Foreign adoptions: latest form of human traffic?
AT first glance international adoption seems like the perfect solution to a heartbreaking problem.
It involves the rescue of abandoned and unwanted babies by well-meaning and loving Irish couples.
However, it also involves large sums of money in some of the most corrupt countries on the planet.
The money, many multiples of the average salary in these poor countries, attracts a mixed bunch to the international adoption business.
One of those was My Linh Soland, who, until last week, organised all Vietnamese adoptions for Ireland.
Not much was known about her background, but like many organising inter-country adoptions she is not a childcare expert.
We did know that she was a lawyer.
Tragically for Irish parents with Vietnamese children, we now also know she is a convicted criminal who spent three years in prison in the US for fraud, intimidation of witnesses and conspiracy.
Soland was the one-stop-shop for all Vietnamese adoptions.
The Vietnamese authorities demanded that only she be used.
The Irish Adoption Board, having investigated her credentials, agreed and stated on its website that "Ms My Linh Soland has been identified as the person best suited . . . for the role."
The communist authorities in Vietnam, who have an atrocious record for human rights abuses, corruption and the appalling treatment of their poor and vulnerable, just loved Ms Soland and she grossed well over $1m finding babies for Irish people.
Irish adopters would first send Soland a personal cheque for $3,700. When they reached Vietnam they handed her another $3,000 in cash.
That's what we know. Where and how Soland found the babies and what she did or said to their parents to permanently separate them from their children is a mystery.
The Vietnamese 'histories' of these babies are, at best, unreliable, at worst, pure fiction.
Do their natural parents know they are alive? Do they even know their children were adopted to Ireland?
These are questions the Irish Adoption Board will have to answer.
Failure to do so is an admission that we really don't care about the rule of law or human rights, when those affected are poor and a world away in South East Asia and - most importantly - when they have beautiful babies so much in demand by middle Ireland.
The Irish Adoption Board has now suspended Soland. But is it going to investigate the history of the 150 babies already in Ireland or the adoptions being processed right now?
Is it going to allow this latest batch of Vietnamese babies to arrive here with paperwork that cannot be relied upon?
Right now Irish people have been assigned Vietnamese 'orphans' to adopt.
Are these babies really orphans or have they been taken from the parents through intimidation or even abduction?
Ann McElhinney is a journalist and documentary maker. She broke the Tristan Dowse story and was featured in the RTE documentary 'The Search for Tristan's Mum'. She is researching a book on Inter-country adoptions.
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