Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

“ “stillborn child” means a child who, at birth, weighs not less than 500 grammes or has a gestational age of not less than 24 weeks and shows no sign of life, and “stillbirth” shall be construed accordingly. These also include an unborn child who dies in the womb of the mother due to death of the mother but otherwise meets the weight or age criteria herein;”,”.

We discussed the matter at some length on Committee Stage and I do not wish to go over all the same ground again. I am a little confused at the Government's position on the matter because we are all trying to achieve the same objective, namely, to enable the registration of a stillborn child in certain circumstances. For many years it was thought one could not do that under the law as it stands, but the Government has recently received legal advice to the effect that this is not the case and it is possible to register certain stillborn children. The Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, kindly provided me with a copy of the legal advice on the previous occasion we debated the matter and I discussed it with a number of lawyers. Needless to say, they all disagree with it.

We are trying to achieve a certain objective. The Government has decided to achieve it by taking a strange, contested interpretation of the law, which is currently being hotly disputed before the courts. Our approach is to put forward a straightforward amendment that would achieve the objective without any difficulty. It may be that the amendment contains something else that could lead to further unforeseen consequences. If there is, perhaps the Minister of State would indicate what that is.

I welcome the debate. We also discussed the matter on Committee Stage. We are aware a legal case is pending on the matter. Could the Minister of State indicate, as he did previously, that the Government will examine the matter, when the cases are finalised? At that stage we could seek to ensure that the intention behind the amendment on which we have been lobbied, which is to ensure that registration is possible in all instances of stillbirth, is fulfilled, and that it would not interfere with other laws. That would ensure progress on the matter and might satisfy the family in question which has lobbied on the issue. There are others who wish for recognition in the tragic cases they have highlighted to me and probably other Members. It might be appropriate if the Minister of State were to provide confirmation of what he said on Committee Stage, rather than dividing the House.

Deputy Willie O'Dea is quite correct; we are all trying to achieve the same purpose, namely, that a stillborn child can be registered. The current legislative proposal covers that aim. As Deputy Willie O'Dea will be aware from his own profession, if one puts solicitors and barristers in a room and asks for advice, whoever pays the price will get the information he or she wants to hear.

The provisions on stillbirth are clearly outlined in the legislation. They relate to the time and the weight. The advice of the Attorney General is that the issue on which Deputy Ó Snodaigh has been lobbied is covered. He is correct that a court case is in train. The Department of Justice and Equality has been informed of the legal advice and has written to the Coroners' Society of Ireland advising of the legal advice. The Enright case, which we are discussing, is a very tragic case. Based on the legal advice we received, we are confident that the legislation covers the vast majority of cases. I am only aware of one case. Other cases have not been brought to my attention. I accept Deputy Willie O'Dea's point that we have debated the issue at length both in the Seanad and also on Committee Stage. I do not propose to accept the amendment at this stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I do not intend to move my remaining amendments.

I commend Deputy O'Dea in that he has engaged fully in discussions and he has graciously indicated he is happy to withdraw the amendments.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 9, inclusive, not moved.

I thank the Minister of State for advising the House. Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are out of order.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.

May I speak on the section?

As this is Report Stage no debate is permitted on sections of the Bill.

Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.