Belfast Telegraph

Irish minister orders inquiry after adoption scandal

By Staff Reporter

A preliminary probe into illegal adoptions has been tasked with finding "sufficient reliable evidence" of the practice - ahead of a possible wider investigation of the scandal.

Marion Reynolds, a former deputy director of social services in Northern Ireland, has until mid-October to deliver a report on the latest controversy from Ireland's past, under the terms of reference for her examination published last night.

In recent days it was revealed that 126 people who were given up for adoption were led to believe their adoptive parents were in fact their biological parents. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, uncovered the cases during a trawl of records from the former St Patrick's Guild adoption agency that date from the years 1946 to 1969.

While some would have discovered their true identity over the decades, as many as 79 have no idea they were adopted.

Children minister Katherine Zappone published the terms of reference of Ms Reynolds' initial investigation which will involve examination of a sample of tens of thousands of adoption files.

Tusla was able to identify the cases from the St Patrick's Guild files due to a marker placed on them specifying the child was "adopted from birth". The terms of reference says Ms Zappone wants an investigation into whether there is "sufficient reliable evidence" that can be extracted from other adoption agencies.

Ms Reynolds' analysis will be a sampling exercise due to the volume of records involved.

It's estimated that Tusla alone has 70,000 records from former adoption societies; the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) holds 30,000 relevant records; and other existing and former agencies have a further 50,000 records -around 150,000 in total.

The sampling exercise is designed to assist the minister in deciding what subsequent action might be established to identify more fully the scale of incorrect birth registrations. It is to come to a conclusion on whether "key identifiers or markers" signalling incorrect birth registrations in other adoption cases exist.

Ms Reynolds is to agree a methodology with Tusla and the AAI for how the initial probe will work within two weeks. She is to make recommendations on the most appropriate next steps.

Ms Reynolds is expected to deliver a report within four months of a sampling methodology being established. Interim reports can be delivered before then. She will be responsible for ensuring time-scales are adhered to and to inform the minister of any slippage and the reasons why it occurs.

The chairman of the AAI Dr Geoffrey Shannon will lead work on the matter within that organisation and Cormac Quinlan, Tusla director of transformation and policy is involved for that agency.

Belfast Telegraph

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