Written Answers. - Adoption Law.

Austin Currie

Ceist:

65 Mr. Currie asked the Minister for Health the implications for adoption law in Ireland of the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to an unmarried father; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [116/94]

Helen Keogh

Ceist:

126 Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to formulate legislation to deal with the outcome of the recent case in the European Court of Human Rights which held that the rights of the father concerned were violated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [99/94]

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

232 Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to introduce a new Bill to amend the law on adoption as a result of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Keegan versus Ireland; and the guidelines, if any, given by his Department to either the Adoption Board or to adoption societies in relation to the processing of adoption applications as a result of the judgement delivered in this case. [451/94]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65, 126 and 232 together.

In its judgment delivered on 26 May last in the case of Keegan v. Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights held that the central problem with existing Irish adoption law is that it permits the secret placement of a child born outside marriage for adoption without the knowledge or consent of the child's father.

The implications of the judgement for Irish adoption law and procedure are being urgently examined by my Department in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. It is my firm intention that legislative proposals aimed at addressing the various issues raised in the judgment will be brought forward at the earliest possible date.

In the meantime, I should mention that there have been changes in adoption practice since the domestic proceedings in the Keegan case were finally determined by the courts here in 1990. New procedures introduced by the Adoption Board have helped to create a greater awareness among the adoption agencies of the position of the natural father of a non-marital child in the adoption process and of the importance of consulting him, where possible, regarding the proposed adoption of the child. These developments were acknowledged by the European Court of Human Rights in its judgement.

Since the judgement was delivered, the Adoption Board has issued further guidance to the adoption agencies in relation to the involvement of natural fathers in the adoption process.

The extent to which the procedures that are currently in place need to be further developed in the light of the judgement of the European Court is among the matters that are at present under active consideration.

Finally, I reiterate the fact that the European Convention on Human Rights is not part of our domestic law. This means that the European Court ruling in the Keegan case has no direct effect on the validity of adoptions completed to date. It is important to continue to stress this point in order to reassure adoptive parents.