St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency requested a payment of “at least €50,000” from Tusla before it would transfer the more than 13,000 adoption records it holds.
The agency made the request on numerous occasions throughout 2015 and 2016. It was excluded from the current Mother and Baby Homes Commission despite the Government being told by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) that the agency was aware of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.
It ceased operating at the end of 2014 but, due to lengthy negotiations to ensure Tusla were indemnified against any legal action taken by people seeking their records, the files were not transferred until May 2016.
However, it has emerged that the agency had contacted Tusla a number of times throughout 2015 and 2016 seeking a payment of €50,000 before it would agree to transfer any records.
Documents released under Freedom of Information show that Sr Francis Fahy, director of services with St Patrick’s Guild (SPG), wrote to Tusla national manager for adoption Siobhán Mugan in October 2015 requesting an “immediate payment” in regard to almost €48,000 in expenses.
She had previously made a request in April of that year and stated that SPG had not been funded by Tusla since it closed in December 2014, but had continued offering a service to adopted people and natural parents “albeit in a more limited way”.
“It is now a matter of some urgency,” said Sr Fahy.
“At this time I am enclosing an account of the actual expenses to date for 2015 and would be glad to receive an immediate payment in regard of these expenses. If further details are required please let me know. A further sum will be required later as often payments fall due from October until such time as the service and the records are transferred to Tusla.”
The attached expenses from January to September 2015 included almost €10,000 on gas and electricity and phone bills of more than €2,000.
Ms Mugan responded to Sr Fahy stating that when the agency ceased operating there was no agreement with Tusla to continue funding into 2015.
She pointed out that, “in fact, it was agreed that the records would be in the possession of Tusla by late January, early February 2015 at the latest”.
However, Sr Fahy wrote to Tusla again in February of this year stating that it would need a payment of “at least 50,000” before it could transfer anything of the 13,000 adoption files. She pointed out that the agency was preserving and maintaining the records and offering a service on the understanding that its costs would be covered by the State.
“We were given to understand that upon submission of the necessary documentation and accounts funding would be made available to cover the costs incurred during this period,” said Sr Fahy. It was with this understanding that the work was carried out in good faith.
“While every effort has been made to bring the negotiations to a conclusion this has not yet been possible. Therefore, at this time, and as a matter of urgency, it is necessary to request that a payment of at least €50,000 be made prior to the transfer of the records.”
In April, principal officer in the Adoption Policy Unit at Tusla wrote to chief executive of the AAI Patricia Carey expressing concern about the request and fact that the agency had planned to retain copies of index cards containing birth information of adoptees and their natural families.
The AAI agreed to allow the agency hold the cards for three months post transfer of the files to allow it “to complete reports for the Authority”.
In April of this year Tusla agreed to a one of payment of €30,000 to support the storage of the files while the transfer was being negotiated and to assist the agency with its closure.