Civil Registration Bill 2003: Report and Final Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, line 23, to delete "shall come" and substitute "comes".

This amendment proposes to use the active voice. The greater use of the active voice has been recommended by the Law Reform Commission in its report on legislative drafting. In quite a few Bills I have seen serious inconsistencies in the drafting style and quality. The commencement provisions of many Acts state "comes into operation" but this Bill persists in using the old style. My colleagues have had this amendment accepted on Committee Stage of other Bills on a number of occasions and I urge the Minister to accept the amendment and ask her to give an assurance that the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel will become more consistent.

There should be greater use of the active instead of the passive voice. There are occasions when it is more appropriate to use the passive voice to emphasise an act rather than its agent but, on the whole, present drafting styles make far too much use of the passive voice, often obscuring the central message of a section. The drafting manual specifically mentions that the active voice is preferable to the passive and I urge the Minister to use it here. It is not a big deal but it will ensure consistency with her colleagues.

I am not a parliamentary counsel, I have not read any drafting manual and I have no intention of doing so. I rely on the Attorney General's office for the provision of assistance in legislative initiatives and we abide by the advice of that office and the parliamentary counsel. I am satisfied that the drafting of the provision of the section complies with the best practice as set down by that law office.

It is not very important so we will not fall out over it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 2 is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 8, line 26, to delete "Region" and substitute "Regional".

This corrects a typographical error.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are related and will be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 9, line 41, after "1921" to insert ", subject to the requirement that the marriage of a person to the divorced spouse of the person's sibling shall be lawful".

The interdepartmental committee on the reform of marriage law is currently examining a number of issues, including the capacity to marry. It intends to publish a discussion paper on the issue and to seek views and observations from all interested parties. I will bring the views of Members of the House to the attention of the committee. It would, therefore, be pre-emptive to accept the amendment.

The Minister gave that undertaking when we discussed this at length on Committee Stage and I assume she will be as good as her word when she says it will be considered by this committee. It is an anachronism now and should be looked at in that context. It was an extension of a view of marriage that would no longer be valid.

I have formally written to the committee on the issue and advised it of the Deputy's views.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 10, to delete line 9.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 63; Níl, 10

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Charlie.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Malley, Fiona.
  • O'Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Boyle.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 13, line 37, to delete "Shibhialta" and substitute "Sibhialta".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 37 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 15, line 38, after "State" to insert "further to whichsection 26 or 27 (as applied by section 28(8)) applies”.

The register of births covers all children born in the State and, as we said on Committee Stage, children born to Irish citizens abroad in two exceptional cases. The first exception concerns children born to Irish citizens permanently resident in the State who have those children abroad where the birth is not registered or where no birth registration system exists, or where the registration system exists but where copies of birth certificates are not made available. The second exception is where children are born on Irish vessels or vessels coming to or from the State, or who are born to members of the Garda Síochána or the Army serving abroad. The provisions regarding the registration of foreign births are made in sections 26 and 27 and are welcomed by everybody. They represent a significant advance in the recording and registration of certain other births occurring outside the State.

Unfortunately, neither of these provisions applies to stillbirths. Accordingly, the only stillbirths that can be registered are those that take place in the State. A stillbirth abroad can never be registered, even if a live birth could have been registered under the same circumstances. The Labour Party amendment is intended to address this anomaly and permit the registration of foreign stillbirths in a similar manner to the registration of foreign live births. We urge the Minister to consider it. We had a fairly extensive and comprehensive debate on this matter on Committee Stage. I hope the Minister has ruminated on it further between then and now and that something positive will emerge as a result of the amendment, which is trying to fill a lacuna in the legislation that we feel should be remedied.

I support the amendments. I remember very clearly the passage of the stillbirth registration legislation in the House some years ago. I was involved in the debate on the Bill and became very conscious of the difficulties experienced by parents of stillbirths and the mourning and trauma they experience, which is every bit as real and sometimes more severe than that associated with the death of a child born at full term.

In light of this, I ask the Minister to recognise such children by allowing them to be named and have their existence registered. The previous Government accepted in principle that the same status should be given to a stillborn child in all aspects of registration as is given to a person who dies at any other period of their life. That was the spirit of the Stillbirths Registration Act 1994 and the Labour Party amendment is consistent with that view.

On the two amendments, the section itself provides for the registration of certain births to Irish citizens domiciled in the State where there is no system of registration of births or where copies of certificates cannot be obtained. The registration of births and stillbirths occurring outside the State to Irish citizens domiciled in the State in the following circumstances has been provided for within the legislation where, first, a system of registration of birth or stillbirth does not exist in that country or it is not possible to obtain copies of birth or stillbirth certificates. Those life events, births and stillbirths, can be registered outside of the State in those circumstances. I have also made provision for the registration of births and stillbirths occurring on an Irish-registered aircraft or ship, to an Irish citizen on board a foreign aircraft or ship travelling to or from an Irish airport or seaport and to the members of the Permanent Defence Force or the Garda Síochána.

I am satisfied within the provisions of the Bill that sections 26 and 27 adequately meet the requirements. On amendment No. 37, the section itself provides for the registration of stillbirths and replaces section 6 of the Stillbirths Registration Act 1994 to which Deputy Neville referred. It provides for the registration of stillbirths by parents or close relatives within 12 months of the stillbirth. Provision is made for the registration of stillbirths in sections 26 and 27 of the Bill. This addresses the amendment put forward by the Deputy.

I am somewhat disappointed at this aspect. I accept that the Minister widened the ambit of registration but this amendment was important to exclude any doubt or ambiguity regarding stillbirths. The Minister's assurance that the thrust of what we are trying to achieve in the context of this amendment is already contained within the Bill or cannot be excluded by its terms is important. Despite attempts to ensure inclusiveness in legislation, it is very often interpreted in an exclusionary mode. I hope antArd-Chláraitheoir, the superintendent and everybody else in a position to interpret the Bill where there is a great degree of sensitivity involved, will do so from the point of view of ensuring that the maximum amount of information is registered and that such interpretation will be inclusive rather technical and literal thereby excluding matters that are not set out in a fully comprehensive way in the legislation. I assume that what the Minister said will obtain and, on the basis of that assurance, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 19, lines 2 to 6, to delete all words from and including "functions" in line 2 down to and including "other" in line 6 and substitute "the".

We discussed this on Committee Stage and gave much consideration to it. I hoped that arising from our detailed presentation, the Minister would be in a position to deal with this issue. The purpose of the this amendment is to redress a flaw in the existing Bill. As it currently stands, the functions of a registrar are not spelled out in full but must be deduced by referring back to the 1844 legislation. This is totally inappropriate when we are trying to update the legislation. It is a recipe for complete confusion and effectively nullifies the goal of the Bill which is to modernise legislation. Under section 17(4) as it stands, all of the old legislation would have to remain in effect because it would have to be consulted in order to determine the functions of registrars. Our amendments would delete the reference to the old legislation and, therefore, force the Minister to spell out in this Bill what are the functions of registrars. It is not acceptable, when we are trying to put together the best possible Bill, for the Minister to state that this can be done by regulation. It should be defined in the Bill. On that basis I am disappointed that the Minister has not to date accepted this principle. I hope she will see the merit of our case.

On amendment No. 9, the section deals with the staff of the civil registration authorities which are the health boards, including registrars. The reference to section 57 of the repealed Act is no longer required. These references were required to be retained in the Bill published in July 2003 as the amendments to Part 6 and the related repeal of provisions for dispensing with residence and notice of marriage to a registrar under the Marriages (Ireland) Act 1844 did not form part of the Bill at that time. In the context of repealing a range of enactments arising from the inclusion of the additional sections of the Bill relating to marriage law, it is no longer necessary to retain such references.

Amendment No. 8 relates to the staff of the registration authorities. Subsection (4) provides that the functions of the registrars appointed under this Bill will correspond to those that currently exist. This measure ensures that the health board personnel who work as registrars are in a position to continue to undertake their work without being interrupted by the implementation of the provisions of the Bill when enacted. Accepting the amendments as worded would have the effect of disrupting the continuance of the registration service, which is the opposite to what we all intend. Deputies will recall that there was considerable debate on Committee Stage on the functions of registrars and the references to the 1844 Act. As I said, I am bringing forward an amendment under section 9 which will mean that section 57 of the Act of 1844 in section 17(4) is no longer relevant. Under the provisions of the Bill, registrars will perform a wide range of functions in the registration of different life events. In order to aid overall clarity the individual responsibilities associated with each life event are specified in the relevant part and section of the Bill. Therefore, I am not in a position to accept the amendment as worded.

In a clever way the Minister has given us a small sop to get our teeth into in order that we can say we got something after our long day at the office. I understand where she is coming from in so far as the 1844 Act is still the basic legislation. It has been amended and incorporated and upgraded in that context. When legislation is being brought forward, we should incorporate the ethos, fundamental parameters and the foundation stones laid down in the old corpus of legislation but exclude references thereto. We should be in a position to update and codify in a new format current legislation to reflect the realities of modern life. I know the Minister is taking legal advice and accept what the lawyers are saying in this context. However, it is time to send out a warning to the Parliamentary Counsel that if legislators are to upgrade legislation and take it into a modern era, antiquated features must be eliminated. The best features of the old legislation should be incorporated into the new Bill and in that way, progress will be made.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 19, lines 5 and 6, to delete "or section 57 of the Act of 1844".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 19, to delete lines 44 and 45.

The reference to section 57 of the repealed Act is no longer required. These references required to be retained in the Bill published in July as amendments to part 6 and the related repeal of provisions for dispensing with residence. Notice of marriage to a registrar under the Marriages (Ireland) Act 1844, did not form part of the Bill at that time. In the context of repealing a range of enactments arising from the inclusion of additional sections in the Bill relating to marriage law, it is no longer necessary to retain such references.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 11 is out of order. Amendments Nos. 12 to 14, inclusive, are related and will be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

What happened to amendment No. 11?

It is out of order as it would involve a potential charge on the Revenue.

It is one of the mysteries of nature that if €5 is included in a Bill and it constitutes a charge on the Exchequer or the State, a worthwhile amendment falls by default. I know it is not the Minister's fault. It is system and custom. Deputy Boyle tabled the amendment and we tabled a similar one on Committee Stage. It is a matter of great regret that we did not have the opportunity to debate it.

I wish to raise a point of order in the context of amendment No. 11.

Amendment No. 11 does not exist.

It does not exist, but that opinion was given to us on Committee Stage. The Minister gave a specific commitment about trying to bring all these various groups together and have an advisory structure within her Department to deal with this particular issue.

It is not acceptable to say that is out of order as she gave a specific commitment that the spirit of the amendments tabled by the Labour Party and Deputy Boyle would be incorporated into such a structure.

It is important the Minister makes a reference to that.

We cannot discuss a non-existent amendment.

On a brief point of order, while I accept the ruling that the amendment is not accepted, I would like to place on record that the organisations mentioned in the amendment are quite prepared to volunteer for such a grouping. I would like the Minister to be aware that such a grouping could be put together as soon as possible.

Amendment No. 11 not moved.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 20, line 22, after "registrar" to insert "if required to do so".

Amendments 12 to 14, inclusive, are related. The purpose of amendment No. 12 is to make the Bill more accessible and bring it into line with the realities of the process of registering a birth. The Bill retains, as I said on Committee Stage and indeed, on Second Stage, the Victorian precept that persons registering a birth must attend in person at the registrar's office and cannot send in the information by post. It is somewhat anachronistic and unrealistic. Amendment No. 12 addresses that reality. Amendment No. 13 is to give effect to what is contained in amendment No. 12. Amendment No. 14 is again related, but the purpose of this amendment is to facilitate the transmission of information by post, with a fallback power for a registrar to require a person to attend at his or her office, which is important. That is the thrust of those amendments.

I understand why the Minister must insist on people attending in person at particular times and we try to facilitate that by having the fallback position. That was in the old 1844 legislation. Some 160 years later, we should not be dependent on Victorian concepts of what was right at that time. We now have a modern postal network and are in a position to take modernisation to a new level and accept that the old "penny post" is reliable in getting the information in this context. I know the Minister will argue she has cut down periods of time and has broadened the requirements as regards people who may act as informants etc. I appreciate that as positive progress in the Bill. We are moving this to see if the Minister has changed her mind in the interim. We await her comments with bated breath.

I support the amendment. I supported it on Committee Stage as well. It is the only Bill currently going through the House that requires a person to present himself or herself in person. Nowadays, everything is done through post. One can apply for a pension and a range of services and register a whole range of items without making oneself physically present.

Ultimately, it is the duty of the parents to register the birth of the child. We are all agreed on that. There is a three month period during which registration can occur. The necessary information required to authenticate the identity of the child is important. That can be done at the registrar's office. The situation has changed to allow a registrar's office to be used. Equally, the larger maternity hospitals will facilitate this. It is not going to be a huge encumbrance on many people to register their baby when it is born.

To make it optional, as proposed by the amendment, would undermine the importance of the registration of the birth as the key factor for setting up and maintaining a lifelong personal history. I appreciate the technology is there. Technology will facilitate better customer service and support structures, but ultimately I do not believe it presents a great difficulty for a parent to register the child's birth in person, given that this can now be facilitated in any registrar's office and in the larger maternity hospitals.

The Minister has not changed her mind. There are a number of amendments we are attempting to reach. Due to the time restriction we want to ensure we get to as many as possible. I accept the point the Minister has made, that the process has been widened and she has increased it through the number of informants that can become involved. I feel it is a parent's personal duty to ensure registration. This is even more significant now. Nevertheless, it should be looked at in the context of further reviews on other matters because physical presence is not always required. Indeed, physical presence is not always required when dealing with judicial matters. I withdraw amendment No. 12 and will not move amendments Nos. 13 and 14 with some reservations.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 not moved.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 21, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

"(5) Where a child is born in a vehicle or vessel in transit from one place to another and the precise place of birth cannot be identified, the place of birth to be recorded shall be that of the townland or civil parish concerned, or other identifiable geographical area concerned, or if that cannot be ascertained, either the place of departure of the vehicle or vessel or the place of arrival, as may be specified by the informant.".

The purpose of this amendment, which we discussed on Committee Stage, is to ensure that in future persons born in transit will have the identifiable location registered as their place of birth. I will withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister explained on Committee Stage that its intent is already covered in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 16, 31, 32 and 86 are related and will be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 21, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

"20.—Parents may opt to have the birth details of their child recorded in the Irish language and may opt to have a birth certificate issued in the Irish language.".

I am disappointed the Minister has not brought forward an amendment to deal with the request that one be permitted to register one's child's birth in both languages. We are not asking that two names be registered; we are asking that the same name be registered in two languages. People wishing to register in Irish may only register their name in English because in the past, and currently, it is of international advantage to speak English and the Irish version of names may cause problems when abroad. Some people do register their names in Irish. It is common to do so in Gaeltacht areas.

Acceptance of this amendment would facilitate and recognise both languages as the official languages of this nation and would provide parents with an opportunity to register a name in the first language of the State. I thought, on Committee Stage, that the Minister was sympathetic to the view that we should develop every opportunity to be bilingual. It is interesting that the Genealogical Society of Ireland has pointed out that 90% of the 166 Deputies listed on the website are listed by forename and surname in two official languages. The Minister assured us there was no difficulty with legal documents in this regard but the genealogical society seriously questions the possibility of legal difficulty with official documents signed by Ministers using the Irish language version of their names while their names are registered in English. The Minister stated earlier that to register in the Irish language is to register a second name. If that is her contention, then surely a person signing a document as Gaeilge is signing in a name not registered by him or her.

The dual language naming system is not unique. It is a legacy of a colonial past where English advanced at the expense of the Irish language. Our Celtic cousins in Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man share dual language naming systems. If they can operate such systems, then the one Celtic nation that has obtained full independence should provide an opportunity to register in both languages. Irish citizens should have an automatic right to register in both languages and to have such certified by the new civil registration services. This is possible without much difficulty as the registration process will be fully computerised following enactment of this legislation. Parents should be permitted to register the birth of their child using their usual surname with the option to include an Irish language version. Besides recognising the existence of these other versions of the names we use in our daily lives, the Genealogical Society of Ireland proposal provides for the production of official documents for individuals seeking to use the Irish version of their names in many documents rather than the English version as required in certain instances when a birth certificate is requested.

Are we moving all the amendments now?

We are speaking to them all now. They can be formally moved when we come to them.

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?

I support the amendments. I am curious as to how amendments are grouped. Many Irish speakers would not like to be lumped with a minority group such as people who are seeking gender realignment surgery.

Cuir Gaeilge ar sin.

However, somebody has made that decision, which is unfortunate. The case has been well made regarding dual language certificates and I appreciate the difficulties highlighted on Committee Stage, particularly in regard to standardised spellings. My father used to sign his name as Gaeilge as Baoghill, which was the traditional and correct spelling, but that has been shortened and customised to Baoil. Many people find themselves in a similar position when registering their details as Gaeilge.

Amendment No. 31 relates to systems of registration that would properly reflect the increased diversity of our population. It must be taken into account in the various forms of registration that people from different cultural backgrounds may not have traditional naming patterns. They might not use the Christian name, surname approach used in Ireland. For example, the family might use the middle name as the forename. Work needs to be done to draft legislation that will reflect this and I wish the Minister's officials well in trying to square all those circles. However, it is important that these differences should be reflected in future.

I support the amendments and I hope the Minister will see fit to support them as well.

I support amendment No. 16, which proposes to give people an option. I am surprised the Minister opposes it. She suggested on Committee Stage that if the amendment was accepted, it would lead to serious logistical problems but that does not make sense. People should be entitled to register their names in Irish and English. People move to Ireland from different backgrounds and they may use a different alphabet, for example. We should not return to the Ellis Island scenario when the official at the desk decided how one's name should be spelt. The father of John Kerry, who is campaigning to be the Democratic candidate in the US presidential election, is reputed to have picked his surname off a map. People should have the option of registering their names in Irish and that should be encouraged. The Minister's opposition to the amendment does not make sense, considering she hails from an Irish-speaking background. This will send the wrong signal and people should be encouraged rather than discouraged to use the language.

I have considered the amendments since the conclusion of Committee Stage and cannot fathom the rationale behind the Minister's refusal to accept amendment No. 16 because the birth certification process should permit the recording of an optional Irish language version of a baby's forename and surname, as supplied by the parents. Every Minister and the Taoiseach pointed out that they will sign countless official documents using the Irish language version of their names, yet no official recognition exists for a dual language naming system in the registration process.

This is an utter joke in the context of our EU Presidency. We are expounding our national language, yet parents are being deprived of the opportunity to register their names and that of their children as Gaeilge. I hope, on the basis of the case and pleas that have been made, the Minister will look favourably on the amendments.

Tá sé luaite agam go leor leor amanna go bhfuil rogha ag daoine ainm as Gaeilge nó as Béarla a úsáid. Ag éirí as an díospóireacht a bhí againn ar Chéim an Choiste, labhair mé leis an tseirbhís phoiblí agus fuair mé eolas ó thíortha eile aga bhfuil teangacha oifigiúla cosúil linn. Níl deacracht dlíthiúil ann faoi ainm a shíniú as Gaeilge nó as Béarla nó as teanga ar bith eile, ach níl muid ag caint faoi ainm a shínítear. Chuaigh mé ar lorg eolais mar gheall ar an díospóireacht le tacaíocht a thabhairt ar an argóint atá agam.

I made inquiries regarding the position in Wales, Canada and Belgium and, for example, in Wales people have the choice of entering their names in the register of births in English or Welsh, but not in both languages, similar to our provision. Canada and Belgium both have two official languages, but only one version of a person's name may be used for official purposes. In Singapore there are four languages but the prescribed language for official purposes is English. Scotland does not allow the use of the name in two languages even though imo thuairimse tá cosúlacht mór idir na tíortha Ceilteacha a luaigh mé agus sinn agus tá an rogha céanna acu.

With regard to the public service, Deputy Crowe alluded to the issue raised on Committee Stage. A most important matter is that an identity is specified as "a set of attributes which, linked together, uniquely identifies a natural person." The key here is the unique and single fact of an identity which is fundamental to its usefulness. The proposal to facilitate both versions of a person's name would completely dilute and undermine this concept for a number of reasons. First, it would be a fundamental culture change and would lead to dual or duplicate identities. It could create confusion as to the real identity of an individual. It could also give rise to equality issues in a multicultural society, provide an opportunity for identity theft, create a risk of fraud, have a knock-on effect regarding service provision, identity control etc. and would be impossible to manage in a multicultural context. It could not be supported without significant changes to my Department's systems which set up and maintain a person's public service identity using the PPS number. If Deputy Ring were here he would be jumping up and down reminding me about all the money I have spent on the PPS system. I am damn sure he would not allow me to spend another red cent in changing it again.

In the context of identification, it is not that anyone on this side of the House is against the use of the Irish language. People have the choice. I am sure everyone would be delighted if people took the choice to register their children's names in Gaelic. That would be progressive from their perspective. If we want to give aitheantas don teanga oifigiúil, b'fhéidir gurbh é sin an rud ceart a dhéanamh.

Deputy Boyle raised the issue of names of other nationalities. These are facilitated. For example, Arabic people have four names and they are all facilitated. It does not matter what culture one comes from, whatever is one's traditionalmodus operandi in terms of writing one's name, registering and providing one identity, that is facilitated by An tArd-Chláraitheoir.

Amendment No. 31 relates to an important section which allows for the forename of a child to be changed once. This facility is designed to allow a parent or guardian of a child a once-off opportunity to amend or complete a birth registration where no forename had been previously registered. I refer, for example, to instances where a name which is not the original registered is in common usage. Parents or guardians will be required to supply sufficient evidence to satisfy a registrar of births that the change to the forename is necessary. To accept the amendment put forward would result in the possibility of multiple changes of forenames with resulting degradation of the birth record. I am, therefore, not in a position to accept it.

I accept the views of my learned colleague from the Labour Party with regard to amendment No. 32. Fan go bhfeicfimid nuair a bheidh sé críochnaithe sna cúirteanna.

I am disappointed. The Minister has been over-persuaded in respect of this matter.

The Deputies opposite must think that I do not have a mind of my own.

I reiterate that, in her heart, she supports this amendment. Members on all sides are campaigning for recognition of our native language within the European Union. What we are seeking here is recognition of the language when births are registered. While I appreciate the Minister's statement that it is possible to register in either language, people should have the facility to do so in both. It is not beyond the bounds of the ingenuity of legislators to make provision for the registration of people's names in both languages. We are not talking about the registration of two names, it is the same name in two different languages. It is not beyond the ability of the parliamentary counsel or legislators to facilitate this.

Our legislation facilitates two languages. Why can we not register our births in two languages? I do not have the skills to do so. However, Daniel Neville-Dónal Ó Niaidh are the same name. If one must use both officially, so be it. It is merely the same name in two languages. I do not believe it would cause a major furore to register Daniel Neville-Dónal Ó Niaidh as my official name. If in future I had to use both forms in that way, I would not see a difficulty. My name is registered as Daniel Neville but I use the form of Dan Neville. People, within their family circles, decide what versions of their names to use. For the official registration of births, however, we use Daniel Neville and William Penrose. The Irish translation of Deputy Penrose's name is difficult to pronounce. It is disappointing the Minister cannot facilitate the registration of the name as Gaeilge agus as Béarla.

I also find the Minister's response disappointing. I believe that her heart is in it. The purpose of the amendment is to give recognition to our language and promote its importance, which we have an obligation to do.

The other amendments are designed to provide greater flexibility and loosen the bureaucratic straitjacket currently contained in the Bill. I accept that there have been many major improvements but the Bill makes things easy from an administrative point of view. Somebody is ensuring that there will be a straight line and that there will be no deviations. Ease of administration, not upholding the right for the Irish language to be granted a significant position, appears to be of paramount importance.

There is no provision in the Bill, as currently drafted, to change a forename once it has already been changed. One of our amendments would provide that flexibility. In that context, I am disappointed. We feel strongly about this matter and we indicated on Committee Stage that we would push matters to the fullest on Report Stage. We are disappointed with the Minister's reply. I am of the opinion that administrative considerations have won out. I accept that the Minister indicated that there are cultural and other concerns but, like everything else, people would get used to it in a short period.

I am glad that people's religious and cultural backgrounds will be accommodated on birth certificates in our new multi-ethnic, multiracial and multicultural society. That is important. The Minister would probably say that this is superfluous. However, I have a strong view on legislation, namely, if in doubt, include. I have learned that from experience.

Le bheith soiléir, tá aitheantas sa Bhille don nGaeilge. Is é dearcadh na tíre seo go bhfuil teangacha oifigiúla ann agus polasaí dátheangach. Gan dabht, tá aitheantas don teanga. Is rud breá é sin agus is mór an trua nach bhfuil níos mó duine ag clárú a bpáistí i nGaeilge. B'fhéidir, ag éirí as an díospóireacht seo, go mbeidh suim ag níos mó daoine i sin a dhéanamh.

Nuair atáthar ag caint faoi úsáid na teanga tá sé an-shimplí rud mar seo a dhéanamh ach ní le leas na teanga é, i ndáiríre. Aitheantas agus rogha dos na tuismitheoirí atá le fáil. Níl duine ar bith sa tseirbhís phoiblí ag cur brú orm mar gheall ar seo, is cuma cad a shíleann an Teachta Neville. Fiú dá mbeadh cead agam é seo a dhéanamh ní bheinn ábalta é a chur i bhfeidhm mar nach mbeadh an t-airgead agam.

It was not ruled out of order as imposing a cost on the Exchequer.

Get the Aire Airgeadais in here.

Tá go leor déanta ag mo Roinn-se chun seirbhís níos fearr a thabhairt do dhaoine, rudaí atá soiléir agus éifeachtach. Ní bheadh an leasú seo éifeachtach ar chor ar bith. Tá sé an-thábhachtach go mbeadh deacrachtaí móra maidir le haitheantas, rud atá an-thábhachtach. Luaigh mé an míniú atá leis sin agus dá bhrí sin, níl mé ábalta glacadh leis na leasuithe seo.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 18 is an alternative to amendment No. 17 and both may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 22, line 18, after "not" to insert ", unless a finding of parentage in relation to the child has been made, ".

Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 are similar and vary only in a small point of punctuation. This amendment does not go far enough in meeting the serious flaws in this section. As the Bill is written, a father who is not married to the mother of his child is given the impression that he need not, and should not, give his personal details when the child is being registered. This is one of several amendments which will try to tackle the remaining inconsistencies in this section.

The wording of my amendment has been suggested by the Law Society. It attempts to tackle the first element of the problem, where the Bill appears to allow a father who is not married to the mother of his child to avoid responsibility. I hope the effect of this amendment will be further improved upon by the acceptance of further amendments which deal with the difference between the words "person" and "father".

The Bill places an excessive reliance on the Status of Children Act 1987 in providing such information subsequently. This method of seeking information is long and tortuous and the information received after a successful court challenge relates mainly to maintenance payments and an acceptance of parentage, not to the provision of the details children should have about their identity and parentage.

On those grounds I move this initial amendment and I hope the Minister will accept this and further amendments.

During the debate on Second Stage, my colleague, Deputy Ferris, referred to section 22 as making fatherhood optional. If the father of a child refuses to co-operate and tends to be as unco-operative as possible, this section will make registering the father's name extremely difficult. It will put a massive burden on the mother of the child if she seeks to have the father's name on the birth certificate. Medical science has made progress in establishing paternity and those options are available. In practice, however, the fatherhood opt-out clause contained in the legislation will most severely affect children from working class and disadvantaged areas where mothers are often children themselves and where the resources for parentage tests, court orders and the like might be far out of a mother's reach.

There is another increasing problem. In a number of years we may find sisters marrying brothers because, in many cases, a mother cannot identify the father of her child. There needs to be some form of tracking. This issue is not dealt with in the Bill but it is an increasing problem for society and is found equally in urban and rural areas.

The Bill provides an opt-out. Young men should be encouraged to take responsibility for their children and this Bill appears to pull away from that. This Bill does not cover this issue. It should be closely examined.

I have concerns about section 22. I am particularly concerned about the registration of children of unmarried parents. This section, as drafted, will cause significant problems in the future.

Section 22(1) allows an unmarried father to refuse to co-operate, as Deputy Crowe says, or to say he need only supply his name. That information, and only that, is required of him under subsection (2). It is the only requirement mentioned in that subsection. Other people are required to supply particulars but an unmarried father need only give his name. There appears to be no link between subsection (1) and section (2). There is no mention of a "person" in subsection (1) while subsection (2) makes provision for a "person" to become the father of a child.

The purpose of amendment No. 19 is to improve the drafting of the Bill. It is inappropriate that the mother of a child is referred to in the Bill as the "mother" while the father is referred to as the "person". This is offensive to natural fathers.

A further problem is caused by the provision that if the father's name alone has been added the birth cannot be re-registered to include any further details. When the legislation was initially drafted the implications of the extra information required to register a birth were not considered in the detail which now occurs. One can understand that.

One of the solutions suggested to me is that "father" should be made equivalent to "person" in section 22(1) so that only a person who did not know he was the father would have no obligation to register his name. Another suggested solution is to redefine "name" in subsection (2) to include all the details required for registration, such as date of birth, address and other identifying information. A name would have to be given, along with an address, a date of birth and other details about the child. Such a solution might cover all that.

Section 22(2)(d) should allow for any court order, including those allowed under section 45 of the Status of Children Act. This would at least allow the parents or child to ensure full registration at some stage and perhaps remedy other problems that might arise from the Act.

The other solution would be to delete the section and rely on the Status of Children Act, which at least does not give the father an obvious opt-out clause. That Act is clear in this area, and "name" could be re-defined to mean details required for registration, if that is possible.

Deputy Boyle referred to adding "unless a finding of parentage relating to the child has been made". This might have a small disadvantage in giving an opt-out for those who might acknowledge paternity but who would co-operate only nominally in the registration process. The subsequent amendments might try to deal with some of that — I do not say that merely because I have tabled them. The amendment proposed by Deputies Boyle and Crowe has the advantage of at least removing the very convenient facility of opting out. Deputy Ferris referred specifically to the father opting out on the first whim.

We must give some thought to section 22 in this context. It is a critical part of the Bill which we discussed in detail previously. Amendments such as Nos. 20 and 21 would hopefully improve the section in some way, but if we do not properly tackle section 22(1), the matter may well come back to haunt us at a later stage.

I support the amendment and feel strongly about it. I have spoken in this House on numerous occasions about the right of a child to know, as well as to be parented by, both parents. Except in exceptional circumstances, that it is a child's fundamental right. The section as drafted reflects society's view of parenthood outside marriage, that the mother is the parent, with the father sometimes excluded or with the option of being excluded. Many fathers are excluded against their wishes. Our society, culture and laws do not give such fathers the wherewithal to be included in the parenting of their children.

Society's attitude must change. The laws must reflect and lead the change, to ensure that children have the right to the protection of both parents. If at the time of registration we make the information optional on the part of the father of a non-marital child, so that the father can opt out, this House is indicating it is acceptable that a child has not got the right to be parented by both parents.

The more studies that are conducted on the influence of both parents, the more the need is shown, on a daily and international basis, for such influence on a child. The child is shown to have better life opportunities if parented by both parents. We should ensure that children have automatic right of access to both parents, and that joint guardianship should be almost automatic, except in exceptional circumstances, where violence on the part of either parent is involved.

Our laws come down immediately in favour of single guardianship in the case of the mother, and unfortunately the cases are heardin camera, so we do not fully know what transpires in family law courts. We know that in most instances the mother gets custody, with joint custody not considered. Joint custody should be automatic unless the courts are given good reason it should not be so. Indicating in this Bill that the information on the father is optional lends support to the view that in situations where a couple is not married, the mother takes the responsibility and the role of parenting, and the father is not obligated even to give information on his fatherhood or the sort of details which the mother must give on registering the child.

A child has a right to know its genealogy, extended family and medical history on both sides, along with all aspects of interest which those of us born to married couples automatically know about both our parents. The Minister cannot make this an absolute right, because there will always be disputes, but one should go as far as possible to indicate the view of the Legislature that the child has a right to have both parents involved in its parenting. The proposed amendment will give such an indication.

I support the amendments. My learned friend and colleague, Deputy Penrose, has outlined clearly the purpose of the amendments and the need to support them. The combined Opposition is in favour — the Fine Gael Party, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party.

The Law Society and other groups are concerned that the Bill as proposed will not deal with the ultimate need of the child to know the details of the parents. They are also concerned about the practicalities of the arrangement for the registration of non-marital children.

This issue arose on Committee Stage. The Minister should consider the strong case made, because the matter is unlikely to be dealt with by means of other amendments. The right of the child to know the father and mother, the details of its parentage, is fundamental.

The ball is now in the Minister's court, as there are only ten minutes left before a vote must be taken. She can make a name for herself with this Bill and go on record as the person who stood up for the right of a non-marital child to know its father and mother.

Will the real Minister please stand up? We need to curtail this debate because it is losing the run of itself. If I were to go down on record by accepting this amendment, I would certainly go down, along with a lead weight. It is important, so that no one is under a misapprehension regarding my position or that of the Government on children's rights, that certain aspects be made clear.

I agree, as I believe all of us do in this House, that the best way for a child to be reared is through the involvement of both parents. Research backs that up. I have commissioned and supported much research in that area, by means of the Family Support Agency. We have done our utmost.

There has been a change of philosophy with regard to fathers becoming more involved in the rearing of their children. Where a couple is unmarried at the time of birth of the child, in the majority of cases a registration of both father and mother would be facilitated. A number of issues arise, however. First, until one proves that one is the father, one is a person. We cannot change that legislation. One is a person until such time as one is registered as the father.

Another issue is that there is no presumption in law that a man, other than the husband of a married woman, is the father of a child. There will be practical and legal difficulties for a registrar in requiring a man to register the birth of a child without paternity being concluded.

Subsection (3) of section 22 provides that the details of the father of the child cannot be registered in the register of births where the mother was married at the date of birth of the child, or at some time during the ten month period immediately before the birth of the child, unless the person, or persons, to whom she was married during this ten month period declares he is not the father of the child. There are presumptions in law and that will create a difficulty.

Relevant issues were raised with regard to the current nature of life and the fact that there are a number of relationships where children may be half brothers or half sisters of each other. People now travel much more and there is greater interaction. That concern has been raised and it is something we should keep in mind, especially when we are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating legislation.

We may be going down the wrong road with regard to this issue. The child's right bestowed in the Bill is that the child is being registered. My view, which is probably not a legalistic view, is that there is no presumption of responsibility because one's name is on a birth certificate as the father or mother of a child.

It gives a very strong signal.

It may give a signal but 100 names on a piece of paper does not reflect a responsibility, which is an onerous responsibility as most of us in this House who are parents know.

It is a mark of identity too.

It is, but there are particular sensitivities surrounding this issue. An tArd-Chláraitheoir has advised me that there are approximately 2,000 re-registrations every year arising out of these issues. The trend has changed considerably. In the main, the initial registration is where both parents are registered and that is facilitated through the hospitals and other facilities at the time of birth. Moreover, there has been a change of psyche with regard to including the father's name when registering a child but my difficulty in making this compulsory is that there are other people involved in that relationship as well as a father.

Not having a presumption in law that a man, other than the husband of a married woman, is a father creates major difficulties. The ethos of section 22 is to encourage and facilitate the registration of a child by both parents. We would all like to see that commitment as far as practicable but we all know of other cases, and I prefer not to outline them on the floor of the House, where that is neither feasible nor possible. To imply a compulsory registration might create greater difficulties and a situation where we would be discouraging men from putting their names down as father of the child. As the Deputy is aware, a mother has access to the court and to a statutory declaration if she wants the father's name to be registered on the birth certificate.

I appreciate this is an issue for further discussion in the future but what is being provided for in section 22 adequately reflects what we are proposing to do. Unlike some of my other colleagues, if it is the case that we need to reflect on and change it, I will have no problem doing that.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 18 not moved.

Amendment No. 19 is in the name of Deputies Penrose and Seán Ryan. Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 are related and it is proposed to take amendments Nos. 19, 20 and 21 together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 22, line 21, to delete "person" where it secondly occurs and substitute "father".

Deputy Penrose referred to this issue in his earlier contribution on an amendment. The purpose of the amendment is to improve the drafting of the Bill. As Deputy Penrose outlined, it is totally inappropriate that the mother is referred to in the Bill as "the mother" but the father is referred to as "the person". That is somewhat offensive.

In the context of amendment No. 20, section 22(3)(a), as currently drafted, states that where a married woman has a child with someone other than her spouse, the father must give a statutory declaration to say he is not the father. This is clearly an error. The Bill should provide that the husband would be required to give a statutory declaration that he is not the father. Our amendment corrects this error. We discussed this matter in great detail on Committee Stage. The Minister was not prepared to accept it but perhaps she will further reflect on it. The purpose of amendment No. 21 is to correct a drafting error.

We discussed this matter a number of times and I have outlined the position with regard to "person" and "father". Because of the presumptions in law, one is a person until one is registered as the father. The Attorney General has advised me with regard to progressing these legislative proposals. The section reflects best practice. I am sure the Deputies appreciate that I would not be in a position to accept these amendments on the basis that they would provide a presumption which, in law, cannot be accepted.

We will withdraw the amendments in light of the Minister's reply. I compliment the Minister on her progressive attitude in the context of the Bill.

I am prepared to accept the Opposition amendment No. 26.

As it is now 8 o'clock, I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That amendment No. 26 and the amendments set down by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put and agreed to.