In January 2021, I established an Interdepartmental Group to consider issues arising in relation to the Saint Patrick’s Guild cases following publication of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters. The purpose of the Interdepartmental Group was to develop a set of integrated proposals to address the issues arising for those affected by illegal birth registrations, across a range of areas including, in particular, birth registration, identity, parentage and inheritance. These proposals are, in turn, reflected in Part 7 of the General Scheme of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill that was published on 11 May last.
I recently concluded a consultation process with the relevant individuals. The purpose of this consultation was to ensure that the legislative proposals adequately take account of the issues facing them. The consultation was highly productive, with a range of themes emerging from this process helping to inform the drafting of the Birth Information and Tracing legislation. This vitally important draft legislation will, when enacted, provide access to birth certificates and birth information for adoptees, persons whose births were illegally registered and other persons who have questions in relation to their origins.
The proposed legislation will also address access to records containing birth and early life information, provide a statutory basis for tracing services, and provide for safeguarding of relevant records. The General Scheme takes account of the specific issues facing people who are the subject of an illegal birth registration in relation to their birth registration and identity documents. It also addresses the issue of recognition of parentage in respect of the persons who raised them.
The General Scheme of the Bill was published in May and the report of the pre-legislative scrutiny process is currently awaited. I am looking forward to receiving the report and, subject to the timing of this, I intend to seek Government approval to publish the Bill and introduce it into the Oireachtas this term.
In March 2021, I asked the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection to consider the challenges which arise in relation to the issue of illegal birth registrations and to propose an appropriate course of action. I have now received this report from the Special Rapporteur entitled "Proposals for a state response to illegal birth registrations in Ireland". My officials and I are actively considering the contents of the report in advance of bringing it to government and publishing it. I intend to engage with individuals affected by illegal birth registrations in relation to the report in due course.