The right to a birth certificate and securing information about their origins is at the root of a campaign by those adopted from mother-and-baby homes, with the Commission of Investigation acknowledging that this should be allowed.  

Reflecting on a range of submissions and analysis, its view is that adopted people have a right to their birth certs and associated information and this should only be denied in exceptional circumstances.

It believes medical information and adoption records compiled at the time of the adoption should also be available.

A six-month waiting period is recommended by the Commission from when a request is made for this information to when it can be accessed.

It also suggests important legislation be provided for a support system as it anticipates there can be problems for people who find very important information in this manner.

The likelihood of a referendum being required to allow for the necessary legislation is also put forward in its recommendations.

The report also defends Child and Family Agency Tusla against what it describes as "considerable criticism" in its approach to information and tracing.

It states that in its view this criticism is "unfair" and Tusla is implementing the law as it stands and cannot change it. Adding that any other agency would have done the same.

During the course of its investigation the Mother and Baby Homes Commission took evidence from people engaged in both sides of the argument.

On the one hand it noted how the main issue raised by lobby groups and individuals born in mother-and-baby homes was information and tracing.

It makes reference too to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states the important principle that children are entitled to the information necessary to preserve their personal identity.

On the other hand, it reveals how social workers who had contact with birth mothers gave evidence to the Commission about the ramifications of their privacy rights "being eroded" if birth information was revealed without their consent.

They told the Commission that, when recent statistics gathered by them were analysed, it was noted that over 50% of birth mothers contacted as part of a search by an adoptive person did not wish to engage with their service.

Many of the women told them of their terror at the prospect of the proposed legislation on tracing being implemented.

They told the Commission that this group of women were a very vulnerable cohort and that their views were not being heard.

The concerns of the social workers were also brought to the attention of the Commission by the Council of Irish Adoption Agencies who said they believed these women live in fear of being discovered and feeling their lives would be destroyed.

One of the social workers produced a letter from one such woman which stated: "I am writing this in a secret place so as no one will see me. I implore you and beg you now not to get in touch with (name of husband) he doesn't know about this as I could not tell him. He was in England at the time and I went through it on my own. I could not tell anyone then, I can’t tell anyone now. I am going through this on my own now. I was promised that no contact would be made. I am in a terrible dark place with no way out. This is putting me over the edge."

Despite these concerns, the report stresses that social workers who gave evidence were "wholeheartedly" in favour of the release of birth certificates and recommended that the onus should no longer be placed on the birth mother.

Instead they suggested that the birth mother should be informed once a request is made from the adopted child and while she may not have the right to prevent the information being released, she will be afforded the time to "manage her feelings and her life circumstances" along with support being given to her, such as counselling.

They suggested a 12-month consultation period as the appropriate amount of time prior to the birth certificate being released.

More on mother-and-baby homes

However, the Commission in its assessment suggested 12 months was too long and six months would be more appropriate.

The Commission goes on to recommend that if a mother, following support from social workers, still believes her privacy rights are being seriously eroded then the matter should be brought before the Circuit Court.

The proceedings should be held in private and both the birth parent(s) and the adopted person should have the right to legal representation and legal aid should be provided for all parties if required.

In addition to submissions from social workers in this area of its investigation, the Commission also received recommendations from theIrish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the Clann Project, and One Family.

In its assessment on birth information, it raises the point that many adopted people think there is considerably more data about them in institutional and other records than is actually the case.

Having examined the records closely, the Commission states that the information is " very limited" in many cases.

However, it adds that this is not an issue of whether or not there should be a right of access.

Right to know where family is buried

Separately the report refers to the right to know where family members are buried, stating if those rights were established there would need to be a clear statement of what family members were entitled to this information.

The Commission envisages that it would be difficult to see how any such rights could extend beyond siblings.

"In cases where the mothers were in the home when the child died, it is possible that they knew the burial arrangements or would have been told if they asked. It is arguable that no other family member is entitled to that information."

It concludes that there would be enormous practical difficulties in establishing and implementing such rights and also stating the costs involved would probably be prohibitive.