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Birth information Bill will set up contact tracing register
Minister Roderick O'Gorman Pic: RollingNews.ie

12 Jan 2022 / legislation Print

Birth Information Bill to set up contact-tracing register

The Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022 has been published by Roderic O’Gorman, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The proposed legislation will, for the first time, enshrine in law a clear right to full information for all those with questions regarding their birth, early life, care, and medical information.

If enacted, the bill will respond comprehensively to the decades-long campaign on the part of adopted people to vindicate their fundamental rights to information, the minister said today (12 January). Debate on the bill will begin in the Oireachtas this month.

Questions about origin

The legislation will cover all of those adopted, boarded out, the subject of an illegal birth registration, or who otherwise have questions in relation to their origins.

The bill’s requirement for an information session where a parent has expressed a ‘no-contact’ preference now no longer needs to be a physical meeting.

The revised bill makes provision for this to take place by means of a short phone call or video call.

Other key changes

In response to issues raised during pre-legislative scrutiny, other key changes include:

The requirement for the information session to be held by a social worker has been removed,

The information session will include explicit recognition of the identity rights of the applicant, and their right to access their birth certificate and birth information,

Next-of-kin will be able to avail of the legislation to access information about a family member in specific circumstances,

The definition of early-life information has been expanded to provide for the release of baptismal certificates and entries on the baptismal register,

The legislation will use the term ‘mother’ instead of ‘birth mother’.

Apart from access to information and records, the legislation also establishes a comprehensive tracing service for those who want to make contact with family or who wish to seek or share information.

Contact-preference register

It also establishes a new statutory ‘contact-preference register’. This register will offer a means for people to record their preference for contact with family members; and also a mechanism to lodge communications and contemporary medical information that can be shared with family members.

The legislation also addresses the issues facing people who are the subject of an illegal birth registration, and provides a legal mechanism for provision of an accurate birth registration to affected individuals, “while remaining mindful of their current identity”.

Minister O’Gorman said: “For decades in this country, adopted people have been failed in being denied clear access to their identity information.

‘Ireland’s outlier status’

“With this bill, we are restoring to adopted people the information that so many of us take for granted as part of our own, personal stories. The bill ends Ireland’s outlier status in terms of having legislation that provides access to information about one’s origins.”

He said that while the legislation aimed to help those with questions about their origins, it also provided important services relating to contact and the sharing of information.

“I hope that these other services will be valuable, not only to adopted persons, but also to mothers seeking contact with, or information on, their adopted child, as well as other family members,” he added. 

Mr O’Gorman commented that he intended to start the second stage of the priority legislation in the Oireachtas within the next fortnight.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland