Children and Youth Affairs, Dáil Issues, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will recommend to the mother and baby home commission to extend the sampling method as established in the terms of reference to include the six institutions currently excluded from the full inquiry, but included partially in exit pathways; and if she will make a statement on the matter. –  Clare Daly T.D.
REPLY.
As the Deputy will be aware, under the terms of reference set out in S.I. No.57 of 2015, the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (and certain related Matters) is currently investigating the 14 named Mother and Baby Homes and a representative sample of County Homes. Section 14 of the Commissions terms of reference states that the Commission has the discretion to use such sampling techniques or selection of samples as it may determine, this provision is intended to assist the Commission to effectively and comprehensively investigate those matters within its terms of reference.

It is not fully clear from the question which specific institutions the Deputy is referring to or whether the suggested course of action is compatible with the provisions of the Commission of Investigations Act 2004. In regard to making recommendations to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (and certain related Matters) the Deputy will be aware that the Commission is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Second Interim Report of the Commission which I published on the 11th April 2017 did not make any recommendation regarding an extension of their terms of reference. The Commission stated that it was satisfied that the institutions it is investigating are ‘unquestionably’ the main such homes that existed during the 20th century and that it does not currently recommend that other institutions be investigated.

I am conscious that the Commission’s terms of reference already include mechanisms to ensure that any additional matters which the Commission may deem to warrant investigation can be brought to the attention of Government. However, I have committed to a scoping of Commission’s terms of reference to see if broader terms of reference would help answer additional questions now arising and will carry it out with a focus on allowing the Commission to complete its existing work in the first instance. The Commission will be consulted as part of this process in accordance with the Commission of Investigations Act 2004.

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her department’s plans for an alternative legal solution for illegally adopted persons that have been prejudged by the mother and baby home commission’s failure to request the full facts on illegal adoptions from the Adoption Authority Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter.- Clare Daly T.D.
REPLY.
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is independent in the performance of its functions. The approach to its investigation is a matter for the Commission and I do not have any information on its engagement with the Adoption Authority or other individuals, groups or corporate bodies.
In its Second Interim Report, which I published on the 11th of April, the Commission acknowledges that the term ‘illegal adoption’ is used to cover a wide range of situations and actions including the incorrect registration of a birth. The Commission sympathises with the need for people in such situations to establish their true identity but reports that “it is difficult to see what assistance could be provided by further investigation.” The Report notes that “not even a national DNA database would assist all of the people.”
The Commission suggests that an amnesty from prosecution may help “to encourage those responsible to come forward and correct the record.” The legal implications and practicalities of any such amnesty need considerable further consideration and I will explore this matter further with the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Social Protection, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.
The Adoption Act 1952 provided a legal basis for adoption in Ireland. This brought order to what had been the system of ad-hoc arrangements in lieu of formal adoption procedures up to this point. Prior to the introduction of the Adoption Act 1952 some children were placed in life long family care arrangements, where a child was in the custody of a person other than his or her parent or guardian and where no adoption order was effected. These arrangements were never formalised.

The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 was published on 23 November 2016. As the Deputy will be aware, this Bill is intended to facilitate access to adoption information and operates on the basis of a presumption in favour of disclosing information in so far as is legally and constitutionally possible. The Bill will, for the first time, provide a statutory basis for the provision of information related to both past and future adoptions. It will provide clarity around the information that can be provided and the circumstances in which it can be provided. The Bill provides that adopted persons, birth parents, relatives, a person who was in an informal arrangement where no adoption order was effected, and persons whose birth was incorrectly registered, can engage with the adoption information and tracing services to be provided by Tusla.