Vice Chair of the Justice Committee and Labour TD for Wicklow and East Carlow, Anne Ferris will give the opening address at a major International Adoption Conference to be hosted by the Law Department of University College Cork on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th September.
Joining adoption rights activist Philomena Lee, Deputy Ferris will speak about her proposals for new information and tracing legislation. She will also discuss her own Open Adoption Bill, published earlier this year, which sets out to give adopted children the opportunity to maintain contact throughout childhood with their natural families.
“For far too long the issue of adoption tracing and contact legislation has been locked in a dreadful stalemate position. It is very exciting that at long last international lawyers and other experts are starting to put their heads into addressing some of the facts and myths around legislating for adoption in Ireland. The simple reality is that we need to change the law, both for present day adoptees and parties, to historic adoptions, and allow hundreds of thousands of Irish people exercise their constitutional right to their own identities.
“I believe that all adult adoptees, on reaching the age of 18, must receive the necessary identifying information to allow them access to their birth certificates. This is by no means a revolutionary proposal given that adoptees in Northern Ireland, Britain and other countries around the world have had access to their birth documentation for decades.
“As someone who has only just met with my adopted sister for the first time, I know that contact between long-lost relatives needs to be handled with care. With any change to the legislation, the provision of counselling services must be offered to help support all parties involved.
“Many adopted people and natural parents might feel awkward and fearful at first about making contact. The right not to make contact needs to be given its rightful place in the new legislation, but not at the expense of denying people their identity. We all have a fundamental natural right to know who we are.”
Other speakers at the conference include: founder of Adoption Rights Alliance, Susan Lohan, renowned experts Dr Pien Bos of the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and Dr Peter Selman of Newcastle University, Nigel Cantwell of UNICEF and Her Honour Judge Rosemary Horgan, President of the District Court amongst others.