I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 169 together.
The Hague Convention is a co-operative agreement drawn up to allow countries to mutually support one another in protecting the best interests of children in the intercountry adoption process. It sets out minimum standards regarding intercountry adoption and covers issues such as subsidiarity, consent and financial considerations. It is designed in such a way as to allow for mirrored mechanisms and structures to mutually assure countries of the safety and standard of intercountry adoptions in those countries. The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) performs the function of a Central Authority under the Adoption Act, 2010, in accordance with the Convention. In choosing to deal primarily with Hague countries, the AAI has the mechanism to work collaboratively with equivalent structures in that country. Each Central Authority has the responsibility to oversee standards in respect of those parts of the process taking place within their respective jurisdictions. This mutual arrangement is designed to give the AAI, the Government and, most importantly, those involved in the adoption process assurance as to the standards being set and the oversight of the system.
A limited number of adoptions from Russia are currently being processed under transitional arrangements as provided for in the Adoption Act, 2010. Under the provisions of the legislation, such adoptions may take place up to the end of October 2012, with the possibility of the Adoption Authority granting approval for an extension of up to one year. Russia has not ratified the Hague Convention and there appears to be no immediate prospect that this will happen. In the circumstances, adoptions from Russia, beyond those provided for under the transitional arrangements, may only be possible under a bilateral agreement developed to the standards of the Hague Convention.
An official delegation from Ireland recently visited Russia and held preliminary discussions regarding the potential for a bilateral agreement. I have received an initial assessment from the Adoption Authority which will inform the next steps to be taken in relation to this matter. My Department is in discussions with the Adoption Authority on this assessment and other issues which will influence any policy decisions to be taken in this regard. I am aware of the need to bring clarity to the situation in respect of Russia and I hope to be in a position to do so shortly.
The immediate priority of the Adoption Authority is the development of administrative arrangements with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention. Any future bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would also be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Convention.