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By Conall Ó Fátharta
Match 23, 2013 / Irish Examiner
Groups representing birth mothers and adopted people have called for an investigation into the scale of forced and illegal adoptions in Ireland.
It comes following a national apology by Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister, to thousands of unmarried mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their children for adoption over several decades.
An apology was recommended last year by a senate committee that investigated the impacts of the policies pursued at the time.
It found that, among unmarried mothers, adoption rates were as high as 60% in the late 1960s in Australia. By contrast, in Ireland in 1967, 97% of all children born outside of marriage were put up for adoption.
Bernie Harold, chairwoman of Adoption Loss — The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, said birth mothers here were “moved” by the apology but there seemed little will at Government level to examine Ireland’s forced adoption practices, which continued into the 1980s.
“We should not be complacent or smug on this side of the globe, however,” she said. “No-one can doubt that Ireland’s forced adoption practice was comprehensively championed as an official Government policy until well into the 1980s.”
Ms Harold said clear proof of this lay in the fact that, in 1974, Paddy Cooney, as minister for justice, said in a speech to social workers at the adoption agencies’ annual conference, that adoption “is better for the illegitimate baby than to be cared for by its mother”.
Ms Harold said there was a key difference between Ireland’s experience of adoption and that of Australia. “There was a stark difference between Australia’s practice and our own, and that concerned the widespread false birth registration, unbeknownst to their mothers, of thousands of babies, and the failure of registered adoption agencies to arrange legal adoptions,” she said.
Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance, called on the Government to investigate forced adoption practices in Ireland, given the similarities between Irish and Australian practices at the time.
“With regard to the Australian state apology for forced adoptions, when it is Enda Kenny’s turn to issue the same apology for Irish victims of this barbaric genetic engineering, he or his successor need only take Julia Gillard’s text and replace the word ‘Australia’ with ‘Ireland’ and hey presto, a State apology is born,” said Ms Lohan.
She said the scale of the abuses inflicted on natural mothers and adopted people though illegal and forced adoptions needed to be investigated.
“Eamon Gilmore should revisit his statements on the civil rights issue of the generation,” she said. “The forced confinement of unmarried mothers and their children to State-funded mother and baby homes, illegal vaccine trials on the children, forced adoptions and child abductions and child trafficking — this is the civil rights issue of the State since its inception.”
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