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On May 29th 2018, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, announced details about incorrect registrations of birth which have been identified by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, from the records of a former adoption society, St Patrick’s Guild.

Incorrect or ‘false’ registrations occurred where a child was placed with a couple or individual who were not the parents, but the birth was then registered as if the child had been born to that couple or individual.  

An analysis of adoption records that were transferred to Tusla by St Patrick’s Guild has revealed clear cases of irregularities in the birth registration process.

Tusla has published details of how it will make contact with people in at least 126 cases where births were incorrectly registered between 1946 and 1969. This process will be carried out carefully in line with good social work practice. 

Further information and FAQs on this process are available on Tusla’s website. Tusla has also put in place a helpline, in operation from Tuesday May 29th 2018.  The FREEPHONE number is 1800 805 665 and it will be manned by social workers from 10 to 4, Monday to Friday.

In light of the information from the St Patrick’s Guild records, the Minister has directed that further investigations be carried out now to see if clear evidence of incorrect registrations can be obtained from the records of other former adoption agencies held by Tusla or the Adoption Authority.

A targeted sampling exercise will be carried out in the first instance by Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland. This 4-month process will be overseen and quality-assured by an Independent Reviewer, Ms Marion Reynolds, who is a former Deputy Director of Social Services in Northern Ireland and has extensive experience in social work, child and family services.


Why is this matter only coming to light now?
There have been suspicions about incorrect birth registrations for a number of years, but there has never been any concrete evidence.  The issue with the SPG files came to light when Tusla were scanning the files, and came across a marker saying ‘Adoption from Birth’.  On further investigation, many of these have turned out to be incorrect birth registrations.

Informing someone that they are not who they always thought they were is a life-changing piece of information.  The State must have a high level of certainty that the information is correct, before they share it with the individuals concerned.  This high level of certainty has only been reached in the recent investigation of the SPG files.

How many cases are there?
Tusla have identified 126 cases of incorrect registrations, in the SPG files to date.  A further 16 cases require further investigation to establish if an incorrect registration did or did not take place. 

Could there be more elsewhere?
There are 126 to date in the SPG files marked ‘Adoption from Birth’, with a possible further 16.  This is only one subset of the files of the SPG, and there are many more adoption societies and adoption society files.  The Minister has put in place a sampling exercise to determine the likely scale of the issue.  It is important to note that the State must reach a high level of certainty before telling individuals, and it may not be the case that the clear evidence in the SPG files is duplicated in other files as the practice was by its very nature usually a covert one. 

Can individuals correct their birth registration?
There is a facility to do a late registration of a birth.  The application should be made by the individual concerned to the Registrar of the General Records Office [GRO], and there is a process to be followed, and documentary evidence required.

How and when will people be contacted?
The process of contacting people will be a sensitive, measured, process, delivered by experienced information and tracing social workers in Tusla.  It will be on a case by case basis, at the pace determined by the individuals concerned, and will, at every step of the way, be supportive of the individuals concerned. 

As a first step, Tusla must seek, on the basis of files that are over 50 years old, to identify where individuals are now, and establish contact details for them. This is a painstaking process which will take a number of weeks. However, Tusla will seek to contact relevant individuals as soon as possible. Given the highly sensitive nature of the information being given to people, this will not happen over the phone, but will be delivered face to face, in a supportive environment. Further details are available on Tusla’s website.

What information will be provided to people?
The person who was the subject of the incorrect registration will be provided with all the information on the files and records about him or herself, including his/her birth name. Information about the birth mother will be made available subject to the consent of the birth mother.  If she is deceased, then the person who was the subject of the incorrect registration will be provided with her information. However, each case will be assessed by Tusla on a case by case basis.

What supports will be available for people?
The Tusla information and tracing social workers will lead the process and offer support and assistance at every step of the way.  They will also link in as required with other supports in the community, including medical, counselling, and mental health supports.  Tusla staff are very conscious of the impact of the information they will be delivering, and are experienced in this area of work.

As the process continues, Tusla will provide regular updates and the issue of further supports for people involved in this process may need to be addressed.

In addition, Tusla has put in place a helpline, in operation from Tuesday May 29th 2018.  The FREEPHONE number is 1800 805 665 and it will be manned by social workers from 10 to 4, Monday to Friday.

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