Are Sinn Fein toying with the hopes of adopted people on the birth cert debate?

Today, the Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion will move the second stage debate on the Civil Registration (Right of Adoptees to Information) (Amendment) Bill 2021.  

As Deputy Funchion has already made clear when the Bill was formally introduced on 17 February,

“Its simple objective is to give every adoptee the right to unfettered access to their birth certificates. This crucial amendment will seek to give adoptees access to their publicly-registered birth certificates and the reality is that all births have been publicly registered since the mid-1800s so there should be no more secrecy.”

The first thing to note here is that there are a number of obstacles to achieving this objective-obstacles I might add which known to exist by anyone paying the remotest bit of attention to this debate.”

This quite strongly suggest one of two things is happening here.

Either Sinn Fein is genuinely ignorant of the details of the debate, or, alternatively, that what Sinn Fein is really doing is engaging in emotionally manipulative politics and the proffering of false hope to people that already feel deeply betrayed.

This is the kind of politics which suggests that there are “simple” answers to very complex problems.

For instance, if we take Deputy Funchion at her word and believe that the objective of the Bill is to give adoptees “unfettered access” to their birth certificates, then we have to say that this is just not possible.

Why?

Well, here is former Minister Katherine Zappone speaking in the Dáil in May 2020 on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, 2016  and who, by any measure was an ‘ally’ to this cause:

“My own view is steadfast: legislation in this area must be progressed to ensure that adopted people and others can access their birth certificates and know their origins.”

However, Minister Zappone then went on to identify the central problems that existed, and which continue to exist:

“There were provisions in the Bill, often referred to as ‘privacy provisions’, which provided for balancing the rights of adopted persons to their birth information with the rights of privacy of birth parents. These were based on legal advice that there must be some protection of birth parents’ constitutional right to privacy reflected in the legislation. There are two rights at play, the right to identity and the right to privacy, and legislation must seek to harmonise these rights.”

It is this core conflict, between the rights of the adoptees and the right of birth parents to privacy that remains unresolved and is unaddressed by the Bill Sinn Fein are bringing before the Dáil today.

What can we expect to see happen then? The first thing will we see, and this can be almost guaranteed, is a rush to media by Sinn Fein damning this cold-hearted government for denying adoptees the right to their own information.

But the reality as we have just seen, it that is legally and constitutionally impossible to provide what Deputy Funchion and Sinn Fein are demanding, namely “unfettered access” to birth certs without regard to the right to privacy that continues to exist.

A right I might add that would continue to exist even if there were a majority Sinn Fein government.

This is the worst kind of politicking. It offers false hope merely for the opportunity of condemning the government and framing yourself as the party of ‘compassion,’ on the side of the people etc etc.

No doubt, the governments opposition to this Bill will be framed as a decision forced on them by a cabal of well-connected sinister Catholics operating at the deep state level, or some other kind of paranoid political delusion.

This will serve the Sinn Fein agenda quite nicely.

The only people it will not serve are the adoptees and those who recognise that resolving complex clashes of fundamental rights are never achieved by petty political game playing.

For his part, the current Minister for Children has said that he will be bringing forward comprehensive information and tracing legislation to allow access to birth certs and early life information which takes account of privacy and GDPR concerns-something which the Sinn Fein Bill does not do.

Of course, that is not the impression SF want you or me to go away with.

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