Legislation urgently needed to give adopted people access to birth records – Seery-Kearney

Denial of information which causes additional trauma and distress must end

12th January 2021 - Mary Seery-Kearney

The Government must ensure that adopted individuals have the right to access their birth records and information as a fundamental human right, and put an end to their additional trauma, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Mary Seery-Kearney was speaking following the publication today of The Final Report of the Commission of Investigation on Mother and Baby Homes, which documents events that occurred in 14 mother-and-baby homes and four county homes over a 76-year period.

Senator Seery-Kearney, Fine Gael’s Seanad Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Privacy Rights, said, “The Final Report of the Commission of Investigation on Mother and Baby Homes highlights a period of severe trauma in Irish history, a period which caused untold suffering for women and children across the country and across many decades.

“This report must be a catalyst to ensure an end to the additional trauma caused to individuals by being denied knowledge of their personal records. The Government must ensure that adopted individuals have the right to access their birth records and information as a fundamental human right. We urgently need to advance the legislation on information and tracing, and I know the Minister is already working to bring this about.”

Senator Seery-Kearney further expanded on the report saying, “The lived experience of mothers and their children, as documented in this report, lays bare a horrific misogynistic culture of judgment and shame that led to girls and women in our community – our sisters, aunts, cousins, friends and mothers, –  having nowhere to turn but to the harsh cold environment of mother and baby homes and county homes.

“It is heart-breaking to hear that a baby in a mother and baby home was twice as likely to die there when compared to infant mortality rates in the community.  It is important that we ensure those who died are accorded the dignity they deserve. I know the Minister is at an advanced stage in bringing forward the legislation in that regard.

“The blatant disregard for standards of care found in the harrowing accounts of residents, in the full knowledge of those who were responsible for oversight, must never be repeated.

“For the children who were boarded out into totally unsuitable families and circumstances, the report is a rightful acknowledgement of their suffering and the appalling treatment to which they were subjected.

“It is welcome that redress through the introduction of a bespoke ‘restorative recognition’ scheme is being provided by Government. I am also calling for supports to be put in place for mothers who may not have disclosed the existence of their child and who need to be supported, and where contact is facilitated, to ensure for both the mother and child that the meeting is a positive experience where possible.”

Senator Seery-Kearney said the report, which makes for harrowing and disturbing reading, must also lead to a national conversation on sexual abuse within our families and communities.

She continued: “The harrowing accounts of rape and abuse experienced by girls in their families and communities demand our compassion, care and justice.

“It is time we had a national conversation on sexual abuse within our families and communities. I believe it is time we stopped the silencing of survivors and turned the blame to where it should be placed, on the perpetrators who rely on family silence and shame to cover their horrific abuse and criminality.

“When we have time to consider the horror and stand with pride beside survivors, it is right that we will commemorate and memorialise their experiences in accordance with the wishes of survivors and that we educate ourselves and future generations about this dark chapter in our nation’s history.

“The legacy of this report must be to challenge who sets the narrative of what is morally acceptable or not in our society. The legacy of mother and baby home survivors and indeed those who didn’t survive, must be an inclusive, compassionate, responsible Ireland who stands up for those who have no voice.”

Senator Seery-Kearney concluded, “Counselling has been provided for those who are directly affected by the publication of the report. Full details can be found at  https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/national-counselling-service/counselling-service-for-former-residents-of-mother-and-baby-homes/

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