must give close scrutiny and careful examination.

I agree with Deputy Collins, too, when he says that once an adoption order is made it should be inviolable, sacrosanct and beyond the power or the capacity of anyone to interfere with. When the Minister speaks of "an adoption situation", he would seem to imply that the welfare of the child being of paramount importance comes into the operation at a very early stage of the proceedings. This is a question which we must return to in depth and debate fully and sincerely so that, as the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs said, we might reach an agreed proposal to put before the people.

To return to what I said originally, this measure is necessary. A very harrowing situation arose as a result of the Supreme Court decision so that it was absolutely necessary that the Minister and the Dáil should act. I comment the Minister for acting. I hope and believe that the passing of this legislation and the unanimous support it will receive in this House will achieve its purpose, of totally and completely reassuring all those persons throughout the community at this point who are in need of that reassurance.

I should like to add my few words to what has been said in an effort to make it clear to all those who are so anxiously concerned that it is the will of all of us in this House to resolve this problem satisfactorily and as soon as possible. I hope this Bill will satisfactorily resolve the problem for which it has been designed to deal and I think it probably will. However, I appreciate the point made by Deputy Collins that sometimes rushed legislation can lead one into greater difficulties than one is trying to cure. Even though all of us want to have this matter resolved as quickly as possible, it is important to have some brief interval to enable more full consideration to be given to the terms of the Bill which has come out today. Subject to that, it should be clear to everyone concerned that it is the will of Parliament to resolve this problem satisfactorily.

Deputy Collins has quite rightly raised a question with regard to the proposed constitutional amendment and Deputy Haughey, quite rightly, has drawn attention to some of the possible implications involved. There are serious issues that can arise in regard to this but at the moment we are in the position that we do not know precisely what the Government have in mind in regard to the proposed constitutional amendment. That may be because the Government have decided for reasons of prudence that that matter should not be gone into in detail while this Bill is being discussed and I appreciate the possible wisdom of that course of action.

However, although there has been a public announcement of intention to bring forward a constitutional amendment it has the consequence that we are not in a position to discuss it adequately. It is right that attention should be drawn at this early stage to the fact that a constitutional amendment in this area could have serious implications and consequences which, as Deputy Haughey said, need to be thought about very carefully and maturely. I do not wish to develop the theme of the possible difficulties involved but, while all of us are anxious to avoid exacerbating anxieties even further, the question raised by Deputy Collins in regard to the implications of the announcement of a constitutional amendment are serious ones. These questions will be raised in any event, if not in this House then outside it. They should be raised here to give the Minister for Justice the opportunity to deal with them as fully and adequately as he can at this stage.

Conscious as all of us are of the possible difficulties that can arise, nevertheless I am absolutely convinced that given the desire and the political will on all sides to achieve a satisfactory solution it is possible to do so whatever may be the difficulties. Once the political will is there on all sides to achieve it, it is not beyond the wit and ingenuity of man to achieve a satisfactory solution to this problem. While there may be difficulties—I am saying this in an effort to reassure those who are so concerned and who will be even more concerned in future as the implications of this matter are considered more deeply—we should not lose sight of the fact that all such problems can be solved satisfactorily. The evidence is clear already that the political will to resolve the problems exists on all sides and, given that, they can be solved.

I should like to underline a point made by Deputy Collins because I am rather afraid the Minister may respond by saying it is an interesting point but is not relevant to this Bill which has a very limited purpose. The point is in regard to the provisions of the Wealth Tax Act and the Capital Acquisitions Tax Act. It may not be precisely involved in the problems sought to be solved now but I suggest it goes to the fundamental roots of the whole issue of adoption. Quite frankly, I was horrified when I discovered that the basic adoption law in this country does not confer the same rights on the adopted child as on the natural legitimate child of a marriage. I believed, as I think the vast majority of people did, that it did so.

In connection with the Wealth Tax Act, I had occasion to examine this matter because, as the original provision was drafted, there was a defect which had the effect of conferring certain benefits on children adopted outside of the country while taking them away from those adopted in the country. It was purely an oversight. In the course of examining this I had occasion to examine the basic Adoption Act and I discovered that it contains a number of sections that, in effect, say that for the purposes of X an adopted child shall have the same rights and privileges as the natural legitimate child of lawfully wedded parents and there was a similar provision for the purposes of Y and Z. As Deputy Collins pointed out, in the Wealth Tax Act there is a provision that for the purposes of that Act an adopted child will be treated in the same way as the natural legitimate child of lawfully wedded parents. The question is, why should that be necessary? As Deputy Collins said, why is it not so that, for all legal purposes if a child is adopted, the child will be treated in exactly the same way as the natural legitimate child of a marriage? Maybe there is a good reason why it should not be done but I cannot think of one. It seems to me that the vast majority of people, whether they are adoptive parents or not, believed that when a child was adopted the legal effect was that they were in exactly the same position as the child of the couple concerned but it appears that is not so. If it were so, it would not have been necessary to put in those provisions in the Acts concerned.

The Minister may be tempted to respond to this by saying that it is not something that should be dealt with in this Bill which is of limited purpose. If there is substance in the point, I would urge him to cover it in this Bill. The drafting should not present any problem. It can be taken from one of the Acts recently passed simply by saying "for all purposes" instead of for the limited purposes specified in the sections.

If what I have suggested is true, it is going to the root of the whole basis of legal adoption in this country and it should not be allowed to continue if that is the position. We are trying to deal with a serious problem arising in regard to adoption but if the other position which I have described is the one that obtains, I suggest that it is at least as serious a problem in relation to adoption and should be cured immediately in this Bill.

I am speaking as a Deputy who has been very close to this subject in recent weeks and who has been in communication with many adoptive parents. All of us will agree that in matters of adoption once the usual procedures have been completed only the welfare of the child should have precedence in the law of the land.

Any other approach to this sensitive question would involve in the minds of people a departure from justice and human compassion. It would be intolerable to our community. I am inclined to agree with the suggestion that nothing will permanently allay our anxiety except a firm conclusion in relation to our constitutional position. This is probably correct because ordinary people do not always understand legal conclusions. Indeed, some people are inclined to think that legal conclusions are not always right. Because of the type of anxiety which can be raised in the minds of people, particularly in this sensitive area, this procedure may be necessary. If it is necessary, I believe that it should be gone through with as little fuss as possible. I do agree with the remarks made by Deputies Collins and Colley in relation to the rights of adopted children in other areas. These matters should also be dealt with in this Bill.

I thank all the Members who have contributed to the debate. The primary purpose of this Bill has been to reassure adoptive parents and adopted children that their position will not be jeopardised by what I might call a legal technicality that is subsequently discovered. The debate will give the reassurance that these people need and to which they are entitled. The measures published in the Bill will go a long way towards giving that reassurance but, more importantly, this reassurance will be available by virtue of what Deputy Colley referred to as the expression of common political will to ensure that everything that needs to be done will be done. We are all determined to ensure that the recent tragedy will never be repeated. The Bill is an interim measure to deal with the immediate problems created by that particular decision. I am satisfied that the Bill meets those immediate problems. The Bill also signals that there could be problems in other areas which no particular statute per se could deal with. That is why reference has been made to amending the Constitution.

Before I deal with that point, I should like to deal with the other points raised by Deputies Collins and Colley in regard to the status of the adopted child. I had always assumed that the incidents attaching to adoption were the full incidents of the natural child. I was surprised by a suggestion in the debate on the Wealth Tax Bill that this might not be so, that the incidents had to be legislated for in every particular situation that might arise. I will certainly consider that position because adoption should automatically bring with it the full legal status of the natural child. I have no doubt that it was the intention of the Adoption Act, 1952 to put the adopted child in the same position as the natural child. If that intention has not been fully carried out, this will be an opportunity to remedy the situation. I agree with Deputy Colley that it is a fundamental matter relating to the whole adoption code. Again, I am speaking on a subject I have just heard for the first time. When we look into this matter we may see that our fears are unnecessary.


If they are valid and real, they will have to be cured. The Bill deals specifically with the problems created by the Supreme Court decision. Section 5 of the Bill, which is a far-reaching section, deals with the rights of the child, the rights of the parents and the constitutional position. Section 5 proposes a matter on which we will have to reach agreement or agree to differ, that is, the respective positions of the child and the child's natural parents. The Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964 has been quoted as asserting the primacy of the child in any dispute between parents. But attention has not been paid to the provisions in section 2 of the Adoption Act, 1974, in which this principle is enunciated again in the context of any proceedings after the making of an adoption order. Section 2 of the Adoption Act, 1974 reads:

In any matter, application or proceedings——

That amendment was made in the Seanad.


——before the Board or any Court relating to the arrangements for or the making of an adoption order, the Board or the Court, in deciding that question, shall regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration.

That is the law as it stands. I gather from some of the views that have been expressed that there are doubts whether that should be the law. My view is that it expresses the law as it should be, that in considering the respective positions of the child and its natural parents the prime consideration must always be the welfare of the child. This consideration will always have to remain paramount.

Before the order is made?

Yes, in the making of the order.

Even if the natural parent wished to retain the child?

If the natural parents wish to withdraw their consent, they are entitled to do so and can retain the child.

Surely the welfare of the parent takes precedence over the welfare of the child until such time as the adoption is made because until such time as the adoption order is made the natural parent has the right to retain the child.

The court can actually dispense with the consent if the consent is not forthcoming. That is provided for in section 3 of the Adoption Act, 1974. One of the matters which had to be reformed at that time was the situation where an adoption order could not be made because a consent would not be given, and you had a situation where children were being placed in homes and there was a long spell of uncertainty where a mother could not or would not make up her mind. This was very bad for the adoptive parents and for the mother because she was in a state of uncertainty and it was bad for the child. Power was taken in the Adoption Act, 1974 to dispense with the consent if the court so decided. That is an area in which the child can be taken where there is no consent. This question may have to be debated again in the context of the constitutional amendment, but the point I was making was that in regard to section 5 of this Bill power is taken in that Bill to preclude the court from declaring an order invalid provided the court is satisfied that it would not be in the best interests of the child and that it would be proper having regard to those interests and to the rights under the Constitution of all persons concerned not to make such declaration. In this legislation we want to reassure adoptive parents and children that their position, status and relationships will not be disturbed. The only way in which that can be reassured is by providing a limit at some stage to the power of a person to intervene to upset those relationships. Section 5 goes so far as to prevent the court declaring invalid an adoption order that might have been made illegally or that might have been made improperly if the court decided 3, 4 or 5 years afterwards that the interests of the child require that.

I accept that.

That is generally accepted and if this section is effective it will close off any loopholes for upsetting the relationship at a subsequent time. But it cannot deny people their rights to challenge what is being done in the courts or here on constitutional grounds because that in itself would be unconstitutional. That is why the section also says that the court must have regard to the rights under the Constitution of all persons concerned. To make the assurance that we have given here totally absolute, we will have to examine the constitutional position possibly in relation to making the firm decision in that situation as to what rights are to be considered—the rights of the child or what used to be the constitutional rights of the natural parents. In that debate if we are to implement the principle which we all agree is the right one, we will have to decide on the primacy of the child. There may be other measures to be dealt with in the constitutional amendment—the validity of the 1952 Act. It would be as well to clear up any doubts that people might have about the constitutionality of the functions of the Adoption Board. This is not, strictly speaking, relevant to this debate. I mentioned it to say that the exact scope and specific details of the constitutional amendment have yet to be decided upon and spelled out. They will be before this House by way of a Bill and that will afford an opportunity to debate the question of the primacy and paramount rights of the child and other questions.

I know that the details of the proposed constitutional amendment have not yet been worked out but can we take it that it would not be the intention of the Government to bring in a provision which will have the effect of preventing the mother of an illegitimate child holding on to that child if she wanted to? In other words, it would be envisaged that she could continue to do that before the adoption order was made.

Not necessarily. We have to have regard to what we have already provided for in section 3 of the Adoption Act, 1974 which does envisage a situation where a mother is not giving her consent. In that situation we decided that the court should be entitled to intervene to end this awful uncertainty for the mother, the adoptive parents and for the child. Subject to that I would say, yes to Deputy Colley's question.

That could only occur in a case where a child has been under the care of somebody other than the girl concerned?

Yes, that is the only case in which it can arise, where the child has actually been placed and is with the adoptive parents but the rest of the legalities have not been complied with.

To make it absolutely clear from this side of the House and from the reassurance point of view, once the adoption order is made we will go along with any amendment, constitutional or anything else that the Minister wishes to make after the adoption order is made so that in so far as adoptive parents are concerned now we are totally with the Minister in the reassurances that have been given. We may have to discuss with the Minister the situation in regard to the natural fundamental rights of the parents before adoption orders are made.

I am glad that point has been clarified. That is common case between us. I would like to thank Members for their contributions on this debate. I would like to reiterate two points made by Deputy Collins, one of which is, to draw attention to the very successful operation of the Adoption Acts up to now. Over 23,000 happy and successful adoptions have been effected under these Acts. We must not lose sight of the fact that our adoption code has worked well and effectively and that is important to realise. People who seek radical changes are not justified in seeking them. The record does not support them. The second point is in relation to the expression of common political will to ensure that the hardship which arose in the previous case will never be repeated, and I assure the public that that will is present and will be translated into effective legislation and, if necessary, constitutional action. The major steps in doing that are being taken under this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the next Stage?

Wednesday, 23rd June, 1976.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 23rd June, 1976.