My Department has received detailed submissions from the Adoption Rights Alliance which outline suggested amendments to the Adoption Act, 2010 and proposals in relation to information and tracing for those affected by adoption. This has been considered as part of the drafting process of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill.
My Department is continuing work on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and I hope to be in a position to seek Government approval to publish the Heads of the Bill as soon as possible. It is intended to provide for greater access to adoption records and birth information, in so far as is possible and in line with legal advices received, for persons previously involved in adoptions, notwithstanding the significant legal and operational complexities which arise in giving effect to this objective.
While I am anxious to improve the legal basis for access to adoption records, proposals to Government have to reflect the constraints on the Legislature in providing such access if they are not to fall foul of Constitutional challenge. The Office of the Attorney General has provided comprehensive legal advice to my Department that has assisted in identifying the Constitutional parameters within which the Heads of the Bill have to be drafted.
The legislative proposals will address the circumstances in which identifying and non-identifying information may be provided and examine what processes need to be put in place to assist those seeking information in accessing it. In the case of future adoptions in this country I want this legislation to provide for access to information as an integral part of the adoption process including the consent arrangements which must be satisfied before an adoption takes place. In the case of historical adoptions we will examine the legislation and ensure it will go as far as is possible.
The most difficult situations to address within the proposed legislation are those where the consent of other parties, such as natural mothers, does not exist for the release of information. Where there are barriers which can not be otherwise overcome, it may be possible, for example, to have a provision that would give access in certain circumstances, perhaps through the High Court, to the right to information.
I intend to proceed to finalise legislative proposals and will bring proposals to the Government as soon as possible. I would hope that the subsequent consideration by the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee will allow the issues to be carefully teased out and the views of different interested parties, including the Adoption Rights Alliance, on these important and sensitive matters to be fully considered.
I have no plans to establish a statutory inquiry.