Agency in adoption scandal enters voluntary liquidation

By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner Reporter

The former adoption agency at the centre of the illegal adoptions scandal has gone into voluntary liquidation — just months after hundreds of illegal birth registrations were found in its files.

St Patrick’s Guild (Incorporated) gave notice of its intention to be wound up via a voluntary liquidation on December 17 last. Anthony Weldon of KR Professional Advisors has been appointed as liquidator. As of October 31, the firm had total assets of €265,847 and total liabilities of €26,876.

News of the liquidation comes just seven months after the Department of Children and Youth Affairs revealed in May that Tusla had discovered 126 cases in which births were illegally registered between 1946 and 1969 in the records of St Patrick’s Guild. The records were transferred to Tusla in 2016 after the agency ceased offering an information and tracing service at the end of 2014.

The Irish Examiner also revealed that Tusla has raised concerns about a further 748 adoption cases from the former adoption agency which contain evidence of names being changed, cash payments, and other “irregularities”.

Just two months later, Tressa Reeves and her son, Patrick Farrell, settled their action against the State and St Patrick’s Guild over Patrick’s illegal adoption.

The Irish Examiner first revealed Ms Reeves’ case in an exposé in 2010 and has raised concerns about the practices of the former adoption agency ever since.

Following the settlement of the case, Ms Reeves encouraged other victims of illegal birth registrations to come forward and sue over forced and illegal adoptions.

Given that St Patrick’s Guild has gone into liquidation, it is unclear where this will leave any legal cases that may have been taken or are about to be taken against the former adoption agency.

Following the discovery of the 126 illegal birth registrations in May, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone announced a “scoping exercise” to see if the extent of illegal birth registrations is widespread and requires a full, forensic examination of all records. The final report was due in October but has been delayed until April.

The department has refused to reveal the sample size of the 150,000 records to be examined in the review or the methodology involved. The scoping exercise has also been criticised for being focused only on illegal registrations and not all forms of illegal adoption.

The department has steadfastly claimed that the 126 cases revealed in May represent “the only cases in which clear evidence of incorrect registrations has been found”.

However, the Irish Examiner has revealed documented cases of illegal adoptions and illegal birth registrations as far back as 2010, including the fact that the Adoption Authority (AAI) warned the department about the scale of the problem on three separate occasions in 2011, 2013, and in 2015.

The AAI specifically cited “several hundred” cases at St Patrick’s Guild. In 2015, it sent the department a detailed spreadsheet containing 90 cases that it felt represented illegal registrations. This information was not acted upon at that time.

In 2015, the Irish Examiner also revealed a 2014 note of a meeting between Tusla and two nuns from St Patrick’s Guild which acknowledged the agency’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

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