I understand there is no objection to this Bill being taken now.
Adoption Bill, 1952—Second Stage.
This is a Bill to provide for the adoption of children. Many Senators have, no doubt, already read the Bill, and I am sure that all of them will agree with the principle of it. I do not, therefore, propose to say much about the Bill now, but there are two points to which I should like to direct the attention of Senators. The first is the fact that the only children who may be adopted are orphans and illegitimate children. It may be suggested that there are exceptional circumstances in which the adoption of a legitimate child who is not a full orphan would have much to commend it and that provision should be made for this in the Bill. I am advised, however, that, in view of the fact that the Constitution declares the rights and duties of parents to be inalienable, any provision for the permanent transfer of these rights and duties from a living parent might be unconstitutional. I do not think it would be advisable to take the risk for the sake of the few children concerned.
The second point I wish to comment on is the fact that the Bill contains a number of safeguards which some Senators may consider to be unduly restrictive. I do not, myself, think they are. This is the first measure dealing with legal adoption in this country, and, in a matter of this kind, we should hasten slowly. If experience shows that the restrictions are unnecessary and undesirable, amending legislation can be introduced.
The text of the Bill is easy to understand and does not call for explanation. Part I contains definitions and the usual preliminary provisions. Part II deals with the making of adoption orders; Part III with the effects of adoption orders; Part IV with the registration of adoption societies and Part V contains a number of miscellaneous provisions.
Part II provides for the establishment of an adoption board consisting of a chairman and six ordinary members. This board will deal with all applications for adoption and it is given power in the Bill to make adoption orders. Only persons of judicial standing or barristers or solicitors of at least ten years' standing will be eligible for appointment as chairman of the board. The chairman and ordinary members will be appointed by the Government.
I have already mentioned that only illegitimate children and orphans may be adopted. The children must be at least six months and not more than seven years old, but the upper age limit will not apply to existing adoptions which come within the scope of Section 19 of the Bill. An adoption order may be obtained only by a married couple, a widow or a relative of the child. Generally, the applicant or applicants must be at least 30 years of age, but this provision will not apply to relatives. An adoption order may be made only with the consent of the mother, guardian and any person having charge of or control over the child, unless the board dispenses with the consent on the grounds that the person is insane or cannot be found. The applicants, the child and the parents of the child must all be of the same religion. The provisions in regard to religion are contained in Section 12. Sub-section (6) of that section deals with four specified religions and it represents the joint recommendation of the authorised representatives of the religions concerned.
When an adoption order is made, the child's birth will be registered in a special register, an extract from which will serve as a birth certificate for the child. Neither the register nor the certificate will disclose the child's origin, and a "short" birth certificate may be issued as if the register were the ordinary register of births.
The effects of an adoption order are set out in Part III of the Bill. The object is to place the adopted child, as far as possible, in the same position as he would be if born in lawful wedlock to his adoptive parents.
Part IV provides for the registration of adoption societies. No society may arrange adoptions unless they are registered and the board is empowered to require a registered society to furnish information to the board about its activities.
Part V imposes certain restrictions on the sending of children out of the State. It prohibits advertisements relating to adoption and it also prohibits payments for arranging adoptions, or payments in consideration of the adoption of a child.
In conclusion, may I say that I will welcome any suggestions for improving the Bill? I would, however, ask Senators, as I asked Deputies in the Dáil, to bear in mind what I said at the beginning, namely that in legislation of this kind it is better to go too slowly than too fast. We are not interfering with the existing right to adopt a child informally, and in so far as the Bill goes, it is, I think, a definite advance. As such, I recommend it to the House.
I would like to congratulate the Minister on this Bill. I would like to congratulate him on having introduced it and congratulate him on the obvious care and trouble which he has taken to try and make it as workable as possible. He has more or less indicated that he could himself criticise the Bill in several respects. So could I. I am prepared to accept, in general terms, the view expressed by the Minister that what we want is a workable Bill which will have general acceptance. It would be a mistake to press for points which might be logical and for which, possibly, a very good case could be made, but which might become matters of controversy and might risk the smooth application of the work in the Bill.
For many years I have advocated the provision of some form of legal adoption. I am, therefore, extremely glad that this Bill has been introduced. I am very glad, indeed, that it has met with a good measure of support from all classes and that it is likely to become law.
I do not propose to deal with minor points, because I think they can be much better dealt with by way of question and answer on Committee Stage. There is one point which I feel that I should mention to the Minister now, because it will have to be raised on Committee Stage. It arises out of the section which was amended in the Dáil, Section 12, which deals with cases where persons who are not of the same religion may, nevertheless, be permitted to adopt a child. I think that, in the amended form, that is at the discretion of the adoption board. I have no objection to the amendment as it stands, but I have been approached by two of the Protestant bodies which are not mentioned. There are also two other bodies who have not approached me, but it would seem to me that they also require consideration. The two denominations whose representatives have approached me are the Baptist Union of Ireland and the Brethren who are commonly called the Plymouth Brethren. The other two denominations are the Congregational Union of Ireland and the Moravian Church in Ireland. Neither of these two has approached me. It is quite possible that, if they knew the Bill was before the Seanad, they might have done so.
The gentlemen who approached me on behalf of the first two bodies I have mentioned told me that they had some conversation with the officials of the Department, and that the Minister was very anxious to do the right thing in the matter. It was suggested to them that there would be no fundamental opposition to their inclusion provided the consent of the other denominations who are included in the section were first obtained. Unfortunately, it is quite impossible to get the authoritative consent of the majority of religious denominations at short notice. I have been informed that in respect of one of the smaller denominations approached by the Baptists and the Brethren, the consent has been given. In respect of the other denominations, however, it would be quite a considerable time before they would be able to say whether or not consent would be given. These four denominations are small here—I am not speaking on their behalf in this matter—but judging by an examination of the Dublin directory, it would seem that though these bodies are relatively small in the Twenty-Six Counties, the Baptist Union and the Congregational Union are very substantial bodies, taken over the whole of Ireland.
It is, therefore, rather important from every point of view that care should be taken to try and meet particular cases, and that there should not be undue haste. I am not a member of any of these denominations. The Church of which I am a member is included among the Churches in Section 12, but I felt it was only right that I should raise the matter when I was asked. To the best of my knowledge all the four religious denominations I have mentioned are included in the Constitution, which covers all other religious denominations existing in Ireland at the date of its enactment.
The difficulty I see in this particular matter is that if we wait until the question of consent or otherwise can be determined, it will probably mean a couple of months. My greatest difficulty was due to a statement made last week, no doubt in good faith, that we were not going to have any other Bills put through before the Recess. Accordingly, I did not think there was any urgency. I heard only last night that the Bill was likely to be discussed to-day. In the circumstances, the only thing I can do is to put down an amendment to include the names of such of those bodies as desire it, and leave it to the Minister to consider.
There are two suggestions made which I would like the Minister to consider between this and the Committee Stage. The first of these suggestions is not quite so practicable as the second. It is that there should be an amendment in the Bill that, where in the case of religious bodies recognised by the Constitution and not mentioned in the Bill, adoption might take place if the adoption board were satisfied that consent had been given. That does not appear to me to be as practicable as the other suggestion which was made and which I would like the Minister to consider. The Minister should have power by means of an Order passed by both Houses and laid on the Table of the House to include additional bodies provided they are bodies which come within the scope of the phrase in the Constitution.
I agree with the Minister when he states that we should not act hastily. There is no other amendment I intend to put down unless it arises by consent in the course of discussion on the Committee Stage. Once this Bill is passed it is very unlikely that any Government will want to change it for three or four years. I do not think it would be desirable that it should be changed until the adoption board has had experience and is able to make a full report as to how it worked out. For that reason, I do not like to leave these denominations in an uncertain position for three or four years. If it were possible to provide the safeguards I have suggested and if the number is restricted to religious denominations covered by the phrase in the Constitution, it might possibly meet the case.
I propose to put down an amendment for the Committee Stage to include those denominations who desire inclusion so that the question can be debated again. The Minister can then consider what is the best thing to do. The last thing I want to do is to delay the passing of the Bill. I welcome the Bill and wish it as speedy a passing as possible. I do not know whether the Minister would like to deal with the matter around the 1st October, but that would give ample time to find out about this matter of the consent. If the Minister would prefer to get the Bill through at once, I suggest that he takes power to add names in Section 12.
I am sure the Minister would be the first to give primary credit in this Bill to the Legal Adoption Society and to the private Deputies who introduced the original private Bill.
They did a great deal of the necessary softening up in this rather controversial topic, and I am quite sure the Minister would be the first and, in fact, he has been the first, to give the primary credit to them. We are all very grateful to the Minister for his own fatherly adoption of this Adoption Bill. It is a baby that does very great credit to him, as the adoptive father, as well as to its original legitimate parents. I would like to assure him that every person to whom I have spoken, has been highly appreciative of the work which his Department has done in support of it. I know from my own personal negotiations in the matter that both the Minister and his Department have spared no pains, and have taken the greatest care to satisfy the scruples and the needs of all parties involved.
There are profound religious principles involved in this Bill, and there are constitutional questions and difficult personal problems involved, and if we had not had such patient consideration by the Department there might have been a good deal of hard feeling about it. So far as I know, there is no justifiable objection to the Bill as it stands, and I have heard no one say that this or that clause in the Bill is wrong or unjust or unfair. I will mention a little later one further concession that might possibly be granted, but that is all I will plead for.
I agree with Senator Douglas that the Minister has been very wise to give us what might be called a minimal Bill, and has not tried to do too much at the beginning. We would all agree that it is better to have a plain dish where all the guests are in peace and friendship than some rich banquet where there is quarrelling and dissatisfaction around the table. That is what the Minister has given us. It is an easily digestible dish, and I am sure it will do good to the body politic in general. Since there was no provision at all for legal adoption in this country before this Bill, everything in the Bill is something gained, and we must be grateful for that.
I would like to refer to what Senator Douglas said on this very thorny section, Section 12 on page 5. I have some diffidence about reverting to this because I know the Minister and his Department have taken the greatest care and have been given a good deal of trouble over this clause. I would like to repeat that we are very appreciative of the patience he has shown in dealing with the rather tricky questions of principle at issue between the smaller religious denominations in this country. If we all belonged to one religion, it would certainly have simplified this Bill, but legislators have to take things as they are and to be patient with things as they are, perhaps with a view to amending them later. I think our legislators and our Minister have given us a very fine example in this matter.
Senator Douglas has mentioned two Protestant bodies who might feel a little aggrieved under the section. I think he said—he will correct me if I am wrong—the Plymouth Brethren and the Baptist Union.
I said that these two bodies had approached me. There were two others as well that seem to be in a similar position.
I take it the Senator has definite information from these two bodies. I would like to remind him and Senators generally that there is a very delicate balance involved here. There is within the Protestant community a more liberal, a more exclusive element. There is one sect, a Protestant sect, that has not the slightest doubt about my being damned for eternity unless I change very quickly, and there is another that considers that only 144,000 souls out of the whole population of the world can and will be saved, which means a very grim look-out for some of us, I am afraid. You can see that, for one of those 144,000 souls to allow a child of theirs to be adopted by a body which is unlikely to contribute much to that quota is a very delicate matter, and we who do not ostensibly belong to the 144,000 who are certain to be saved are a little uneasy about reciprocation along those lines.
The fact is that the bodies mentioned in Section 12, as amended on Report, see entirely eye to eye in this matter. They have come together. They have discussed it and rediscussed it, and agree that this is the right amendment to the Bill. These other bodies have been floating around and, apparently, voicing some objections, but why have they not done something already, why have they not approached the four main Protestant denominations, why have they not made their case quite clear to the Minister? They can hardly complain that they have not had time. I sympathise with their point of view, but it cannot be assumed, as Senator Douglas seems to assume, that if these bodies say: "We would like to come in under this clause", the other bodies would stay in; they might say: "Very well, we opt out". That is the difficulty.
It is very tedious; it is very trying; but that is the situation, and I do not know what is the best way to cope with it now that Senator Douglas has raised this point. I would agree with him that we had better not rush this Bill and, on the whole, I would tend to agree that if on Wednesday next Senator Douglas is still convinced that the small denominations would feel aggrieved under the Bill as it now stands, perhaps we should wait until October, although that in many ways would be regrettable.
I would only like to insist that it is not just as simple as adding a few more names to this amendment. That will not do. The whole thing would have to be taken up all over again, and something completely new drafted. I would really like to spare the Department of Justice, as well as the Houses of the Oireachtas, the complications that may be involved there but, on the other hand, if Senator Douglas is quite certain that there is a genuine grievance, I suppose we will have to wait.
As I have said, personally, I am entirely satisfied with this Bill as far as it goes and I know that almost all members of the religious minority to which I belong are very well satisfied with it also and, therefore, very appreciative of what the Minister has done.
I would plead for one further concession, for one more provision. As the Minister has stated earlier to-day, the Bill allows only orphans and the children of illegitimate unions to be legally adopted. No legitimate children can be adopted under the Bill as it now stands—Section 10 (c). The Minister, in a sense, has forestalled me in this but I would plead for him to think again on this matter. The reason, as the Minister has explained, is the danger of some infringement of the Constitution, if we interfere with the rights of the family. I will read the Article of the Constitution, to make it quite clear. It is Article Paragraph 1:
"The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law."
That is very clear and very firm. By interpreting this, it seems that no family exists where there is no legitimate marriage. Therefore, imprescriptible rights do not arise in the case of a mother and an illegitimate child. I find that a rather subtle distinction. I personally wonder why, if a mother has no imprescriptible rights over her child, a mother and father have such rights. I know that this is a subtler problem than we could go into here, and I am not going to press that line of argument.
Would it be possible, in the case of an existing adoption by a mother and father in the Republic, of a legitimate child before January 1st, 1952, to give, de facto and retrospectively, without opening the door to any more adoptions of the kind, the board discretion to make an adoption order in that case? There will be hard cases involved if such a concession is not made. I will give an example of the sort of thing that occurs. Last year a mother and father adopted a legitimate child of English parents—an infant aged about one and a half years. These adoptive parents are at once faced with two difficulties. What is the nationality of that child going to be? Its adopted parents are Irish and its legitimate parents are British. Under the Bill as it stands, presumably, it will remain a British child, which may prove very awkward, indeed. If the adopted mother and father are suddenly killed in an accident, that child has no legal right to an inheritance. I am assured by one of these parents that it is rather difficult legally to make sure that an adopted child will inherit in the absence of legal adoption.
There is definite hardship involved in such a case, and I would plead as earnestly as I can that the Minister should go one step further. I will ask him now if he will accept an amendment from me or from some other Senator which would give the board discretion to grant a legal adoption order to Irish parents who have adopted a legitimate child before 1st January, 1952. I know this would be an immense relief to many parents in the Republic. I am sure those parents would be perfectly willing to risk an action under the Constitution, if necessary, and to bear the brunt of such action, if the Minister would only grant that concession. Of course, I am well aware of the difficulties in the way of it, but I plead with him to do as I ask, and I ask those Senators who feel inclined to support my point to think over the matter.
I assure the Minister and I assure them that the religious provisions would be most carefully observed, and that they would be exactly as they now stand in the Bill. It is simply a matter of allowing a special concession in this way in the case of a legitimate child adopted before the 1st January, 1952. If the Minister shows any favour towards that view, and I earnestly hope he will, I will introduce an amendment at the Committee Stage.
There is one other matter, not controversial, which may be helpful in time. The proposal as it stands in the Bill is to set up a board authorised to make an order for the adoption of a child. Unless the board is prepared to be as wise as Solomon and as patient as a tortoise, it will run into difficulties. Unless it is prepared to hear both sides of the question with care it will be faced with obstacles. It is very doubtful if seven members can spare time to hear both sides of the question fully in every case. They will find it very difficult to get at the essential facts. The decision of the board must rest on the value of the reports furnished by somebody who has had personal contact with the mother, the child, and its proposed adopted parents. The person giving the reports will need to have a very intimate knowledge of the backgrounds of the child and of its future adopted parents. He or she must know whether a particular child will suit particular parents, and whether particular parents will suit a particular child.
That is not the sort of decision which can be casually arrived at. Certainly, it cannot always be arrived at by an official investigation. Surely, it will be necessary to have investigation officers, or some such persons, to look into each case. These will have to be people of the highest integrity, people with appropriate training, and people capable of judging human values. By simply sitting around a table and interviewing a child and its proposed adopted parents, the board will not be able to make the personal assessment which is essential to the success of an adoption order like this. I am now coming to the exact point I want to put before the Minister. I hope he will keep in mind the need for recruiting officers of this kind from the schools of social science in our universities.
In our two universities in the Republic we have flourishing and well-equipped social science schools. If the Minister, by appointing officers from the graduates from these schools, gives encouragement to the schools, he will both be helping the universities and ensuring the success of the Bill. At the moment, there is very little employment in this country for these graduates. Two graduates are employed by two societies in Dublin to deal with social problems and two are inspectors of boarded-out children for the Department of Health. Four officers of this kind are a very poor total in a country with a population of three millions. I feel that this kind of legislation will need to draw more and more on these qualified students in social science.
There should be a very much greater need for specially trained women workers when this Bill becomes an Act. For example, between the years 1944 to 1949 the annual number of children born illegitimately in the Republic who might come within the scope of this Bill, was between 2,000 and 2,600. A great many other children who will come within the scope of this Bill are born in England because their mothers leave Ireland for social reasons. It is very hard to estimate just how many more there will be of those born in England. One rescue society in London, I am informed, provides information that, in one year, 550 unmarried Irish mothers sought their assistance. That is in London alone. It is hard to say what the total would be, if all the rescue societies in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow supplied the figures of their Irish applicants. I quote that only to show that there is a need for trained workers and to remind the Minister that, in the social science schools of the two universities, he has such people waiting and able to do the work. I hope that when this Bill passes, he will look onwards or perhaps another Department will look onwards, towards providing these very necessary sympathetic officers who will give the board a skilled and personal assessment in every case.
I can only repeat that this Bill does very great credit both to its original parents and to the Minister, its foster parent, and I should like personally to thank him on behalf of the religious denomination to which I belong for the exemplary care and patience he has shown in framing it.
Might I make an explanation with regard to Senator Stanford's reference to the two denominations and the question as to why they did not approach the other bodies? It may have been that I did not make it clear, although I thought I did so. They did approach them, but could not get replies in time.
I simply wish to support the last point in Senator Stanford's speech. I am speaking also from the point of view of university training, and I suggest that this Bill cannot be really successfully operated unless the services of the people who take out diplomas in social science courses of the universities are employed in its administration. The board will require the very highly expert type of advice of whole-time officers. It will consist of seven members, and it would be impossible for them to investigate every case with first-hand knowledge thoroughly. They will have to rely very largely on the expert advice of their own officers. People will not be in a position to give the type of advice required, unless they have had a certain amount of social training. They will have to be familiar with the background of the child, with the background of its parents, and of the proposed adopting parents. That is the sort of advice that requires a good deal of knowledge of social conditions, and cannot be undertaken simply by amateurs.
The two colleges in Dublin are producing a large number of skilled social workers, and it is a rather melancholy commentary on the state of affairs in this country that the great majority of these social workers have to emigrate in order to find employment. The only reason I am intervening in this debate at all is simply to add my voice to that of Senator Stanford, and to suggest that here is an opportunity of absorbing a certain number of highly trained university students and, at the same time, assisting in the administration of this highly admirable scheme. If the products of the universities cannot find employment at home, and if they have to emigrate to find it elsewhere, it is very discouraging to the universities who produce them, to the parents who pay their fees, and to the students themselves, and I therefore ask the Minister to consider whether it might not be possible, in the operation of this scheme, to find employment for a certain number of highly skilled people of that kind.
Like the other Senators who have spoken, I welcome the Bill. It will relieve certain difficulties that exist to-day, and everybody concerned with its introduction is entitled to the thanks of many families —families which, following the passage of the Bill, will be made permanent families.
Section 2 provides that the Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may, by Order, appoint. I should like to know why the Minister thinks there will be any necessity to appoint a day on which the Act will come into operation. Why should the Act, as in the case of most Acts, not come into operation on its passing? Section 10 provides in sub-paragraph (b) that a child in respect of whom an adoption order is applied for shall be at least six months old and not more than seven years old. I suggest that these age limits might be less restricted, that, in regard to the six months, an application might be made for an adoption order at any time after the child has attained the age of one month and that the age of seven years might be extended. I can imagine cases in which it would be very desirable that an application could be made almost immediately or very shortly after birth and cases in which an application might be in order to be made after a child had passed his seventh year. Perhaps the Minister might extend that age limit to ten years.
Section 19 provides that the board will have jurisdiction in respect of existing adoptions, that is, the case of an adoption by, say, agreement between the parties, and sub-section (5) provides that an application under the section must be made within 12 months after the commencement of the Act, or within such further period as the board, in any particular case, may, for reasonable cause, allow. Even though the Minister intends that the board will exercise discretion, that clause might be worded a little more directly to compel the board to extend the time in any case. When boards and judicial authorities are restricted as to the doing of a thing by a section, they very often accept altogether too literally the wording or prescription of the section and say: "The Act says that we may do this, that we may extend the time, but we do not think we should, because you have not given us any reason." In such a case as this, where any reason is given, the board should be compelled to extend the time beyond 12 months.
We all know our experience with regard to parties who are entitled to benefits under Acts which prescribe that claims under the Act may be made within a prescribed period. Notwithstanding great publicity, many persons fail to apply within the prescribed time and there is always trouble afterwards. In cases of existing adoptions, it is quite possible that people may be late with their applications and I feel that sub-section (5) should be extended to give an applicant more easily the right to have his case considered by the board. Perhaps the Minister would amend that section or agree to its amendment.
Clause 21 provides that the board may amend an adoption order by correcting any error in the particulars contained in the order. I would like to know what exactly is intended by that. Where will the board get particulars of the error? Is it contemplated that these particulars would come to it through its officers or from any party interested in the adoption order? It seems strange that the board should have power to amend an adoption order without having the parties again brought before it. However, the Minister may be able to help me there.
I would like the Minister to give us some indication, if he can, whether he contemplates that there will be many applications to the board. I rather gather from some of the speeches that there will be a very big number. Frankly, I cannot understand how the Minister could ascertain that, but it may be that in his office he has heard from time to time of the difficulties of a large number of people who, without a Bill such as this, could not do what they would like to do. If the Minister can give us this information, I am sure that it will be of some assistance.
With other Senators I welcome the Bill and give credit to the Minister and to all the other parties concerned in its introduction. There is no doubt whatsoever that it will relieve in many cases very great difficulties. I am at one with the Minister when he says: "Let us, in this House, hasten slowly," even though our slow progress may cause some little difficulty. Certainly the passage of the Bill, insufficient though some people may suggest it is, will alleviate great trouble and then, as the years go on, we can gain from experience.
I join with those who have complimented the Minister and the officers of his Department on the production of the Bill. Anything I have to say may not be of great importance, but I think one should comment on the fact that at least two of the people who represent the religious minority in the country have spoken in favour of the Bill, have complimented the Minister and his officers, and have expressed the opinion that the religious minority are quite pleased and satisfied with it. It is a great thing, not alone for this House, but for the country to have such statements made here by public representatives. It is a very good answer to people inside and outside the country who refer, when it suits their policy, to religious bigotry in this country. There is no such thing.
It is quite obvious to anybody reading the Bill that a tremendous amount of work has gone into it. Very knotty problems had to be resolved, and the fact that they were resolved must be a great satisfaction to those who did that tremendous amount of work.
As in the case of all Bills, I suppose, certain things have not been catered for here which some of us think should have been catered for. As the Minister stated, it deals only with orphans and illegitimate children. I think that a very strong case could be made for dealing with other children. It is quite possible that a whole family of, say, five or six children might be deserted by their parents, and it is pretty hard that they cannot be provided for under the Bill. The Minister said that it might be unconstitutional. It is all right for me or somebody like me to say that something might be unconstitutional, but it should be easy—I am not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer of any kind— to say definitely whether it would be constitutional or unconstitutional. The Minister says that the courts would have to decide a thing of that kind, and probably will.
There is something which has been worrying me for a considerable time, and I think it only right that it should be mentioned. I have very strong views on the question of illegitimate children, and have taken a considerable interest over a number of years in people who happen to be in that unfortunate position. I would go so far as to say that even in a Bill of this kind they should not be referred to as "illegitimate", although I did not know what is the way around it. There is no such thing as an illegitimate child, but only illegitimate parents, and it is too bad that children who, through no fault of their own happen to be in that position, have to navigate through life with that handicap.
The Senator is getting into legal questions.
I am not. I am dealing with questions you run up against every day of the week. The question of birth certificates also arises. I do not think that that is sufficiently catered for in the Bill. I have had to deal with such matters, as a public representative, if you like, or as a human being. In one case I had to get a birth certificate for a person who was what is called illegitimate and who was about to get married. I knew his parents. When I got the certificate I found that the name had been changed three times before the actual point when the man was getting married. Something definite should be done to save a person who finds himself in that position. It is very humiliating that such a man must go through this roundabout method of having his name changed more than twice before he can actually approach a clergyman to get married under the name by which he is generally known. I have known more than one case of that kind, and they certainly had a tremendous effect on me.
Senator O'Brien, I think, suggested that the best people to implement this Bill were people trained in universities. I think that Senator Stanford probably took the same line. It is quite normal, I suppose, that people like Senators O'Brien and Stanford should feel that people specially trained for a certain job are the best people to do that job, but, in my opinion, for work of this kind, people who have worked in a voluntary capacity in this sphere for a number of years are at least as well if not better qualified than any people technically trained in any university.
While we are passing compliments about, it is only right that we should compliment the people who have given voluntary service to the country and to humanity generally in this particular line of work over a long number of years. I feel quite certain that no matter what steps are taken under this Bill the work they have done will not be and should not be overlooked. They have given tremendous service to society generally and they will be rewarded not alone in this world but in the next. I hope they will be included in that very small number that Senator Stanford heard for a fact will get to Heaven. If they do not, I do not know who will.
They are all there already.
The Minister says they are all there already. The Minister has every reason to be pleased with the reception the Bill got from the House and I have no hesitation in joining Senators in complimenting him and the officers of his Department.
I would like to congratulate those responsible for the Bill on the achievement it represents in getting unanimity between various denominations. I was glad to hear Senator Douglas mention that there are two other religious bodies which were not included and should have been. I hope the Minister will ensure that any section that should be included is included.
Our thanks are also due to a group of citizens known as the Legal Adoption Society who have worked for many years for the introduction of a Bill of this nature. They are a group working entirely outside the House trying to create an atmosphere that such a Bill is necessary. I am sure the Minister will agree that our thanks are due to them to some extent for this Bill being before us.
I was rather interested in other aspects of the Bill than those which are actually embodied in it. One of them was mentioned by Senator Quirke. I do not know what exactly the legal definition of "an orphan" is. I presume that it is a child whose parents are dead.
It is in the Bill.
Senator Quirke has put this case, and I reinforce it. We know families where the mother has died and the child is left, and the father is a waster. Relatives may wish to adopt that child, but it seems to me that, under this Bill, they are absolutely precluded. Hitherto they adopted by mere acquisition—the child could go of its own volition to an aunt's house and be reared there.
It is still the same.
The Bill specifically states that adoption can be only of an orphan or an illegitimate child.
That is legal adoption, The old form can continue. However, there might be a wrong impression abroad as though this were going to make any change in the present position. There is no change.
So a child can still go back to its aunt's house—though not legally? Again, is there any reason— apart from that of the inalienable rights of the family—why a person could not be legally adopted by an aunt, as apart from fraternal adoption?
Senator O'Reilly or Senator Stanford mentioned certain legal disabilities on children who could not be adopted under certain circumstances. If a relative adopts a child or if a sister adopts the child of a brother and it is not legally adopted, can legal measures be taken in a punitive fashion as a result of that adoption? I am not a lawyer, and I can only refer to the matter. I wonder if, in any way, this Bill, by omission, would inflict any hardship on a child under such circumstances.
I wonder, too, if the Minister would tell us the legal position of a girl who gives birth to an illegitimate child and who, years afterwards, wants to recover that child. Has she any rights at all once the child is adopted legally?
Under this Bill they are given up.
In other words, her inalienable or imprescriptible right mentioned by Senator Stanford is taken away from her—legally?
The Senator misunderstands.
It is not the same? I am just using the Senator's own definition for my own purpose. It seems to me that there is a great hardship in that, apart from the legal or religious point of view, human nature being what it is and they being what they are. It is said that the just man falls seven times in the day and the girl once in a lifetime; yet, due to the circumstances, the child being legally adopted, it is taken away from her. It seems to me that it would take a lot of moral argument to justify a refusal to give back that child when she is in a position to ask for its return. I can see difficulty about the matter, but I can see the clear point arising that this is an infliction of a terrible penalty on the sinner.
Section 15 covers all that point.
Very well. We will go back to that. I was going to reinforce Senator Quirke's argument that social workers as such who are already in being should receive some recognition. While I appreciate the social science training given in University College, and agree that it is desirable as far as possible to use these people, those who have given years of their lives to social work should be remembered first. There has been a tremendous amount of voluntary work of that nature, and in so far as these social workers could be employed under this Bill they should get some sort of prior consideration.
Might I ask the Minister also, under Section 39, in Part V, which says that a child under seven years of age cannot be removed from the State, can it be suggested by inference that a child over seven years of age can be removed outside the State? There was an extraordinary case in England not so long ago where parents allowed a child to be removed by a film actress and it caused a lot of trouble. Is there any legal reason why removal of any child at any time should be allowed? Section 39 (1) says:—
"No person shall remove out of the State a child under seven years of age who is an Irish citizen or cause or permit such removal."
Do you limit the age to seven because that is the age of reason? Is that the only reason for its limitation or is there anything in the Bill that prevents a child up to the age of puberty, at any rate, being removed from the State?
There is another point. Under Section 40 you forbid people to advertise—at least, this is my interpretation of it—the fact that one is willing to make arrangements for the adoption of children. May I ask in what way can they make it known, unless through the Adoption Society, that they are willing to adopt a child?
I will have to look into that point.
I would be glad if the Minister would do so. Outside those points, I welcome the Bill in so far as it solves a problem we have had for many years. I only hope it will not be misinterpreted in its mission and, because of that, more use made of it. I cannot say in broader words exactly what I mean, but it may be possible that a lot of people here might misinterpret the section and instead of curing the situation it might add to the trouble.
In common with other members of the House, I welcome the Bill. I feel that the Minister should be very happy at the way in which it has been received. This is a very important matter. I would like to say how glad I was to listen to Senator Douglas and Senator Stanford. We are a community the overwhelming majority of whom are of the one religious persuasion. We do not discriminate against the minority who do not agree with us in the matter of religion. It is indeed a happy state of affairs that people like Senators Douglas and Stanford can, in this Seanad of the Republic of Ireland, have our respect in advocating the wishes and the viewpoint of a minority of our people. They have our respect.
Having said that, might I say that there is no greater tragedy in this country than that of the unwanted child? This Bill will do something to take care that the child born into this world, call it what you like, will be adequately taken care of. With Senator Quirke, I think that we should drop the title of illegitimate child and say illegitimate parents. Why should the child be branded with the sins of its parents? This Bill will ensure that any child which cannot be taken care of by its parents will be adopted under conditions that will ensure for it a happy future.
I think it is important to emphasise that this Bill is not a proselytising Bill. In so far as any Bill or any Act can enact, this Bill will ensure that the child will be brought up in the religion of its forebears. I happen to be a Catholic member of this House, and I think it worthy to emphasise that we in this legislation are trying to ensure that there shall be no penalty on any child no matter to what religious denomination it may belong, whether it be Plymouth Brethren, Baptist or anything else. This Bill is endeavouring to ensure that where legal adoption is advisable or necessary for a child born in what I might call unfortunate circumstances, the child will get a chance in life.
I think it is a very happy augury that we in this Seanad of the Republic of Ireland can discuss this very important matter affecting the lives of children born under unfortunate circumstances. They will get a chance in life under proper conditions.
Leis na daoine eile cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo mar is dóigh liom gur céim mhór ar aghaidh é. Táimid ag briseadh talamh nua leis an mBille seo. Tá rud éigin dhá achtú againn anseo den chéad uair go bhfuil gá leis agus go bhfuil a lán daoine á lorg, boird phoiblí agus daoine go bhfuil baint acu le saol poiblí na tíre seo. Is Bille teicniciúil é. Is é an saghas Bille é nach bhféadfaí a lán cainte a dhéanamh mar gheall air ar an Dara Céim. Mar gheall air sin, níl mé chun mórán do rá mar gheall air.
Tá cúpla pointí ann mar sin féin agus ba mhaith liom eolas éigin d'fháil ina dtaobh. Ar an gcéad dul síos, ní fheadar an bhfuiltear sásta——
Notice taken that 12 Senators were not present; House counted and, 12 Senators being present,
Níl fhios agam cén fáth ar hiarraidh an comhaireamh seo. Tá súil agam nach mar gheall ar mé bheith ag labhairt Gaeilge é. Bhíos ag tagairt, sar ar cuireadh isteach orm, do Theideal an Bhille seo agus ní fheadar an é sin an Teideal is fearr. Fadó, nuair do bhíos ag foghlaim Gaeilge, do bhíodh an focal "dalta" againn agus do mheasas go mb'fhéidir go bhféadfaí feidhm a bhaint as an bhfocal sin maidir leis an mBille seo. Tá sé le rá i dtaobh na Gaeilge go dtéann teanga na Gaeilge níos giorra do bhrí an fhocail ná mar a théann an Béarla. Tá fhios agam go maith go raibh na daoine a cheap an Teideal seo ag iarraidh dul chomh gairid don bhrí is dob fhéidir ach b'fhéidir go mbeadh sé i gceist gur chuadar beagáinín as an slí. Dá gcuirtí ceist ormsa déarfainn nárbh é sin an Teideal a bheadh agam. Déarrfainn gur daltachas a bheadh agam; ach tá daoine ag plé leis na téarmaí teichniúla so atá i bhfaid níos eolgaisí agus níos oilte ná mise. Dá bhrí sin fágfaidh mé siúd mar atá sé.
As I have said in Irish, with the other speakers, I consider the introduction of this Adoption Bill a step in the right direction and an attempt to supply a long-standing need in the social life of this country. It is a measure that does not lend itself to a long Second Reading debate. It is of a highly technical character. Therefore, I do not propose to deal at any length with the principles underlying the measure. There are, however, a few questions that I would like to ask in connection with it.
Section 8 sub-section (2) says that the board shall consist of a chairman and six ordinary members and sub-section (5) says that the board may act notwithstanding the existence of one vacancy in its membership. I would like to be clear as to what "vacancy" means exactly in this case. Does it refer to a member who has died? What would be the case if a member becomes ill and cannot attend the meetings of the board for a considerable length of time? Would that be regarded as a vacancy for the purpose of the Bill? There appears to me to be no provision in the Bill to cover that. I may be wrong in my interpretation but will it be necessary for the chairman and six members to be present at every meeting of the board or can some members of the board act when other members are absent? I hope I have made myself clear. My reason for asking the question is to get further clarification.
In connection with the question of age, are we satisfied that the age limit of seven is not too young? In the case of readoption or the adoption of an existing arrangement the question is left to the members of the board as to whether a child over the age of seven would be admitted to the benefits of this measure. I may be wrong in this as, unfortunately, I have not had time to read the Bill carefully. If that is the case, what is the deciding consideration? Why is there a definite age limit in the case of adoption, namely, seven and, in the case of readoption, or the legalising of an existing adoption arrangement, is it the position that the age can be extended beyond seven?
There is the highly technical question of the devolution of property on intestacy. I refer to Part III of the Bill, Section 26 (1), which says:—
"Where, at any time after the making of an adoption order, an adopter or the adopted person or any other person dies intestate in respect of any real or personal property (other than property subject to an entailed interest under a disposition made before the date of the adoption order), that property shall devolve in all respects as if the adopted person were the child of the adopter born in lawful wedlock and were not the child of any other person."
Does that mean that there is a distinction there between an ordinary child and an adopted one in respect of what we call an entailed estate and that an adopted child can never become what we call the heir-at-law in the event of intestacy? In the other cases of the devolution of freehold property, there appears to be no distinction between an ordinary child and an adopted child. Of course, registered land devolves in the same way as personal property. Therefore, there appears to be no difficulty about that but I would like to know whether, in the case of an entailed estate, definite provision is being made here to ensure that an adopted child can never become an heir-at-law unless, of course, the adopter, who owns the property in question, makes provision during his lifetime to have it otherwise.
These are the two remarks I wanted to make on the Bill. It is a technical Bill and I suppose as much has been said about it as could usefully be said at this stage.
I would like to express my own appreciation of the action of the Minister, first of all, in introducing the Bill and, secondly, in introducing such an obviously fair and workable Bill.
I would like to associate myself with the remarks of Senators Stanford and O'Brien regarding the employment of the graduates of our social science schools here. Anybody who is associated with a hospital knows that from time to time it is necessary to get detailed information about the home background of cases and knows also that that is sometimes a matter of extreme difficulty.
The people employed in hospitals for this purpose have a very long and specialised training and even then mistakes sometimes arise. When this Bill becomes law, those excellent people who have put so much work into promoting this cause over such a long time in the past and have done it all on a voluntary basis must be consulted about the machinery for working it, but it will always be necessary to have somebody who will go around and find out about home background in the case of the suggested parents as well as in the case of the adopted child. For this purpose, surely the specialised training which the graduates of our social science schools have obtained will be a distinct advantage. I do not say that they are the only people who are qualified to do this but I do think that they are people who have the necessary qualifications and that these qualifications would be valuable in this work, provided, of course, that they are associated with the necessary human qualities on the part of the people who possess the qualifications. That is, of course, a matter which will be gone into when these people are being appointed for this task. The point is that in working out this machinery these people should be taken into account and, in that particular point, I agree very heartily with Senators Stanford and O'Brien.
On a point of explanation, may I say that the particular sect I referred to in my speech was not one of those which Senator Douglas referred to in his speech?
There might be some confusion on that point. I would like to make it clear that I had not in mind the sects referred to by Senator Douglas.
Before the Minister concludes I would like to say that on re-reading the Bill the point that I raised about a possible vacancy on the board is covered in the First Schedule of the Bill, or so it seems to me.
I was about to inform you of that. In the other House I said that I did not claim any special credit for this Bill. I realise that it was the work of Deputies of all Parties in the other House and of the Legal Adoption Society. Two members of the other House put their names to an Adoption Bill. Both of the Deputies concerned are quite satisfied that their Bill was not quite as satisfactory as the one now under discussion. All credit is due to those two Deputies, to Deputies of all Parties and to the Legal Adoption Society, which has been working for so long to bring about this legislation.
I always took an interest in legal adoption, and when I was Minister for Justice in former years I hoped that it would be possible to introduce legislation to deal with it. However, there were other more urgent matters which had to be dealt with at that time. I am very happy to be introducing this Bill, and I hope it will prove to be successful. If not, as I said in my opening statement, we can always learn by experience and bring in amending legislation.
I would rather not deal with the point raised with regard to Section 12. That is the most delicate matter in the Bill, and it has to be settled by agreement. I cannot deal with it here. What we have done already has been achieved with the full agreement, as far as we could possibly get it, of the people concerned. If something else is necessary under this section, we will consider it again. I do not want to hurry the Bill in any way and, if the Seanad is agreeable to that course, I will wait until October for the Committee Stage. That will give us ample time to consider the other amendments that may be necessary, and we can be occupied in the meantime in preparing the machinery to put the Bill into operation when it becomes an Act.
I do not think I can deal with the point raised by Senator Stanford, namely, the granting of an adoption order to the adopted parents of a legitimate child informally adopted before the 1st January, 1952. I do not think that would make any difference. The adoption is either constitutional or unconstitutional. The fact that the children concerned were informally adopted before this Bill is passed will not change the fundamental point— whether or not the adoption is constitutional. I am informed very definitely by my legal advisers that it would be unconstitutional to take away from parents the rights that have been declared inalienable under the Constitution. If we were to accept some amendment, some parents might come along years afterwards and challenge it in the courts. This might result in the whole Bill being declared unconstitutional. That is why that, for the present at any rate, we thought it best to tread as safely as we can.
If a child is illegitimate, it simply means that he or she was not born in lawful wedlock. I cannot understand why Senator Quirke and Senator Summerfield object to the term "illegitimate". A child is either legitimate or illegitimate. If children are legally born, they have a name at any rate, their parents are known, and they can get an ordinary birth certificate. If legitimate children have been informally adopted, those who adopt them can leave them any property they like by will. Of course, if the adopted parents die intestate, the informally adopted children will have no claim. However, if people think enough about a child informally to adopt him, surely they will provide for him by will. I do not see much substance, therefore, in the point raised by Senator Stanford.
The whole point of this Bill is to give a name to illegitimate children. If we were to consider the point raised by Senator Stanford the whole Bill would be in jeopardy, because somebody might come along afterwards and claim the child Some of the points that have been raised are very intricate. I am advised quite definitely, in so far as I can get advice, that it would be unconstitutional to provide for the legal adoption of a legitimate child, except in the case of a full orphan.
Paragraph 6 of the First Schedule makes provision for the appointment of inspectors. I have no doubt that when the time for recruiting comes, the proper people will be chosen. I think it was Senator P.F. O'Reilly who asked how many applications we thought likely to come in. We will not know that until the board is at work. Undoubtedly, it will be necessary to have investigation officers. I have no doubt that, when they are being recruited, only the most highly trained people will be taken into consideration. I do not suppose anybody wants to confine the posts to social science graduates, though I have no doubt that they will have a better chance of being selected than most people. I can assure the House that the best inspectors possible will be selected.
If Senator P.F. O'Reilly does not mind my saying so, I think that a lot of his points would be better dealt with on the Committee Stage. If he feels there is any matter he likes elucidated, he should put down an amendment, or else he should raise specific points when the Bill is being dealt with section by section.
The Senator wishes to know why a child aged one month could not be adopted. If people want to adopt a child, there is no reason why they should not adopt him when he is one month old, but he cannot be legally adopted until he is aged six months. I feel sure most people would like to have the child they are considering adopting in the house for a while prior to receiving an adoption order, say, for a period of six months. This would give them some time to decide whether or not they liked the child. The idea of fixing a period of seven years was designed so that the children would grow up in a house and come to regard their adopters as their real parents. This is an arbitrary age, of course, but it is supposed to be the age of reason. It is felt that if the child were any older he might not fit in as well with the family. Of course, in the case of existing adoption, we provide that where a child has been informally adopted and is over the age of seven, he can be legally adopted under this Bill, provided he was taken into his present home before the age of seven.
Senator Quirke said that the question of birth certificates is not properly dealt with in this Bill. I think he is quite wrong. We are making sure in this Bill that the short certificate that was approved recently would apply in the case of adopted children also. If Senators look at the certificate in the Schedule, they will see that it is practically the same as the ordinary birth certificate, and I do not think there can be any improvement in it.
I agree that there is a point in the matter which Senator O'Donnell raised as to how people are to know that there are societies who are anxious to have children adopted. They may be people down the country who may be anxious to adopt a child and who might not know where they should apply. We will consider the point before the next stage. Senator Kissane asked why we provide that you can readopt a child when you cannot adopt in the first instance. I suppose it is to provide a home again, but there is a point there about which I am more or less in a jam. I shall have to look into it.
I appreciate the way in which the Seanad has received the Bill. It was received here in the same way as it was received in the Dáil. Everybody tried to be as helpful as he could and we will now have a couple of months in which to consider framing amendments. I should like any amendments that Senators wish to table to be sent in as soon as possible so that we may consider them and make the Bill as satisfactory as possible. I again express my thanks for the way in which the Bill has been received.
I take it that, in the case of the religious denominations to which I referred, it would be in the spirit of the Minister's reply if I were to inform them that if between now and the date on which we meet in October they are able to satisfy the Minister that there is general agreement, he will favourably consider it. If I make that statement to each of them, it will relieve me of responsibility and also relieve the Minister.
It is one section for which I want to have as little personal responsibility as possible. I am in the hands of the religious denominations concerned. It is rather a delicate matter for me to discuss here, but I am prepared to do anything I can to make the section as satisfactory as it can possibly be made.
May I say that I also do not want to share responsibility, because I cannot speak for them?
Is there an atheist in the House?
When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage—the first meeting after the recess?
There could possibly be a case for taking the Committee Stage before the recess and the Report Stage after the recess, because it seems quite clear from the nature of the Bill, when we discuss it in the friendliest possible way, that some points will arise, so that we are almost certain to have two stages. I do not mind what decision the House comes to, but there will have to be two meetings. Perhaps we could meet before the Dáil reassembles. The Dáil, I understand, is to adjourn until 22nd October and we could perhaps meet in the first week in October, which would allow time for two meetings.
It is almost certain that points will be raised in regard to which the Minister will want to bring in amendments. Most of us are hesitant about putting down amendments—we merely want to raise points to find out if the Department thinks there is anything in them. Putting down amendments would look as if we were trying to hinder the passage of the Bill. Points will, however, be raised and it will then be for the Minister to decide whether they are of sufficient importance to justify amendments. Therefore, there are sure to be two stages.
The House will be meeting before the recess for the Appropriation Bill.
Yes, and that will take a day and might take more.
The House will have to meet before the Dáil adjourns and the Committee Stage could be taken then.
I do not think we have any business for next week and I suggest it would be a mistake to take the Committee Stage with the Appropriation Bill on the very last day of the session.
Could we not discuss both, if we met on two days?
With regard to taking it this day fortnight, this is a non-contentious Bill which must be examined carefully. If we wait until the last day, it will mean rushing it. If we wish, we could meet next week for this particular business and if not, we could put it off until 8th October, which would allow two separate weeks before the meeting of the Dáil. There is really nothing to be gained by taking it on the same day as the Appropriation Bill because the Dáil will then have adjourned. We will still have to come to meet again in October because the Report Stage will have to be dealt with.
Could we not take the Committee Stage on the next day we meet, this day fortnight, and the Appropriation Bill the following day?
I cannot see what we gain by that because the Dáil will have adjourned. The autumn would be more satisfactory and that seems to meet the Minister's view.
I suggest that the Cathaoirleach, with the leaders of the different sections in the House—if you do not wish to speak of Parties in this House—could arrange the date of meeting.
I am quite willing to leave it to the Cathaoirleach to decide. I suggest that we take it on the first day we meet after the autumn, leaving it to the Cathaoirleach to decide the date.