Tullamore adoptee and founder member of Adoption Rights Now! Mary Lawlor is fighting for adoptee rights and she's hoping members of the public in Tullamore will sign a petition this weekend to help push her cause forward.
Mary, who's in her 50s, was born in Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea. She's been researching her biological family since September 1993, but has had to navigate a system that she says doesn't lend itself to tracing family roots. Just a few months ago Mary found out she has a brother who was taken as a baby to Brooklyn, New York. However she hasn't been able to make contact with her sibling.
Speaking to the Offaly Independent this week Mary said what she and her colleagues are campaigning for is open adoption and access to records once adoptees turn 18. "Say you want to find out is there heart disease in your family," Mary explained. "You have no access to any family medical history."
It's not just medical reasons that are motivating Mary, however. "It's a complete violation of your human rights," she said. "For the ordinary citizen they can trace back their family tree and know exactly who they are and where they came from. As an adopted person you have no right to anything."
A Facebook page set up by Adoption Rights Now! includes five demands: that all adoption records are opened immediately in line with international best practice; that the Adoption Authority of Ireland is staffed entirely with adoptees and/or natural mothers; that a full public inquiry takes place into the treatment of mothers and children in government and Catholic run institutions in Ireland since the foundation of the State in 1922; that all adoptees are granted minority status and that all angels' plots in former mother and baby homes and Magdalene Launderies are handed over to a trust committee of adoptees and natural mothers. Mary and her Adoption Rights Now! colleagues across Ireland are hoping to collect one million signatures to complete a petition that they plan to take to authorities in both Ireland and Europe. Already over just two evenings collecting signatures by herself Mary says she has almost 1,000. This weekend she's hoping to eclipse that, combining her own efforts with those of generous volunteers. Approximately ten volunteers armed with petitions will cover Tullamore and its environs on Saturday, September 29, from noon until 6pm.
"Legal adoption came into effect on January 1, 1953, in Ireland with the first legally adopted people reaching the age of 18 in 1971," the petition details.
"During the past 60 years, eight Adoption Acts and an amendment to the Constitution have been brought forward, all without a single piece of legislation to grant information rights or statutory based information and tracing services to adopted Irish people."
"We, just like you, just like everyone else, have the right to know who we are and where we come from," Mary says to potential signatories.
Anyone interested in getting in touch with Mary and her colleagues at Adoption Rights Now! can contact them at 086 4493232, 086 4493223 or 086 4500388. Mary can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers interested in helping to gather petition signatures are also welcome to make contact on the same numbers.