Vital Statistics and Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Bill, 1952—Second Stage (Resumed).

I am amazed at the attitude which Deputy MacEoin has taken up here to-day, and I am not surprised, without wishing to be personal, that during his term of office we did not have a Legal Adoption Bill brought into this Dáil. I cannot understand how anybody would oppose a section in a Bill which would seek to try to release the illegitimate people in this country who are being ground under the present law as virtual lepers in society. They are people who are admitted into the world but not into the Christian society in which we live. It is no fault of theirs. I simply cannot understand how anyone would oppose a section in this Bill which would propose to bring forward the short certificate.

I had intended to go further—I sup-hap pose I am one of the cranks the Deputy has referred to—but I had intended to ask the Minister what steps were going to be taken, when the short and long certificates were introduced, to see that the short certificate in regard to births was accepted and used generally, and that the long certificate would be only available, or made available, in special cases——

Make it an offence to use it.

——such as for marriage, in connection with the inheritance of property, or where it was necessary for legal purposes. I fear that if the two certificates are brought in and if it is just as easy to obtain one as the other, everybody who can obtain the long certificate, human nature being what it is, will do so and the person who is unable to obtain the long certificate will be left amongst the few with the short certificate and, generally speaking, his lot will be no better than it is to-day.

I appreciate the difficulties involved. I am quite aware that we must have the two certificates, that they are necessary, and I am not suggesting that there should not be two, but so far as the long certificate is concerned, only one copy should be made available and a considerable amount of trouble should have to be taken before a second copy should be made available and perhaps it should be made available only in cases of the loss of the original copy of the long certificate. The short certificate should be easily available, and, in the case of all the universities, public institutions, competitive examinations and so on, it is always the short certificate that should be asked for. I cannot understand the attitude of Deputy MacEoin. I do not see anything wrong in trying to help these people, and if trying to relieve these people of the slur which they have inherited through no fault of their own is liberalism, I am certainly all for it.

I welcome this measure for the very same reason as Deputy ffrench-O'Carroll, has outlined. Like Deputy ffrench-O'Carrol, I am not surprised that there was such a long delay in introducing the Legal Adoption Bill after hearing the views of the previous Minister to-day. I find it nearly impossible to understand the type of mentality that would like to deprive a limited number of people of their rightful place in society.

We are not discussing legal adoption.

My interpretation of all this is that, in the eyes of Almighty God, we are all equal, but certain people in this country and other countries take it upon themselves to suggest that they and they alone are the only people on whom God looks with favour. I am not prepared to accept that outlook and I am not prepared to accept Deputy MacEoin as my instructor on a matter of such importance as the rights of the people in this country. I do not propose to go any further, except to say that I am very glad this measure has been introduced.

Mr. O'Higgins

There is one matter I should like to understand. For some years back I have followed with interest, as have many other Deputies, the agitation that has grown up, a well-founded agitation, with regard to the whole problem of legal adoption. It is important when discussing this Bill to realise that legal adoption has nothing whatever to do with it. We are not concerned with that problem here. We are concerned with a change proposed in the manner of registering births and I say: let us keep our powder dry until the Legal Adoption Bill is discussed here. It is a Bill which will undoubtedly give rise to very grave consideration by this House.

With regard to registration, I am by profession a lawyer and I suppose that as a lawyer, I am more concerned in my daily practice with this entire question of registration than with anything else. For the life of me, I could never understand what measure of importance was to be attached to different certificates. The only time a certificate is required is when full disclosure must be made with regard to a person's percentage.

There is no change proposed in registration.

Mr. O'Higgins

Birth certificates are required in relation to funds standing in court, payments to minors of their shares and a variety of matters which entail examination and a satisfying of a court of law as to the parentage of a particular minor or infant. They are also required for many other legal matters. There is no legal necessity for a birth certificate that I can think of that would be satisfied by what is referred to here as a short certificate. To my mind, this entire matter of the two kinds of certificates is merely a well-intentioned wish which was uttered some years ago and which has not been examined very properly. I am afraid that it will achieve very little so far as the aim the Minister has in mind is concerned. You may have your short certificate, but you will find that it certainly will not conceal or cloak what Deputy ffrench-O'Carroll has referred to as the slur of illegitimacy.

Every time a certificate is required in our courts of law, the full certificate will be required. Let there be no mistake about that. If it is not required, if it is dispensed with, we will have the spectacle of an unfortunate mother or father having to go into the witness box to give evidence in a public court of law which will stigmatise a minor as illegitimate. I say very seriously to the Minister that this matter has not been examined with all the care which should have been given to it. I well appreciate the sentiments which Deputy Dr. ffrench-O'Carroll has uttered, but again it seems to me that this is an action we are being rushed into, perhaps with the best of motives, which may and, I think, will, cause considerable harm to the interests that are attempted to be served. I suggest that this is a matter that might well be committed for consideration to a Committee of the House. It may be that, on consideration quietly by a Committee, some other way may be found of achieving what obviously is the intention.

Change the education regulations.

Mr. O'Higgins

Deputy MacEoin has reminded me that there are a variety of regulations that will have to be examined, but I do not think that the legalising of a short birth certificate will do anything more than give the Legal Adoption Society and other people of that kind something which will satisfy them for a time, but which, on examination, will be found to do considerable harm to the people involved. I suggest to the Minister in all seriousness, therefore, that this matter should be examined quietly by a Committee of this House. We should consider it carefully from all aspects.

I think it is regrettable that in the first six months of this Dáil this Bill should have been introduced as a precursor of the Legal Adoption Bill, that it should have been introduced as a result of a rather unfair newspaper publicity campaign indulged in in the last two years. It makes me doubt whether consideration has been given to the Bill; it makes me doubt whether the Minister, in introducing the Bill, has reflected carefully on his step; and, as a practitioner at law, it makes me doubtful as to the efficacy of the proposal contained in the Bill. I urge on the Minister to consider it very carefully. The Minister is a doctor: he no doubt views this matter from a different point of view from mine, but I do say to him seriously that if he provides a short certificate here in this country, he will do considerable harm to the section the Bill is intended to help and he will achieve very, very little.

I am afraid Deputy O'Higgins is labouring under some misapprehension. Probably what he calls his knowledge of the world is confined in the main to the law courts. He is not aware that birth, marriage and death certificates are very widely used in the ordinary business of life. Only yesterday I was assisting a widow to fill up her application for a widow's pension and I found that with her application she had to supply no less than seven certificates—those of her husband's birth, her own birth, her marriage and her husband's death, in addition to her children's birth certificates. Children at school have to provide birth certificates for academic examinations and for numbers of other purposes. Applicants for situations have in many cases to provide birth certificates. There is a wide variety of ordinary administrative purposes in life for which these certificates are required.

I would be for a simplification of the certificate and would even go further and suggest that there should be, if possible, a reduction in the charge for these certificates, especially when they are required by poor persons applying for the legal pension to which they may be entitled. I think Deputy MacEoin made a rather foolish statement when he said this Bill would be welcomed by cranks. I think it is more likely to be opposed by cranks and I think one cannot have a more cranky person than one who wants to investigate the parentage and other circumstances of his own neighbours. The ordinary charitably minded person does not inquire into matters of this kind. What Deputy MacEoin described as liberalism I would be more inclined to describe as Christian charity.

There has not been very much raised on this Bill. Deputy MacEoin described this as a liberalistic approach and Deputy ffrench-O'Carroll was surprised at that, but I am not surprised at Deputy MacEoin raising this issue. I agree with Deputy Cogan that the approach to this Bill is, as he has said, an approach from the point of view of Christian charity. Deputy MacEoin's would be the pharisaical approach.

I am personally not interested in the Pharisees; I am much more interested in looking at these things from the point of view of Christian charity.

A Deputy

You are not like the rest of men.

Deputy O'Higgins talks about the full certificate being required in courts of law. I quite realise that and, as I said in my opening speech, the long certificate will be always available as well as the short one. However, the short certificate will certainly suffice for many of the uses that a certificate is put to now, for many of the requirements under various Acts passed through this House. I just have some things jotted down here of that kind. For instance, in education, a child is asked for a certificate of age when going for a primary certificate or for secondary examinations and again for university examinations. No doubt the short certificate is quite all right there. It would also be quite all right for the issue of a passport and in seeking employment. For instance, when the Civil Service Commissioners or other employers require proof of age the short certificate would do. It would be all right again where questions of unemployment insurance arise, where age is sometimes a factor. It would also do for national health insurance and, as Deputy Cogan pointed out, in the case of a widow's pension.

It would hardly be any good in the case of the widow's pension.

She does not have to prove she is married at all.

In the case of the widows and orphans, surely they would want the full certificate?

No, no.

To prove that the child is actually an orphan?

I am talking about the widow herself. Deputy MacEoin interrupted to say she will not have to prove she is married at all. Deputy MacEoin is reading things into the Bill that only a mind like his would read.

The Minister should apply a little charity to Deputy MacEoin now.

What motive could he have for saying that no proof is needed that she is a widow at all?

The Minister charged me with being a Pharisee and if he thinks that is the proper attitude to take to what I said——

Did not Deputy MacEoin say that she would not have to prove it?

That she would not have to prove that she is married at all.

That she will not have to be married at all, I think the Deputy said.

I said she would not have to prove it.

You said she would need the long certificate. I said that a widow, in order to get a pension, will have to produce a birth certificate because in some cases age makes a difference. Under the present law relating to widow's pensions, it makes a difference whether she is over 48 or not and I was speaking of the point where the widow had to prove her age and Deputy MacEoin said she would not have to prove she was married at all; in other words, to give this House an idea of the way legislation is tending since Deputy MacEoin left the Government. Christian charity— that is what Deputy MacEoin is out for now.

Go ahead with your speech.

That is the man who talks about a liberalistic approach. If my liberalistic approach is going to commit me to be charitable to the members of this House and to my opponents, I would much rather have a liberalistic approach than Deputy MacEoin's approach in this matter. I do not like Deputies who try to make political capital out of alleged religious principles.

What game is the Minister playing now?

We know Deputy MacEoin's game, anyway. I am telling the Deputy that his game will be of no use to him, of trying to make political capital out of alleged religious principles. I was mentioning some of the cases where the short certificate would suffice. There are also cases where it is necessary for a boy or girl to prove age in order to get a vote under the Representation of the People Acts and the short certificate would be quite all right there. Then when people get old and want to prove age for the old age pension, the short certificate would do.

Would not a baptismal certificate always do if one could not find the other?

Of course it would if the other could not be found. As far as the certificate issued by the Registrar-General is concerned, the short one would suffice.

On the point made by Deputy O'Higgins, who said that in courts of law a long certificate would always be required, I would like to say that, in any type of legal case, a long certificate, would, of course, be necessary because I take it that in law the issue of identifying a person would be very important. In all those other cases where certificates have to be used very commonly and very often, a short certificate would be quite sufficient and I feel there would be plenty of use found for it.

Would the Minister say whether it is necessary to produce a certificate in any case showing that a person is entitled to vote?

It may be sometimes necessary if there is any doubt that the person has not attained the age of 21.

It may be necessary sometimes to produce a certificate to prove whether a person is dead or alive.

I feel we have departed from the good old days known to Deputy Davin when dead people's votes were used. I am dealing only with the case where a certificate would be necessary for a live person to show that he was entitled to vote.

I think that the only point of importance that arose was the one made by Deputy O'Higgins with regard to the law courts. I am in full agreement with him when he says that a long certificate would be necessary, and the long certificate will be available.

Before the Minister concludes, I wonder could he give any indication of the approximate cost of the shorter form of certificate, because I feel that is the most important issue? If there is to be any great difference in cost between the short and the long certificate people will naturally use the cheaper form.

I think it may be taken for granted that the shorter form would be cheaper than the longer one. I am not in a position to say at present what the cost would be. The only request I got from the Minister for Finance was that I should not lessen his income from this source. Therefore, I must make some calculation as to what will be the charge under the new dispensation.

Will the Minister consider increasing the price of the long certificate?

Yes, in order to lower the cost of the other one.

Mr. O'Higgins

I wonder would the Minister consider the suggestion I made, namely, that this matter should go before a committee chosen from members of this House?

I did not think that this Bill was that important. It has nothing whatever to do with the Legal Adoption Bill, which will have to put in its own provisos about certificates.

Mr. O'Higgins

While I do not want to make a speech, I would like to stress this matter of putting the Bill before a committee of members chosen from this House. It seems clear to me that there is a big hiatus in the short certificate in so far as it applies to the courts of law. It might be that if a committee of this House were set up to consider the matter the difficulty could be got over and other objections which people may have to the Bill could also be considered by the committee. I would strongly recommend that suggestion to the Minister.

Has the Minister considered whether the short form of the certificate should be compulsory in regard to examinations and things of that kind?

With regard to the fees collected by the local authorities, that is, the income derived from the issue of the certificates, am I to take it that they will go into the funds of the local authorities?

Heretofore they went to individuals.

The clerk of the poor law union was automatically superintendent registrar in the old times and he got certain fees from that. As the Deputy knows, that position has disappeared. There were temporary appointments made. Under this Bill it will be possible to appoint a local authority, not any particular person.

Perhaps I have not made myself clear. The registrar and the superintendent registrar got the income from the certificates. Is there a change proposed in that respect so that these moneys will go to the local authorities and not to individuals?

The registrar remains as he is. The superintendent registrar was until some time ago the clerk of the poor law union but that position will disappear and the local authority will be the superintendent registrar in fact.

What will happen to the income derived from the issue of the certificate?

The local authority will get it.

I think the Minister should consider that.

The people who are now receiving the fees will continue to receive them and it is only when a vacancy occurs that a change will be made.

Mr. O'Higgins

The Minister has said they were only temporary appointments. I take it that if that is so they will be renewed until such time as the person dies or becomes incapacitated.

The occupants of those interim or temporary appointments were told that they would hold such appointments until this Bill or some such legislation was passed.

I would ask the Chair to put the question formally.

Question put and declared carried.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

This day fortnight.

I will move an amendment on the Committee Stage.

I would like to say to the House and to the Minister that this is the type of Bill which ought not to go to a special committee. It is a simple Bill. There are only a few matters which arise for discussion out of it which could easily be dealt with in Committee. It is a completely different Bill from an enormous Bill like the Defence Forces Bill which the House could discuss for a whole year. I feel it is desirable that big Bills should be sent to special committees but, in my view, small Bills should be considered in this House in the ordinary way.

I feel that this Bill should be discussed in this House.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 5th March.