On 29 May, I announced that Tusla had identified 126 cases where births were illegally registered between 1946 and 1969. The cases were identified during an analysis of adoption records that were transferred to Tusla by the former adoption society, St. Patrick's Guild. As the information that an incorrect birth registration has taken place is life-changing, the State has a responsibility to reach a high level of certainty that this has happened before it contacts the individuals concerned. This threshold has been reached in the case of the 126 St. Patrick's Guild files.
We are all aware of the seriousness and sensitivity of this issue. People have the right to their identities. They have the right to know of their true origins and, where we have clear evidence, we have an obligation to tell those affected. Some may know, but for others, it will be entirely new and difficult information to receive and absorb.
There will be a social worker-led process of making contact with those affected who can be identified. This includes the birth mother, the person who was incorrectly registered - the child - and the people who participated in the incorrect registrations and subsequently raised these children as their own. Each of the 126 cases has been assigned to an experienced Tusla information and tracing social worker and work has commenced on tracing the individuals concerned. I emphasise that the process will be measured, sensitive and carried out at the pace of the individual affected. There will be no sudden phone calls or unannounced visits to people's doors. The process of offering contact and supporting those affected will be handled carefully and take account of the requirements of the individuals.
I am confident that Tusla is prioritising these cases and committing the necessary resources. However, I reiterate that the only information available at the commencement of the process was contained in records that were in most cases more than 50 years old. The process of tracing people will take some time, but it is expected that Tusla will be in a position to start making contact with individuals at the end of this month.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The sampling process will address the Tusla and Adoption Authority records to see if a major trawl of these is likely to yield hard evidence of incorrect registrations. Tusla found evidence in the St. Patrick's Guild records primarily because of the term "adopted from birth" that was placed on index cards. If this marker had not been present, it would have been difficult to identify even the 126 cases. We do not know if such a clear marker, or indeed any marker, will be found in other files.
It is my view that we must first judge the likely incidence of cases that can actually be identified, through the initial analysis, and the scale of them. I will then be in a position to judge the next steps that may be required.