The plight of unwed mothers and their babies in Ireland has become notorious. Films, TV shows, books, articles, have documented the mistreatment and horrors of those institutions which were usually run by the Catholic Church. Thousands of people were affected. Thousands of mothers have wanted to know what happened to their children. Thousands of children wanted to know what happened to their mothers, what was their birth names or any information about the beginning of their lives. The Irish government has just opened an online service where adopted people living anywhere but born in Ireland can trace information about their birth. From wherever they live they can now access whatever information the state has about them, including the name of their birth mothers. The service also enables anyone with relatives lost within the Ireland adoption system to trace them, and that includes birth mothers trying to discover what happened to their children. As late as 1998 thousands of pregnant and unwed girls were sent to mother and baby homes where they were pressured to give up their babies for adoption and treated with punitive abusive measures sometimes leading to death and lifelong traumas.
The online service opens the door to the information that should lead to healing for many. Unwed pregnancies and adoptions were shameful in Ireland, as they were elsewhere, and the service becomes a tool to put that shame behind. The US doesn’t have such a national registry, and it would be useful even in states where open adoptions are allowed.