By definition, it is impossible to estimate with any accuracy, the number of instances of practices that were irregular or improper, for which no records were kept. What I can say is that my focus and priority is the enactment of the Adoption ( Information & Tracing ) Bill 2016, as some of the key provisions of this Bill will ensure that records are identified, safeguarded and indexed, and that Tusla can provide an effective and efficient information and tracing service to adoptees, people whose birth was illegally registered and others.
We are aware of concerns arising from the Saint Patrick's Guild files, where evidence of illegal birth registrations was uncovered. The process of contacting those individuals is continuing. The Deputy will be aware of the sampling review process currently underway, to establish if there are markers on other files to indicate the same practice.
Further to this the remit of the Mother and Baby Home Commission includes several specific areas of practice and procedure in the care, welfare, entry arrangements and exit pathways for the women and children who were in the named 14 institutions. The Commission's terms of reference include the examination of issues such as irregular procedures related to consent that may have been in place within the named institutions, as set out as follows:
VII. For children who did not remain in the care of their parents, to examine exit pathways on leaving these institutions so as to establish patterns of referral or relevant relationships with other entities, and in particular to identify-(a) the extent to which the child’s welfare and protection were considered in practices relating to their placement in Ireland or abroad;(b) the extent of participation of mothers in relevant decisions, including (i) the procedures that were in place to obtain consent from mothers in respect of adoption, and (ii) whether these procedures were adequate for the purpose of ensuring such consent was full, free and informed; and (c) the practices and procedures for placement of children where there was cooperation with another person or persons in arranging this placement, this to include where an intermediary organisation arranged a subsequent placement.
The report and any findings or recommendations made therein cannot be pre-empted. The Commission is due to submit its final report to me in February 2020.