The Shame of Ireland

The Shame of Ireland

  • A guide to Iris Oifigiúil (and using it to trace forward)

    Under the 1952 Adoption Act, schedule 8, Paragraph 14 (1); every adoption in Ireland has to be confirmed in an Irish court AND must be published. However under Paragraph 14 (2); no pre-adoption, identifing details can be published: ie, former name, mothers name, place of birth etc.

    The publication the Adoption board choose to use is the Governments official state journal known in Irish as Iris Oifigiuil which is an obscure booklet for legal notices which has been published twice a week since the foundation of the state. It would be mostly of interest to the legal profession.

    From 1953 to 1987/8 ish, all IRISH legal orders are in Iris. However since all American/foreign orders had to be rubber stamped in American/foreign courts, the Banished Babies do NOT appear in Iris lists. Nor will any illegal adoptions nor anything related to fostering.

    The Adoption Board seems to have sent someone out on the road who did the rounds of the local courts around the country every few weeks or months. That person then had a bundle of local adoption orders rubber stamped by each local court in turn. The court judgements were published every few months at random in collected batchs at the back of various issues of Iris Oifigiuil. The lists contain ONLY the first and middle name of the adoptess followed by their new parents names and address, and nothing else.

    Copies of Iris are rare but there is a collected set available to the public in the National Library in Kildare Street, Dublin 2 [ ]. You need to sign up for a readers card first which is easy enough, just bring photo ID (drivers lic, passport etc.). The readers card is free, valid for three years and and signing up takes about 5 to 10 minutes. Copies of particular years can then be ordered and they will be handed out every couple of hours at set times during the day. They normally give up to 2 or 3, and sometimes 4 years, out at a time. There is a photocopier section attached to the main reading room where you can copy the books. You need plenty of E2, E1 or 50 cent coins for the separate machine which dispenses photocopier cards which are good for 10 copies apiece (20 cent a copy). You can set the high quality photocopier to reduce 2 pages of Iris onto one, good quality A4 sheet at a time which are easily legible.

    [The Reference Library in Cork City Library, Grand Parade, also has back issues of Iris Oifigiúil. As far as I know, you don't have to become a member to check issues/get photocopies. Thanks Carmel H.]

    The lists stopped in 1987/8 ish after the 1987 Adoption Act passed into law. During the committee stages of the Act, a certain Senator campaigned to have the publication of orders stopped. Senator, later President, later UN Human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson. Mary also asked that all back issues of Iris be removed from public access (seriously, not joking) but thankfully the Minister refused. I estimate that Iris contains an average of 1000 to 1500 orders per year or approx 30,000 to 40,000 adoptees' new names and address's.


    1967.... Two bound volumes in hardback black and blue covers each containing 52 copies of Iris. Each page throughout the year has a consecutive number following on from the issue before.  Earlier years are not indexed but later years are from 1968 at least. Indexs are either at front OR back of volumes so check both and look under "orders, making of" as opposed to under "A" for adoption.

    Vol one of 1967 has the first batch of orders in the 3rd of Jan edition, pages 3 to 12 at approx 42 orders per page. Total about 398 orders. Batch #2 is in the 6th of June edition, pages 526 to 535. Total about 356 orders. Batch #3 is in Volume two edition, pages 1013 to 1027. Total about 714 orders........... Total for 1967 approx 1468 orders.


    Interestingly, the batches themselves are generally listed by several girls in a row, then several boys in a row. They are also usually sub-grouped around certain areas. But they also jump all over the place at odd times. There seem to be no hard and fast rules governing the lists, just generalisations. Note that most adoptees go to a couple named as "Mr and Mrs"; the odd one to a "Mrs" only and a very rare one to a "Miss". The occasional one is in Irish.


    If you wish to use the Iris lists to trace forward, you must have at least  the new/adoptive first name of the person you're trying to trace and a rough date of birth (to within a year or two). Other helpful information would be geographical location and the date of that person's adoption order (ie, the date the court actually issued the order). Then join the national Library in Kildare Street and order a couple of years supply of Iris dating from a couple of months after that person was born. Go through the books slowly and write out all the names of adoptees with the same first name for at least two years and up to three years, after their date of birth (if you have the date of the adoption/court order, then look through the lists starting from just after that date and it should be in the next 1, 2 or 3 batchs). You can also just make a note of all the batchs you find, photocopy them and check at home. After you have a list of names, you can simply apply for birth certs for all of them online BUT always using the same date of birth for the person you are looking for.



    Certs cost E11 each but the HSE will refund E8 for all of the certs which don't match. If the person you are tracing has an unusual first name, it makes the trace a lot easier and faster! Remember that Iris will give the original address of the adoptee while the GRO Adopted Children's Register will not. You can also trace using the Adopted Childrens Register in Roscommon (and GRO Dublin?) to cross reference first names and dates of birth to get a surname; and then use Iris to find that persons' original address (See ARA main website for full details @ )

    Paul Redmond April 2012


    The information contained in Iris Oifigiúil would be of use to natural parents or anyone seeking a sibling who was adopted but it would have to used in tandem with the Index to the Adopted Children's Register located in the Research Room of the GRO, which does give Dates of Birth.  So someone looking for an adopted person, would first get a list of names from the index, using the Date of Birth as the means for identifying the person though if you had a first name (which an agency should provide to a searcher), that would help narrow the search even further.

    The names from your short list could then be matched to addresses contained in Iris Oifigiúil.

    Susan Lohan February 2012

Shared with the Permission of the Authors - Source

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