QUESTION NO: 536 to the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Andrews) for WRITTEN ANSWER on 27/01/2009
* To ask the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 227, 253 and 265 of 17 December 2008, if she has received a response from the Vietnamese authorities in relation to negotiating a new adoption agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – David Stanton
As the Deputies will be aware, the Adoption Bill, 2009, which will give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, was published on Friday 23rd January. Under the new legislation, prospective adoptive parents will be able to adopt from countries which have also ratified the Hague Convention, and countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement which meets Hague standards.
While it is true to say that our current Agreement with Vietnam is based on Hague principles, as part of the preparations for our new legislation we need to ensure that our Agreement reflects the Hague Convention as comprehensively as possible. A new Agreement allows the opportunity to elaborate and strengthen some existing provisions to meet the standards which it is anticipated will be set in draft legislation. There have been considerable developments in intercountry adoption in Vietnam since the Agreement was signed 5 years ago. This progress also needs to be reflected in any new Agreement.
There is a clause in the current Agreement which states that the Agreement will be automatically extended for another 5 year term unless one State notifies the other State to the contrary. Because of the changes to our adoption legislation, the Agreement cannot ‘roll over’ in its present form for another 5 years. As a result, the Irish Government was obliged to formally notify Vietnam that there can be no automatic renewal of the Agreement when the five year term expires on 1 May, 2009.
I am aware of the concerns of those parents who have already adopted and those who hope to adopt from Vietnam in the future. I would like to assure the Deputy that officials from my Office and the Adoption Board have been continuously monitoring the situation and liaising closely with colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and our embassy in Hanoi over recent months. In November, a senior official from my Office led a delegation to Vietnam accompanied by the Chairman and CEO of the Adoption Board. While the purpose of this visit was to commence discussions with the Vietnamese Authorities on the possible renegotiation of the Agreement, the delegation also availed of the opportunity to meet with officials from various embassies and with UNICEF to discuss the their views on intercountry adoption from Vietnam.
On foot of this visit to Vietnam, the Irish Government issued a formal request to the Vietnamese Authorities stating that we wish to enter into discussions immediately for the purpose of negotiating a new Agreement to follow on from the existing Agreement. The Vietnamese Authorities have responded positively to Ireland’s request.
Ireland offered to provide the Vietnamese Authorities with the text of a draft agreement as a basis for negotiations. An initial draft was prepared by my officials and was submitted to colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General’s Office for their consideration in December 2008.
At present, the text of the draft is being finalised following the receipt of legal advices. Once the text of the draft has been agreed between the OMCYA, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General’s Office it will be forwarded to the Vietnamese Authorities for their consideration. It is anticipated that we will be in a position to forward this draft to Vietnam shortly.
The work to prepare for and advise the Government on this issue and the implementation of Government’s decisions is being given the highest priority. These are complex matters which require careful consideration. At all times, the Minister and the Government, and officials advising them, are guided by the need to respect and protect the best interests and rights of the child.