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.