A template for a right to origin? Redressing the inequities of denied heritage in Ireland and elsewhere

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In terms of permitting unfettered, easy access to hidden-away or falsified birth records (and other ‘sensitive’ information) held by the State, Churches, or other agencies, Ireland's Birth and Information Tracing Act 2022 has been met with some scepticism. Various Dáil debates are telling and merit further discussion. In respect of reparation or redress for those most affected by adoption losses, the Act cannot (and should not) be viewed in isolation from the socio-cultural contexts and traditional biases that have underpinned and shaped it. Its slow, incremental progress reflects many decades of tragedy, abuse, scandal, and controversy. Likewise, a failure to legislate for the complete removal of lingering barriers to accessing one’s own information, can easily amount to ‘a new illegitimacy’ (Storrow, 2012:38), fresh forms of stigma, and harmful inter-generational otherings. The largely discredited Commission of Investigation Report (2021) into (some of) Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes - and the litigation which flowed from it - cannot be ignored. Significant portions of the survivor testimony entrusted to it were, for example, simply disregarded or destroyed. Its tone and use of certain terminologies echo those of earlier ‘investigative’ Reports which similarly attempted to blur or somehow ‘explain away’ the darkest aspects of Ireland’s history of forced relinquishments and adoptions. Clearly, sharp policies of orphanisation and mother-shaming ‘moral reform’ enabled and perpetuated Ireland’s particularly institutionalised model of origin deprivation via forced familial separation. And yet such systems often served as exemplars for other jurisdictions, with elaborate legal fictions contriving similarly permanent otherings for those who were abandoned – or unwillingly surrendered – by their mothers. This is particularly so where deliberate falsification or destruction of original records was entirely normative and often compounded by near-sacred traditions of silence, socio-cultural exclusion, and systemic discrimination. State or church apologies mean little therefore in the absence of meaningful statutory reforms or the creation of workable systems to ensure redress or reparation. In the context of forced adoptions, information release is key, given that truth recovery - and repatriation to one’s origins – tend to require authentic narratives and accurate identification of genetic relatives.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKorean international adoption: conceptual, contemporary and historical perspectives
EditorsRyan Gustafsson, Nikolaj Pedersen, Boon Young Han
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages33
Publication statusAccepted - 30 Nov 2023


  • Adoption
  • Origin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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