Adoption has been a common theme in Ireland for the last 100 years and until recently was administered predominantly by institutions associated with the Catholic Church. Adoption was particularly common in Ireland due to the perceived guilt and shame of having a child out of wedlock. Thousands of children were admitted to the care of adoption institutions who failed to adopt proper procedures for the registration of adoptions.
Investigations carried out by Barnardo’s children’s charity have found that there may be up to 15,000 illegal adoptions throughout Ireland where adoptive parents were registered as birth parents.
The organisation Adoptions Rights Allowance have also found that at least 182 institutions or individuals across Ireland have been involved in illegal adoption practices.
One such institution that has come under intense scrutiny is the now defunct St Patrick’s Guild who are responsible for the incorrect registration of 126 adoptions. This led to TUSLA, Ireland’s child protection agency, contacting the affected individuals in 2018 to inform them of this practice of illegal adoption.
What Legal Action can be Taken?
High Court proceedings were issued in the first illegal adoption case in July 2020. Actor Patrick Fitzsymons took a civil claim against the church and state agencies that were responsible for his illegal adoption. The claimant’s birth parents put him up for adoption after being born out of wedlock. He was admitted to the care of St Patrick’s Guild and later adopted by a couple who were incorrectly registered as his birth parents.
There have also been calls for a public inquiry into illegal adoptions to examine the full extent of the scandal. TUSLA are in the process of reviewing adoption records but have come in for criticism due to the selective nature of their investigation of individual cases. It is envisaged that a full public inquiry would be more effective in uncovering the extent of illegal adoption in Ireland.
What will I receive compensation for in an illegal adoption claim?
Claims of this nature allow victims of this corrupt practice to recover damages for personal injury and loss including psychological damage, distress and anguish. Damages can also be sought for actionable conspiracy, deceit, malicious falsehood and infringement of constitutional rights.
What is the time limit for bringing an illegal adoption claim?
In cases of informal or entirely illegal adoptions, where no official records exist, the time limit for bringing a claim can be more flexible. It may not be subject to the same strict time constraints as other types of legal claims.
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