Editorial

Is State set to repeat sins of the past?

March 14th, 2021 5:05 PM

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THE issue of illegal adoptions is yet another dark chapter of how the State, religious orders and specific professions have brought phenomenal upset and pain to innocent individuals.

Furthermore, modern state agencies such as Tusla, far from trying to ease the pain for survivors of religious orders, are being accused of withholding vital details based on their interpretation of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), a piece of EU legislation designed to protect peoples’ private data.

No part of our island is untouched by the scandal which includes Cork’s Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. Accusations against such homes include burying babies in unmarked graves, the high mortality rate for babies, allowing medical vaccine trials without informed consent, the use of dead babies in anatomical research, and women being forced to allow their ‘illegitimate’ babies to be adopted.

This story has two horrific sides. That mothers were forced to give up their babies, and such babies were, in effect, sold to middle class Catholic parents with the collusion of the religious orders, the State, and professional doctors and lawyers, is a historical wrong which our society has been grappling with for a number of years.

The other side to this story is those babies, now middle-aged adults, are still paying for the so-called ‘sins’ of their mothers. It is heart breaking to hear their stories of being called to meetings by Tusla and be informed that their parents were not, in fact, their biological parents.

Furthermore, that they were adopted against their mother’s will and illegally adopted by their parents, many of whom are now dead.

For most of these adults, to challenge their perceived identity at their age is profoundly distressing and disturbing, and made even worse by Tusla redacting official papers and telling them that their true identities are being withheld due to GDPR.

Ireland is not the first State to force the illegal adoption of children. It has happened in other countries where mothers were deemed morally or racially inferior. However, we are most likely the first country to compound the suffering of the adoptees by hiding behind the GDPR.

Whether the GDPR allows personal information to be shared with these adults is being argued over by lawyers for Tusla and those representing the illegal adoptees. Both sides have differing interpretations of the regulations which were designed to protect their personal data from misuse by companies within the EU.

Last year, the Data Protection Commission issued its first fine in Ireland for GDPR breaches against Tusla. It involved both the unauthorised disclosure and accidental disclosure of personal data and Tusla paid €75,000 in fines.

Is Tusla being over cautious regarding the law? Or, as some lawyers believe, are they using GDPR as a way to avoid answering for the unlawful acts that they were involved in?

Tusla says it fully supports new legislation while Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman aims to have legislation in place by the end of this month or in early April to allow the adoptees have access to their birth identities, which includes their place of birth, birthday and biological parents.

Such information could open up the possibility of having brothers and sisters hitherto unknown. It may also reveal medical information pertinent to their lives.

Whatever is the motivation of Tusla and the state, such organisations have time on their hands. Individuals without legal means, do not. Leaving these people in such psychological distress is utter cruelty.

Surely such information about their identities should be shared and shared immediately with the adoptees.

It is hard to imagine the Data Protection Commission suing Tusla for sharing such birth information giving the circumstances, their age profile, and in some cases, existing medical conditions.

Instead of the State learning from its historic wrongs, it is set to repeat them, not for one generation, or two, but in some cases for three generations. For example, children of these adoptees are learning that their grandparents were not actually their biological grandparents.

The State owes it to these people to act swiftly

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