Parents Plea for Adopted Girl

A GALWAY couple living in Massachusetts who plan to move back to Ireland later this year have been told that the adoption of their 14-month-old daughter from Michigan last year may not be recognized in Ireland, thus making her an illegal alien.Michael Connolly and Barbara Mee, who came to the U.S. in 1991, were elated a year and a half ago when they picked up their five-day-old daughter, Grace, from Michigan. The married couple, who reside in Boston, brought Grace back to Massachusetts where they began planning a move back to their hometown of Clifden, Co. Galway."We were so excited to bring Grace home to our families. We want to bring her up in Ireland," said Connolly in an interview with the Irish Voice recently.The couple sold their home in Boston and began making provisions to move back. It wasn't until they applied for an Irish passport for Grace that they hit a brick wall. "We applied for her Irish passport and we were told that we must first register Grace with the Adoption Authority of Ireland," said Connolly.Simple, they thought. Difficult they soon discovered. After several calls and documentations back and forth for what the couple thought would be a routine procedure, they soon found out that under the Maastricht Convention each state in the U.S. is considered a separate country because they each have their own adoption rules, thus causing a problem for the Adoption Authority of Ireland - and leaving baby Grace in legal limbo."The Adoption Board have decided to kick the problem over to the attorney general's office where they are to decide if they consider Grace's adoption to be legal or not. Some guy there will look into it. It's absolutely ridiculous," said a frustrated Connolly."Basically we have been told if you really have to bring her that she will be considered an illegal alien," he said.Connolly and Mee, who even went to a county clerk in Boston to get the adoption ratified from Michigan, finalized their daughter's adoption in June 2007. She is now 14 months old.This week the couple are back in Ireland trying to get face-to-face meetings with the attorney general's office to see if they can rectify the issue before returning. "We need to get this sorted now. The law doesn't make sense. The whole idea that they can sit in judgment over a court in Massachusetts saying that they don't care about American law is beyond me," said Connolly.Although not able to comment on an individual case, Liam Preston of the Adoption Authority of Ireland told the Irish Voice last week for an adoption to be recognized in Ireland, "both laws in each country must comply with regard to certain stipulations." He provided a generic example. "In Irish law there is a complete break from the natural mother, but in some countries the legislation states that the natural parent still has a hold on the child or can still see the child," said Preston. Explaining if a certain case is ambiguous, the file is handed over to the Department of Foreign Affairs to review. They will in turn come up with a list of relevant lawyers in that country - or state, in the case of Grace - and the Adoption Authority will write to them asking for their legal opinion."They send their conclusion back to us and we send to the attorney general and he then decides if it complies with Irish laws," he said. If the laws don't comply then a child cannot be registered as a foreign adoption, thus making the child an illegal alien.It is also Irish law that if someone adopts a child outside Ireland, they are required to have lived in that country (or state) for a year period. Connolly and Mee never lived in Michigan.Connolly expressed his concern that if they bring Grace to Ireland and register her as an illegal alien, following the advice from the Adoption Authority, they are providing Grace's birth mother an opportunity to claim her daughter back again, even though she gave up that right when Grace's adoption was finalized. "It's just like no Irish Americans need apply," said Michael, who works for Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority.Grace's mother told the Irish Voice of the toll this is taking on the family. "We are just devastated. We waited so long for Grace. It's so important for both of us to bring her back to Ireland, and with both of us being Irish citizens we didn't think there would be any problem in getting her a passport," she said. "Now we feel like it's our country that is not accepting our daughter as a part of it. We are just bewildered. We have done everything they have asked for months and months and no one seems to know what they are doing."Explaining that family is first and foremost to them, Mee said, "I come from a big family in Galway with eight girls and two boys. I want Grace to know her grannies over there and to basically grow up in Ireland. It's always been in our heart when we got a baby to move home to Ireland."

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