We spoke extensively on this matter during the Committee Stage debate. It is important the Irish language is recognised and is given constitutional importance. We are obliged, as legislators, to conform to the constitutional position of the language. Many of us would wish to speak fluent Irish. In fact some Members, such as the Minister, can do so. In that context, we thought she would be eager to accept this amendment. While we are not suggesting anybody is holding her back, we get the feeling she would like to include this provision.
In the past few months, many of us have called for official recognition of the Irish language at European level. The Government missed the boat in 1974 in terms of having it acknowledged at that level. No matter how justifiable and worthy that objective, one must not overlook the fact that in Ireland there is little or no official recognition of the Irish language form of our surnames or place names. The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, announced his intention to bring forward legislation to afford legal status to the Irish language version of our place names. Comparable legislation is required in terms of forenames and surnames.
As indicated by Deputy Neville, the Genealogical Society of Ireland has called for the official recognition of two possible versions of our forenames and surnames and made a submission in this regard to the Minister's Department. Citizens should have an automatic right to register either the original Irish version of their surnames or the English language version or both and should have such certified by the new civil registration service. Parents should be permitted to register the birth of their child using their usual surname with the option to include an Irish language version of the child's forename and surname. It may have been difficult to do so in the past but it is possible, with new technology, to do so now.
The Minister stated that difficulties could arise with surnames such as Penrose, the Irish version of which is Pionrós which does not lend itself easily to translation. I appreciate that point. Nevertheless, I do not believe the issue poses great difficulty. Ireland is becoming a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-racial society with many newly introduced religious beliefs and cultural practices. The new civil registration system must also accommodate the naming practices of our minorities including the possibility of registering a religious or traditional name in addition to the one formally used by the individual.
For example, those of the Jewish faith, as I pointed out on Committee Stage, should be permitted to register both the English and Hebrew versions of their names. This would permit the registrar general to issue certificates bearing the forenames and surnames of such individuals availing of that right.
This is an important issue. The Minister highlighted the flexibility provided regarding passports whereby people can use the Irish version of their names on their passports while using the English version in other spheres of life. The same right would be applied to minority groups if the Bill was amended to include such a provision, as proposed by the Genealogical Society of Ireland.
Amendment No. 32 relates to a case before the Supreme Court and I will not press it. A High Court decision has been taken on the issue. The purpose of the amendment is to redress a defect in the law for a small number of people who wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery. People who undergo such surgery currently are forced to use a birth certificate noting their original gender for the rest of their lives with no provision for change. This is unsatisfactory and the amendment provides necessary legal protection.
The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that the failure to make provision in law for transsexuals is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and it is only a matter of time before such a ruling is made against Ireland. The matter is before the Supreme Court and it will be discussed in the context of the marriage reviews that will be undertaken. I will not press the amendment. However, I will press the other amendments because we have an opportunity under the legislation to give a lead. If my birth certificate bears my name in English, why should it not also bear the Irish version of my name, given that Irish is our first language?