Data protection is about people, not data. It is about protecting the rights of people, giving them control over their information and allowing them to say “this is how I want to be seen”.

Many thousands of people born in Ireland are denied this.

People born in Mother and Baby Homes cannot access their birth certificates and other information about the earliest parts of their lives. They are refused access to their identity.

Over many decades the Irish state, the Catholic Church and a range of other institutions have failed these people, and recently they have been failed again by the final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.

We don’t want this to continue. You can take some concrete actions today to help survivors to access their identities. Scroll down further for some stories and further information.


Three things YOU can do today to help

Sign the petition to make a single paragraph amendment to the Civil Registrations Act which will allow adoptees access to their birth certificates. This legislative amendment is fully endorsed by our friends in the Adoption Rights Alliance, JFM Research and the Clann Project.

If you’re in Ireland write to your TD and ask them to

  • insist that the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth fully applies the principles of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to the records which will transfer to him at the end of February
  • insist his department publishes the policies it will apply to access requests made for these records before the records are transferred so these policies can be adequately scrutinised
  • emphasise to the Minister that secrecy in this matter is not an option for the Irish state any more

You can find a list of TDs in your constituency and their contact details on the Oireachtas website.

If you have read the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation and noted any inaccuracies the Adoption Rights Alliance is collecting examples of these. You can make a submission on the Adoption Rights Alliance website.


If you have 2 minutes, watch Noelle Brown on the Late Late Show

“I’ve spent from 2002 until the end of 2019 trying to get basic information. To close my story. Because my beginning … we have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning of my life was taken from me, my birth was obliterated, or attempted to be obliterated, and it has taken me that long to get the full picture.”

If you have 10 minutes, watch Bryan O'Brien's 'Permanent Placement Possible'

‘Permanent Placement Possible’ is a multimedia project I completed in 2020. Constructed from video interviews, photography, audio, archival photos, and documents it explores themes of identity, loss, control and ownership of data by focussing on a legal anomaly that prohibits Irish adopted people born in Ireland from gaining access to records relating to their birth and adoption while allowing Irish people born in the United Kingdom full access to this information in most instances.”

Witness 27

“I would also like to comment on the difficulty that adopted children have in obtaining a copy of their own birth certificate. I appreciate that there is a balance to be struck between the right to privacy of birth mothers and fathers and the interests of the adopted child but in my view that is not a justification for preventing a person from seeing their own birth certificate”

The Clann Report [direct link to PDF], paragraph 3.107

Mary Harney

“The Irish government was utterly and totally responsible, whether society was involved or whether the religious orders colluded, the responsibility is on their doorstep.

“I want him to say, ‘This was our fault.’

“You’ve heard from us for the last god knows how many years now, so accept responsibility and we might accept your apology,”

Susan Lohan

“Lohan’s adopted parents, Sean and Sheila Lohan, initially discouraged her from looking for her biological parents.

‘They were concerned that they might not be nice people, but they too had been fed false narratives about my natural parents.’”

Witness 19

“After Witness 19 had spent years trying to find out the name of his natural mother and his own first name at birth, it took a number more years to find out further information about his natural mother. He was finally able to make contact with his natural family in 2014, after having spent 17 years searching for them, only to discover that his natural mother died one month before he was able to make contact with his family.

He says that: “The inadequacies of the system delayed my search for years, causing me anguish and distress as well as removing any opportunity I may have had to meet my mother before she passed away”.”

The Clann Report [direct link to PDF], paragraph 3.95


Where can I find out more?

The Clann Project

Clann: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data (‘Clann’) is a joint initiative by Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and JFM Research (JFMR). The purpose of Clann is to help establish the truth of what happened to unmarried mothers and their children in 20th century Ireland.

Clann provided assistance to those who wished to give evidence to Ireland’s Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters by arranging free legal assistance for individuals to make full written statements.

As part of this process, Clann anonymised shared statements, and gathered documentary and archival materials, in order to make a public group report to (1) the Commission of Investigation, (2) the Irish Government, and (3) international human rights bodies.

Personal Data and Access Rights

“GDPR is a dry piece of EU legislation. But, as this issue has shown, there can be few things more vital for a person’s ability to be the author of their own lives than to know just who they are.

Empowering people to be that author is the primary aim of these rights, and it is precisely because they underpin such a profound personal issues that Data Protection was added to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. That charter stands above both Irish domestic legislation and any conflicting provisions of our Constitution.

People have a right to know who they are and where they came from. Those rights can be balanced against others if needs be. But they must be recognised first.”

What's Data Protection Day?

On 26 April 2006 the Council of Europe decided to launch a Data Protection Day to be celebrated each year on 28 January, the date on which the Council of Europe’s data protection convention, known as “Convention 108”, was opened for signature. Data Protection Day is now celebrated globally and is called Privacy Day outside Europe.”

You can read more about Data Protection Day on the Council of Europe website.

Who made this site?

This site is part of, a trusted source of information about data protection rights for individuals in Ireland maintained and developed by Article Eight Advocacy, an independent not for profit organisation which advocates for data subject rights in Ireland.

Article Eight Advocacy is collaborating with students of the Irish Human Rights Centre at NUI Galway to provide resources for survivors to use as they attempt to access personal information.

We’ll be publishing guides and templates over the next month in advance of the Commission of Investigation’s store of records transferring to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.