Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Ceisteanna (10)

Catherine Connolly


10. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 311 of 4 April 2019, the status of the final report on illegal birth registrations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22253/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Children)

I have a straight question for the Minister. What is the status of the final report on illegal birth registrations and when will it be published?

I expect to receive the final report of the independent reviewer, Ms Marion Reynolds, this week, as it is the end of May. I had previously expected that this report would be submitted to me by Easter. In her third report, which I published, Ms Reynolds informed me that this would now be delayed until the end of May.

I understand the reason for the delay was that the fieldwork carried out by both Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland was complex, forensic and resource intensive, and took longer than anticipated. This fieldwork has now reached a conclusion. In addition, there were considerable challenges in respect of data protection that had to be overcome, which also delayed the process at one point. I am pleased to say that these issues have been resolved.

The two previous interim reports from the reviewer have also been published on my Department's website.

The purpose of this review, which I initiated following the discovery of cases of illegal registrations in the St. Patrick's Guild records, is to determine if similar evidence of illegal birth registrations can be identified from the records of other former adoption agencies and other relevant bodies. The final report and its findings will provide information to assist me in identifying the necessary next steps. I am extremely conscious of the impact that news of an illegal registration can have on those affected. This is particularly true in circumstances where those impacted had no indication of any irregularities.  It seems to me that this must be one of the most difficult and traumatic episodes that anyone would have to deal with in a lifetime. I will study the independent reviewer's report closely as soon as I receive it, and will reflect carefully on what to do next to assist all involved.

I take it that the Minister has confirmation that she will have the report by the end of the month, because there have been previous dates that moved. It was to be done by October last, then it was to be done by April, I think Easter was mentioned somewhere, and now the end of May. Can the Minister confirm that she will have it in two days' time, at the end of May? Can the Minister then give a date for its publication?

The Minister will realise that this came from the discovery by Tusla of 126 cases. However, that is based on much previous work. The adoption association of Ireland brought matters to a previous Government's attention. The Irish Examiner deserves an award for all the work that newspaper and Conall Ó Fátharta have done. All of this has been wrought out. I welcome what has happened, but it was not a proactive decision by the Government. It was wrought from the pain of people and from the good work done by the newspaper. It is important, as with the previous question, that we have trust and if a date is set, that the Minister has the report and a date is given for its publication.

I agree with the Deputy. I have been told that I will have the report at the end of this week. That is what I can confirm.

I have tried to describe in my answer to the Deputy the reasons, even though I understood it was coming earlier, it was delayed. The Deputy would be aware, especially in these circumstances but in other contexts as well, that our GDPR legislation can be challenging, although that is not the only reason.

I will publish it. As with previous such matters, I will need to study it first. It is the final report. I will be bringing it to my colleagues. I will be publishing it and, therefore, it will be able to be debated here.

I agree with Deputy Connolly. I acknowledge and recognise the previous work that underlies what we are now looking at. On other occasions in this Chamber, I have acknowledged also the work of Conall Ó Fátharta, whom I know. We try to work as closely with him, and other journalists, as we can as we move forward on these issues.

I appreciate that. I hear the Minister saying that she will publish the report and I welcome that. If the Minister could give an indicative date, that would be helpful.

When I refer to the previous work, the point I am making is that this is a scoping exercise that was wrought from the pain of people. The information the Minister is looking at was available way back in 2010. I could go further back but I will not - my time is limited. On every occasion, the then Government refused to act on it. That is the difficulty we have. I will not labour the point.

The Minister is telling me she will have the report by the end of the month and it will be published. Could Deputy Zappone give us an indicative date of the publication?

I would like to be able to do that but I do not feel I can, just right now. I do not know what it will say. Depending on what it says, that might mean I need more time with it. However, I absolutely commit that I will publish it.

I accept the Deputy's other commentary. Not unlike the Deputy, I have people coming up to me who tell me their stories too. They have not any paperwork but they have knowledge of illegal adoptions or registrations - whatever language we want to use.

I have some sense of the breadth of the issues that this touches on. It was an effort of this Government, under my direction, to begin some systematic analysis to understand and see the extent in terms of evidence. On the basis of the evidence, as the Deputy will be aware, we can do additional things. I would love to see that be able to continue.

Ceist Uimh. 11, tá an Teachta Fiona O'Loughlin as láthair. Rachaimid ar aghaidh go dtí Ceist Uimh. 12 in ainm an Teachta Boyd Barrett.

Question No. 11 replied to with Written Answers.