The Adoption Bill, 2009, which will give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption, was published on Friday, 23 January, 2009.
Under the new legislation, prospective adoptive parents will be able to adopt from countries that have also ratified the Hague Convention or from countries with which Ireland has a bi-lateral agreement that conforms to Hague Convention principles.
While it is true to say that Ireland's current Agreement with Vietnam is based on Hague Convention principles, as part of our preparations for the new legislation, we need to ensure that the Agreement reflects the Hague Convention as comprehensively as possible. A new Agreement allows the opportunity to elaborate and strengthen some of the existing provisions and, as such, to meet the standards that have been set in draft legislation. There have been considerable developments in inter-country adoption in Vietnam since the Agreement was signed five years ago. This progress also needs to be reflected in any new Agreement.
In December, 2008, the Irish Government issued a formal request to the Vietnamese Authorities which stated that it wished to enter into immediate discussions with a view to negotiating a new, follow-up, Agreement to the existing one — which will expire on 1 May, 2009. The Vietnamese Authorities responded positively to Ireland's request.
Ireland offered to provide the Vietnamese Authorities with the text of a draft agreement as a basis for negotiations. A draft Bi-lateral Agreement for Inter-country Adoption was delivered on 6 March, 2009, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to the Vietnamese Authorities for their consideration. The Vietnamese Government has since invited a delegation from Ireland to visit Vietnam to discuss the provisions of the draft Bi-Lateral Agreement provided. The delegation will travel to Hanoi in the coming weeks for an intensive round of discussions on this draft Bi-Lateral Agreement.
I would like to again reiterate my personal commitment, and the commitment of the Government, to conclude an agreement with Vietnam.
As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland has a long and positive relationship with Vietnam, but I must also emphasise the need to respect the authority of that jurisdiction, having regard to the sensitive nature of discussions regarding inter-country adoption.
The work to prepare for and advise the Government on this issue and the implementation of the Government's decisions is being given the highest priority. These are complex matters that require careful consideration. At all times, the Minister and the Government, and officials advising them, are guided by the need to respect and protect the best interests and rights of the child.