Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland publicly apologized Wednesday to 126 adoptees born between 1946 and 1969. The individuals were given falsified birth certificates showing their adoptive parents as their birth parents. Of the 126, 79 may be unaware that they were adopted.
About 13,500 adoptions were handled during that time by the St. Patrick’s Guild, an adoption agency run by the Sisters of Charity. The Guild was one of seven large adoption agencies in operation then. In his apology, Prime Minister Varadkar referred to the uncovering of this information as “another dark chapter” in Irish history.
After years of looking the other way, the Irish government has admitted that 126 adoptions from a single agency included falsified documents, effectively hiding the true identity of their origins. Many activists groups fear this is only the beginning. Irish society has been particularly hard on unwed mothers in the past, often pressuring them to place their children for adoption. In recent years though, the lessening of the church’s influence has led to the legalization of divorce, gay marriage, and abortion.
In addition to contacting the adoptees involved, the government plans to commission a broad sampling of adoptions by other agencies in an attempt to identify further wrongdoing. Chief Executive Finlay, of the child protection society Barnardos, estimates an astonishing 150,000 adoptions that may require investigation.
The St. Patrick’s Guild closed in December 2014. All adoption records were transferred to Tulsa, the government’s child protection agency, in May 2016. While assisting adoptees in searching for their birth families, the agency noticed the discrepancies. Tulsa referred all the falsified documents to the police.
Chairperson Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors said, “This is just the tip of a very large iceberg of fraud, forgery, baby trafficking, child abduction and criminal activity by rogue Irish adoption agencies who have destroyed tens of thousands of innocent people’s lives.”
“This is a very serious and sensitive issue. People have the right to know of their true origins and, where we have clear evidence, I believe we have an obligation to tell the people affected. Some may know already, but for others it will be entirely new and very difficult information indeed. Tusla has developed a plan for making contact with people and for providing the right supports for them as they absorb this information,” said Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.
The Sisters of Charity have issued a statement saying that no sister alive today would have had anything to do with those adoptions and apologized to anyone affected.