On the 29th May 2018 I announced that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency had identified 126 cases where births were incorrectly registered between 1946 and 1969. The cases were identified during an analysis of adoption records that were transferred to Tusla by the former adoption society St Patrick’s Guild.
It was during the course of working with these records and in particular the scanning of them that the issue of incorrect birth registrations was identified, with clear evidence of this practice recorded on index cards created and maintained by St Patrick’s Guild. On foot of this discovery Tusla informed An Garda Síochána, the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation and my Department. I moved immediately to inform the Cabinet, and to announce that a process has been put in place by Tusla to deal with these cases, led by experienced information and tracing social workers.
As the information that an incorrect birth registration has taken place is potentially life changing, the State has a responsibility to reach a high level of certainty that this has in fact happened, before it contacts the individuals concerned. This threshold has now been reached in the case of the 126 St Patrick’s Guild files.
This is a very serious and sensitive issue. People have the right to know of their true origins and, where we have clear evidence, I believe we have an obligation to tell the people affected. Some may know already, but for others it will be entirely new and very difficult information to receive and absorb.
As an immediate step, Tusla put in place a Helpline, operating from 10 to 4 each day, Monday to Friday, and also put significant information on its website. Both provide information in relation to what to expect if you are one of the people affected by the incorrect registrations that have been identified in the records of St Patrick’s Guild.
There will be a social worker-led process of making contact with those affected that can be identified. This includes the person who was incorrectly registered (the child), the birth mother and the people who participated in the incorrect registrations and subsequently raised these children as their own. Each of the 126 cases has been assigned to an experienced Tusla information and tracing social worker and work has already commenced on tracing the individuals concerned.
I would emphasise that the process will be measured, sensitive, and at the pace of the individual concerned. There will be no sudden phone calls or unannounced visits to people’s doors. The process of offering contact and supporting those affected will be handled very carefully and will take account of the requirements of the individuals.
I am confident that Tusla is prioritising these cases and committing the necessary resources. However, I would remind the Deputy that the only information available at the commencement of the process was in records that are in most cases over 50 years old, so the process of tracing people will take some time. It is not expected that Tusla will be in a position to start making contact with individuals until at least the end of this month.
In relation to the Deputy's question about criminal charges, on foot of their initial assessment, Tusla contacted an Garda Síochána and gave them full details of the issues of concern. The Gardaí requested, and were given, 10 sample files. It is my understanding that they are currently reviewing these cases.