HUNDREDS, if not thousands, of Irish people are unaware that their parents are not their birth parents after the uncovering of a scandal in which adoption societies, from at least the 1940s until 1969, incorrectly registered births when they gave or sold “illegitimate” children to adoptive parents.
The practice of adoption of such babies was run by religious orders of nuns, including the Sisters of Charity. An investigation of files on children at the Sisters of Charity’s adoption society, St Patrick’s Guild, has revealed that at least 126 people were affected and are now being traced and informed of the situation.
None of the nuns involved in these cases is still alive, and the Guild was closed as recently as 2010.
Ireland’s Minister for Children, Dr Katherine Zappone, has initiated an investigation into the Guild, as well as other adoption agencies, to establish how widespread the illegal practice was. Dr Zappone described the revelations as a failure on behalf of the State, and warned that there could be inheritance issues for those affected as they had been improperly and illegally registered as children of people to whom they were not related by blood.
She said that she had personally wrestled, as did her colleagues, with the question of whether the people affected should be told at all, but concluded: “People have a right to know who they are.”
Closer examination of the 70,000 adoption files held by the state child and family agency is now under way, and the Garda authorities have been notified.
Dr Zappone plans a two-stage investigation, beginning with a sampling, and following up with a full-scale inspection of files.
Some adoption support groups say that, despite repeated requests, the State ignored calls for a comprehensive investigation into what the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors described as “the tip of a very large iceberg of fraud, forgery, baby trafficking, child abduction and criminal activity by rogue Irish adoption agencies”.
The falsification of adoption records by the Guild had been reported to every minister for children since 2001, the Adoption Rights Alliance said, but no action had been taken. Barnardos has called on the government to legislate so that all adopted adults over the age of 18 have a legal right to their full information.