‘Historic’ Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022 signed into law and first steps towards Information and Tracing Services commenced
From Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Published on Friday 1 July 2022
- Birth Information and Tracing legislation signed into law by President on 30 June 2022.
- Minister O’Gorman has commenced the legislative provisions to establish the new Contact Preference Register.
- The new Register is now open to applications and can be accessed on birthinfo.ie. Applications may be made to the Contact Preference Register by those wishing to make contact, to request privacy, or to seek or share information with a relative.
- A Public Information Campaign, with a national and international focus, is underway to let people know of the important changes to the law. As part of this, an Information Booklet will be delivered to every household in Ireland.
- These steps pave the way for Information and Tracing Services will open in October 2022.
Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, has today (1 July) commenced the first suite of provisions within the Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022, paving the way for Information and Tracing Services to open in October 2022. The steps taken by the Minister mean that a new Contact Preference Register is established from today and is open to applications.
The legislation completed its final stage in the Houses of the Oireachtas in 22 June and was signed into law by the President on 30 June 2022.
This landmark legislation provides a full and clear right of access to birth certificates, birth and early life information for all persons who were adopted, boarded out, the subject of an illegal birth registration or who otherwise have questions in relation to their origins. It also allows for access to information by a child of a relevant person where their parent has died, and for access by the next of kin of children who died in an institution.
The new law establishes a robust tracing service and a Contact Preference Register, as well as a range of new bespoke measures to address issues arising for people affected by illegal birth registration. A broad spectrum of counselling and support is also available to persons affected on request. All of these services will be free of charge for applicants.
From today applications may be made to the Contact Preference Register by those wishing to make contact, to request privacy, or to seek or share information with a relative.
The Act provides that the Contact Preference Register must be open for a minimum period of three months before applications for birth certificate and related birth information will be accepted. Those affected, are encouraged to register their preferences in advance of October, when applications to the Information and Tracing Services will open.
The Contact Preference Register will be facilitated by the Adoption Authority of Ireland, who currently has responsibility for the National Adoption Contact Preference Register. All entries currently held on that register will transfer over to the new Contact Preference Register and remain valid, however persons with entries already registered are advised to consider re-applying to the new register to ensure their contact details and preferences are up to date.
A public information campaign also begins today to inform people of the important services to be delivered under this new legislation. This campaign will include delivery of an information booklet to every household in the country, and will have a local, national and international focus.
A bespoke website with more information on the act, the services it establishes and the persons eligible to use them, goes live today and is available at www.birthinfo.ie
Speaking on the new law Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman said:
“Upon taking office, I made it clear that this legislation and the rights that it extends were a priority for me. I have spoken to many people affected by this legislation, and they told me about the impact the lack of access to that fundamental information about their own identity has had on them. I sincerely hope that this historic law finally provides the answers that so many people have sought for so long.
“Unfortunately for some people, the information that exists may be limited, incomplete or inaccurate. This reminds us all of how important the support and counselling services in place for people will be.
“We are determined to support people to answer questions that remain unanswered to date. In October, when all affected persons will be able to avail of these new provisions that will allow unfettered access to their birth information, we will be able to see the positive and hugely significant impact of this legislation.”
Notes to Editors
The Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022 (No. 14 of 2022) enshrines in law the importance of a person knowing his or her origins. It provides a full and clear right of access to birth and early life information for persons who have attained the age of 16 years. In summary, the Act provides for:
- Release of the birth certificate, birth information, early life information, care information and medical information for all persons who were adopted, boarded out, the subject of an illegal birth registration or who otherwise have questions in relation to their origins (hereafter referred to as a “relevant person”);
- Release of the birth certificate, birth information, early life information, care information and medical information to the child of a relevant person in a situation where the relevant person and the parents named on the birth certificate are deceased;
- Release of information to a next of kin of a relevant person who died as a child in one of the institutions specified in the Act;
- A statutory tracing service for persons wishing to make contact, share or seek information;
- A Contact Preference Register, established in law, through which people can register their preference in relation to contact with a relative, as well as seek or share information;
- Counselling and other supports for those parents and relevant persons who seek it; and
- The safeguarding of relevant records.
The Act also amends the Civil Registration Act 2004 and the Succession Act 1965 to address key issues arising for people affected by illegal birth registration. These amendments:
- Provide a robust legal basis for the transfer of information from Tusla to the General Register Office, thereby vindicating the right of relevant individuals to an accurate birth registration.
- Provide the relevant individual with an entitlement to live under whichever identity they prefer (i.e. their accurate birth identity or the identity by which they have lived their whole lives) and to have their social parents recognised in law through the mechanism of a parallel register. Individuals will be able to opt to continue live by their social identity for the purposes of official identity documents such as passports, contracts, marriage certificates, declarations etc., without fear that this could be undermined by the confirmation of their incorrect registration.
- Address inheritance issues arising for people affected by illegal birth registration.
The Act also provides a basis in law for the work of a specialist tracing service to undertake a review of files flagged by Tusla as suspicious during the Independent Review and to provide expedited reviews for persons who hold reasonable suspicions that they may have been the subject of an illegal birth registration.
The Birth Information and Tracing legislation will sit within the framework of the Irish Constitution and the GDPR. Importantly, it will strengthen and guarantee existing rights to information and complement the ability for people to access information under the GDPR.