Question submitted in advance by Senator Jillian van Turnhout:
Can the Minister provide an exact timetable for the progress of the Government’s Adoption (Tracing and Information) Bill and advise what is hampering the progression of the Adoption (Identity and Information) Bill 2014 into the Dáil, following the completion of all stages in the Seanad on 18 February 2015 with support from all parties.
My Department is developing the Heads of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, and work on the Heads of that Bill is nearing completion. It will set out the information to be provided and circumstances in which it can be provided for past and future adoptions.
Officials in my Department are exploring all options with a view to balancing the needs of all stakeholders in this sensitive and complex and very personal matter. While I want to provide adopted people with as much information as possible about their identity, birth parents’ constitutional right to privacy must also be protected in this legislation.
The Heads will provide access to records for birth parents and adopted persons in so far as is possible in line with legal advices. I am proposing as progressive an approach as is possible within the significant legal and operational complexities which arise in giving effect to this objective.
The proposed legislation will provide for, inter alia,
- Placing the National Adoption Contact Preference Register on a statutory basis
- Arranging for the management of Adoption Records
- Setting out the information to be provided and circumstances in which it can be provided both for retrospective and prospective adoptions.
I know that there are many people affected by adoption who are keen to see this legislation progress at the earliest opportunity, and I share that view. However, I am also concerned that we get it right. This is a complex piece of legislation, which must strike the right balance in respecting the rights of all of those involved. Regular and ongoing contact is maintained between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General in that regard.
It is my intention to have the General Scheme and Heads of Bill finalised as soon as possible and submitted for the consideration of Government, in advance of referral to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.
In parallel, I have requested officials to commence an examination of operational arrangements for the preservation of, and access to, adoption records both to secure existing service provision and to make ready for any proposed new legislation.
The Adoption (Identity and Information) Bill 2014, introduced by Senators Power, van Turnhout, and Healy Eames, was passed by the Seanad on 19th November 2014 and that the draft Bill is at second stage in Dáil Éireann.
My Department has considered the draft Bill and notes that there is much to be commended in the draft Bill and, in relation to the areas of concern that it addresses, it is very much in line with the tenor of the draft Bill being prepared in my Department. On this basis I did not oppose the Bill. However the Private Members Bill differs from that being prepared by my Department in that it does not differentiate between prospective and retrospective adoptions. In that respect, it does not fully address the complex constitutional issues that arise in relation to the provision of identifying information to those, and about those who were adopted in the past.
The Bill has been fully reviewed as part of the ongoing work of the drafting of the proposed Bill on Adoption (Information and Tracing).