"I am not who I am supposed to be"; "I was robbed of the chance to meet the woman who gave birth to me"; "I don't know who I am." These are the voices of people affected directly by the scandal of illegal adoption in this State. Some will feature in an "RTÉ Investigates" documentary to be broadcast tonight. The news that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has confirmed at least 151 illegal adoptions at the St. Patrick's Guild adoption society in Dublin is deeply upsetting. However, it has to be said it is not surprising.
Successive governments have known of these scandals for decades, yet they have failed to name them or to act, despite ample documentary evidence. Indeed, campaigners have been raising these issues with successive governments since at least 2002. Over the years, the Adoption Rights Alliance has raised specific issues of illegal adoption with successive Ministers, but it was only in 2018 that we began to see some movement. This St. Patrick's Guild audit is only the tip of the iceberg. It is widely considered that thousands of children were illegally adopted, some trafficked to America or elsewhere, and that hundreds of institutions across the State were involved in these practices. Indeed, it has been reported that the Government review has found evidence of illegal adoptions in multiple organisations.
We now need a transparent and inclusive investigation into Ireland's adoption system as a whole because this was yet another massive failure and abuse by the State in its treatment of women and children. It was deliberate and it was criminal. Children had their identities erased through the falsification of their birth certificates. Their most basic right was stolen - the right to know who one is and from where one came.
There are people who were illegally adopted but have no idea they were adopted. Many have lived for decades unaware of their identities and without access to their records. Many will want to know who their birth parents are, but now it may be too late. This was the case for Anne O'Connor, who received a letter from Tusla in 2019 requesting a meeting with her. Anne met officials from Tusla in London, where she now lives, and was told she had been illegally adopted. She was told her parents, who had passed away, were not her birth parents, her birthday is not her birthday and she was not born where she thought she was born. These revelations rocked Anne to her very core. She said there was loss everywhere. There was something about not knowing this. She is 65 years of age. She said, "It's too long. I wasn’t who I thought I was, but I don’t know who I am."
All adopted people are entitled to know who they are. The State needs to end the discrimination against all adopted people in accessing their personal records. This means introducing information and tracing legislation as soon as possible but, foremost, it means passing legislation that will give all adopted people a legal right to obtain a copy of their birth certificate. Tá an reachtaíocht seo foilsithe ag Sinn Féin. Tabharfar an Bille os comhair na Dála an tseachtain seo chugainn. Bhí comhrá cuiditheach ag mo chomhghleacaí, an Teachta Funchion, leis an Aire, an Teachta O’Gorman. An ngeallfaidh an Taoiseach chun tacú leis an reachtaíocht seo? Sinn Féin has published this legislation. We will bring the Bill before the Dáil next week. I am asking the Taoiseach to commit to supporting the legislation as a first step to right these wrongs.