First, Chairman, I would agree we had very constructive discussions. I would like to thank the Committee for their agreement to go along with our postponing of last week's meeting scheduled for last Thursday to today. The Minister and I met twice. We had informal discussions on other occasions and I had contact with his officials. I would like to thank them for their help and co-operation. We have had an extremely constructive number of weeks over the Easter period to resolve the problems in relation to the Bill. The last day in this Committee the Minister had tabled a series of amendments to the Bill and I had raised a number of problems with those amendments. I believe in the context of the lengthy process that we have gone through — and I would say much to-ing and fro-ing of drafts and redrafts that would resolve the difficulties that I was concerned about — that we can now put in place a very comprehensive piece of legislation which will meet the needs in this area. When it comes to the individual amendments both the Minister and I will have some comment to make.
At the time when Fine Gael published the Bill in December we emphasised that we felt this was a very urgent and necessary piece of legislation. At that time it was our understanding that approximately 150 Romanian children had been adopted into Ireland. Current figures indicate that as of now there are in the region of 400 Romanian children adopted into this country. As each week has passed the number of Irish couples seeking to adopt abroad has increased and there is an urgent necessity to have this legislation passed and put on the Statute Book.
I would hope that as a result of the work we have done we will have enabled this Committee to complete the process very rapidly and allow the Bill to go to Report Stage. I would be hopeful that we could have the Bill enacted through both Houses of the Oireachtas no later than the end of May. I understand from my discussions with the Minister that he would share my view about the urgency now of the legislation. As we go through the amendments we will see there is only one particular matter in respect of which there is a disagreement between myself and the Minister. I would hope, with goodwill on both sides, that that matter will be practically resolved.
I know that the many Irish people who have adopted in Romania and who are back in Ireland are very anxious that the Bill be enacted and that the children can be recognised as their adopted children and as Irish citizens. I hope they welcome the work we have done.
I would hope that people who contemplate adopting abroad now will use the new procedures that will be provided to allow them have family assessments carried out through both health boards and adoption societies, which will enable the adoption board to make declarations that people are suitable and eligible to adopt and to facilitate the recognition of future adoptions by people resident in Ireland when the adoptions take place abroad.