Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015: Report Stage

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 9, to delete lines 23 to 30, and in page 10, to delete lines 1 to 12 and substitute the following:

"Short title, collective citations and commencement

1. (1) This Act may be cited as the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

(2) Part 9 and the Civil Registration Acts 2004 to 2014 may be cited together as the Civil Registration Acts 2004 to 2015.

(3) Part 11 and the Adoption Acts 2010 to 2013 may be cited together as the Adoption Acts 2010 to 2015.

(4) Section 169 and the Child Care Acts 1991 to 2013 may be cited together as the Child Care Acts 1991 to 2015.

(5) This Act, subject to subsections (6) to (9), shall come into operation on the day or days that the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to a particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.

(6) Parts 2 and 3 shall come into operation on the day or days that the Minister for Health may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to a particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.

(7) Part 9 shall come into operation on the day or days that the Minister may, after consulting with the Minister for Social Protection, appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to a particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.

(8) Part 10 shall come into operation on the day or days that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to a particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.

(9) Part 11 shall come into operation on the day or days that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to a particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.".

This amendment, which was signalled on Committee Stage, substitutes section 1 with a revised section providing revised collective citations to enable the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to commence Part 10, which constitutes certain amendments to the Passports Act 2008. The amendment is somewhat different from what I had indicated in that I am now providing for collective citations of the Civil Registration Acts and Child Care Acts. However, I am not providing a collective citation for the Guardianship of Infants Act with Part 4 since all of the changes to that Act are full textual amendments and this limits the value of a collective citation. The amendment is technical in nature and relates to the Title and commencement dates.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 7, inclusive, 10, 11, 13 and 16 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 10, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

" "birth certificate" means a document issued under section 13(4) of the Act of 2004 in respect of an entry in the register of births;".

On Committee Stage, I indicated my intention to refine certain definitions. This group of amendments provides for changes to the definitions which apply throughout the Bill. The purpose of the amendments is to provide for additional clarity and certainty. Amendment No. 3, in particular, provides a new definition of "donation facility". This is to ensure that if gametes are donated to a facility which deals with donation but does not provide other donor assisted reproduction services, this does not preclude the use of these gametes by facilities in the State. Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are direct consequential amendments to this new definition.

Amendment No. 6 provides a technical redraft of the definitions of the terms "intending mother" and "intending parent". The purpose of this change is to make it obvious that only the intending mother can request a medical procedure to be carried out on her. The other intending parent consents to being a parent of a child born as a result of the procedure but does not request the procedure.

Amendment No. 7 clarifies the definition of the term "relevant donor". Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 make some linked changes to the definition of the term "donor". This was necessary because on some occasions where an embryo is donated, a donor of the embryo for whose use the embryo was originally formed may or may not himself or herself have a genetic connection with the embryo. Only the information of a relevant donor, being a donor who provided a gamete used in forming the embryo, should be recorded on the national donor-conceived person register. Amendments Nos. 13 and 16 are direct consequential amendments to this new definition.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 11, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

" "donation facility" means a place at which a person provides and donates his or her gamete, and includes a DAHR facility;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 11, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"and includes a donor of a gamete that is used in the formation of an embryo that is used in a further DAHR procedure,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 11, to delete lines 17 to 21 and substitute the following:

“(b) in relation to an embryo, means—

(i) a person who has consented under section 14 or 14 or in the manner referred to in section 24(2)(b)(ii), to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure, or

(ii) the donor of an embryo to which section 24(6) applies;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 11, to delete lines 34 to 38, and in page 12, to delete line 1 and substitute the following:

" "intending mother" means, in relation to a DAHR procedure, a woman who requests the performance of the procedure for the purpose of her becoming the mother of a child born as a result of the procedure;

"intending parent" means, in relation to a DAHR procedure, a person who intends to be the parent, under section 5, of a child born as a result of the procedure, and includes an intending mother;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 12, to delete lines 13 to 15 and substitute the following:

" "relevant donor" means, in relation to a donor-conceived child—

(a) subject to paragraph (b), the donor of a gamete that was used in the DAHR procedure that resulted in the birth of the donor-conceived child, and

(b) in the case of a donor-conceived child who is born as a result of a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure in which a donated embryo was used—

(i) a donor of the embryo who provided a gamete that was used in the formation of the embryo, and

(ii) where applicable, the donor of a gamete that was used in the formation of the embryo.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 13, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

"(9) The intending parents of a donor-conceived child must undergo counselling prior to their initiation of DAHR.".

This amendment has been tabled in response to representations made by clinicians. Unfortunately, I missed the Committee Stage discussion on this amendment which I have resubmitted on this Stage. It is important that those who avail of donor-assisted human reproduction, DAHR, appreciate all the ethical and legal issues that arise before proceeding with treatment. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure such persons fully understand their responsibilities.

The purpose of the Deputy's amendment is to ensure intending parents have counselling on the consequences of having a child through donor-assisted human reproduction before undertaking procedures. It is striking to consider the number of couples availing of fertility treatment here and I accept the Deputy's point on donor-assisted human reproduction.

As I indicated on Committee Stage, the Bill focuses entirely on one aspect of assisted and donor-assisted human reproduction, namely, parentage issues. Responsibility for the wider issues involved remains fully within the remit of the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar. On the day the Cabinet approved this Bill, it also gave the Minister permission to draft legislation on the wider area of assisted human reproduction, AHR, which has remained unregulated since 2005. This was a very welcome decision.

The Minister's proposal will deal with the wide range of AHR issues that need to be addressed. I will discuss later the large number of AHR issues which have not received any attention until now, all of which come within the remit of the bioethics unit of the Department of Health. This unit assumed responsibility for providing information to Cabinet, including the proposed heads of the Bill. The head of the unit has been working with my Department on the issues involved. The wider issues will be considered in the subsequent legislation.

The counselling of individuals or couples who are considering or planning treatment is very much within the policy area of the Minister for Health. His proposals in this regard, which were recently approved by the Government, include requirements that people availing of all forms of assisted human reproduction undergo counselling in advance of treatment. This has been accepted in principle. I have discussed these issues with clinicians involved in assisted human reproduction and they are very clear on the need for counselling. However, the clinics are not currently regulated. The Medical Council has developed guidelines to which the professionals adhere and each clinic has its own guidelines. We want to reach the position where national guidelines are implemented in the clinics.

I hope Deputy Mac Lochlainn will understand that while I support the principle underpinning his amendment, I cannot accept it because the Bill's scope in respect of assisted human reproduction is limited. The legislation to be introduced by the Minister for Health will address the issue he raises. Responsibility for matters such as the precise nature of counselling, the way in which counselling should be made available and how much counselling couples should avail of rests with the Department of Health. I give the Deputy a commitment that counselling will be addressed in the Bill to be introduced by the Minister for Health. The Government has accepted the Minister's proposal in principle. I ask the Deputy not to press the amendment in view of my response.

I appreciate the assurances provided by the Minister. Will she indicate when the Minister for Health will introduce the legislation to which she alludes? Will it come before the House later this year? We must avoid delay and the possibility that a new Government will have to introduce legislation in this area.

I assure Deputy Mac Lochlainn that the Department of Health has done a significant amount of background work on the wider issues that must be considered. The Deputy will appreciate that this is in effect new work. The Minister has given a commitment to produce heads of a Bill later this year. He intends to have a wide-ranging consultation, which will be welcomed.

I have already told the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that there will be a meeting with the stakeholders in this area. The Department of Health has also communicated this to the people involved. There will be a broader meeting involving the stakeholders and others, and all interested people will have an opportunity to make submissions. Following that, there will be drafting of the legislation. Certainly, the Department has given a commitment to progress the legislation, with the heads of a Bill and the consultation this year.

In the absence of a legislative basis and on the back of the debate, will the Minister and her colleagues refer this discussion to the Minister for Health and ask him to consider, if it is not already the case, the implementation of strong guidelines? This is coming from the clinicians themselves. They are acknowledging that this is not happening across the board. I appeal for this debate to be referred to the Minister. Then, in the interim, while we are waiting for a legislative footing, he could decide whether his Department or the relevant agency should issue firm guidelines to the effect that there must be counselling. That is all I ask. Of course I will withdraw the amendment on that basis.

I am happy to do that. Obviously, we have built a transition period of at least a year into the provisions of the Bill. I will certainly forward that to the Minister. Regulations are being made in respect of this part of the Bill. If it is feasible for something to be included on guidelines in respect of counselling I will certainly ask the Minister to do that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 9 in the names of Deputies Coppinger, Murphy and Higgins is deemed to be out of order. It does not arise from committee proceedings and raises a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 9 not moved.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 13, line 23, to delete “DAHR facility” and substitute “donation facility”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 14, line 13, to delete “DAHR facility” and substitute “donation facility”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 12, 14, 17 and 22 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 15, to delete lines 1 to 9 and substitute the following:

“Revocation of consent given under section 6

8. (1) Subject to this section, a donor of a gamete may, by notice in writing to the operator of the donation facility to which his or her declaration under section 6(1)(c) was made, revoke his or her consent under that section.

(2) A revocation of consent under subsection (1) shall have no effect in respect of a gamete to which the consent relates that has been used at a DAHR facility in the formation of an embryo before the date on which the notice under that subsection is received by the operator of the DAHR facility concerned.”.

These amendments revise the provisions relating to the revocation of consent by gamete donors, intending mothers, other intending parents and embryo donors in respect of gamete donors.

Amendment No. 12 clarifies that the donor may revoke his or her consent at the donation facility where the donation was made. Subsection (2) in each case sets out restrictions on revocation of consent. It specifies that if a gamete has already been used in the formation of an embryo, the donor's revocation of consent has no effect. Where a DAHR procedure has already taken place, the revocation of consent by an embryo donor or by an intending parent has no effect.

Amendment No. 22 also takes account of changes proposed by means of amendments Nos. 19 and 20.

Obviously, in respect of parentage, the whole question of consent is central to the discussion. We have been careful throughout the proposed legislation to build in clear provisions in respect of the contents of all relevant parties. This is to further clarify the matter.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 16, lines 4 and 5, to delete “the donor referred to in paragraph (c)(i)” and substitute “a person who is, in relation to the child, a relevant donor”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 16, to delete lines 6 to 13 and substitute the following:

“Revocation of consent given under section 9

10. (1) Subject to this section, an intending mother may, by notice in writing to the operator of the DAHR facility to which her declaration under section 9(1)(c) was made, revoke her consent under that section.

(2) A revocation of consent under subsection (1) shall have no effect in respect of a DAHR procedure to which the consent relates that has been performed before the notice under that subsection is received by the operator of the DAHR facility at which the procedure was performed.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 16, lines 15 to 21, to delete all words from and including “(1) This” in line 15 down to and including line 21 and substitute the following:

"(1) A person, being the husband, civil partner or cohabitant of the intending mother concerned, consents under this section to be the parent, under section 5(1)(b), of a child born as a result of a DAHR procedure where, before that procedure is performed-—”.

This is a technical amendment to streamline sections 11(1) and 11(2) and better focus the provision on who, under that section, may consent to be a parent of a child born through donor-assisted human reproduction. Only the husband, civil partner or cohabitant of the intending mother may jointly be a parent with her of the child born as a result of donor-assisted human reproduction.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 17, line 16, to delete “the donor” and substitute “a person who is, in relation to the child, a relevant donor”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 17, to delete lines 18 to 25 and substitute the following:

“Revocation of consent given under section 11

12. (1) Subject to this section, a person may, by notice in writing to the operator of the DAHR facility to which his or her declaration under section 11(2)(d) was made, revoke his or her consent under that section.

(2) A revocation of consent under subsection (1) shall have no effect in respect of a DAHR procedure to which the consent relates that has been performed before the notice under that subsection is received by the operator of the DAHR facility at which the procedure was performed.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 21 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 17, to delete lines 34 to 37, and in page 18, to delete lines 1 to 3, and substitute the following:

"(ii) the donor of a gamete or embryo used in the DAHR procedure shall not be the parent of the child,

(iii) the information specified in section 31(3) in respect of the intending parent or parents, the child and a person who is, in relation to the child, a relevant donor, shall be recorded on the Register,

(iv) the child may, in accordance with section 33, access the information specified in section 31(3)(d) in respect of the donor referred to in subparagraph (iii) and seek to contact him or her, and”.

These amendments are technical revisions to the information to be provided to a person before he or she consents. In the case of amendment No. 18, an intending parent is informed that a gamete or embryo donor is not the parent of the child and that the identifying information of a relevant donor will be recorded in the national donor-conceived person register.

Amendment No. 21 clarifies the information to be provided to embryo donors. The effect of the amendment is to specify that when a person consents to donate an embryo, a relevant donor is entitled to seek information as to whether any child was born as a result of the donation, and the donor's personal details will be provided to the Minister for Health for the purposes of the national donor-conceived person register if the embryo is used in a donor-assisted human reproduction procedure.

As I explained before, what the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction recommended was that there should be an authority in place. What we have in the interim until the authority is established are these functions deriving from this legislation. They are only one part in respect of assisted human reproduction being carried out by the Department of Health.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 19, 20 and 23 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 18, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“Consent to use of embryo in DAHR procedure

14. (1) Where-

(a) an embryo is formed for the purposes of an assisted human reproduction procedure, and

(b) the woman and man on whose request the assisted human reproduction procedure is to be performed do not wish for the embryo to be used in such a procedure, the woman and man may consent, under this section, to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), the woman and man referred to in subsection (1) may consent under this section to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure in respect of which neither of them is an intending parent.

(3) An embryo referred to in subsection (2) may be used in a DAHR procedure to which that subsection applies only where both the woman and the man concerned have consented under that subsection.

(4) A man to whom subsection (1) applies may consent under this section to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure in respect of which—

(a) the woman to whom subsection (1) applies is the intending mother, and

(b) he is not an intending parent.

(5) A person consents under this section to the use of an embryo in a DAHR procedure where he or she-—

(a) receives the information referred to in section 15, and

(b) makes a declaration in accordance with subsections (6) and (7).

(6) A declaration under subsection (5)(b) shall be made before the donation is made and shall be in writing, dated, and signed by the person in the presence of a person authorised in that behalf by the operator of a DAHR facility.

(7) A declaration under subsection (5)(b) shall include the following statements:

(a) that the person has received the information referred to in section 15;

(b) subject to subsection (8), that the person consents to the use in a DAHR procedure of the embryo;

(c) that the person is aware that he or she shall not be the parent of any child born as a result of the DAHR procedure;

(d) that, in the event that the embryo is used in a DAHR procedure, the person consents to the provision to the Minister of the information referred to in section 26(2)(a) in respect of him or her;

(e) that, in the event that a child is born as a result of a DAHR procedure, the person-—

(i) consents to the recording in the Register of the information specified in section 31(3)(d) in respect of him or her, and

(ii) understands that the child may, in accordance with section 33, access the information referred to in subparagraph (i), and seek to contact him or her.

(8) In making a statement referred to in subsection (7)(b), a person may state that his or her consent is restricted to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure performed on the request of-—

(a) an intending mother specified in the statement, where the DAHR procedure concerned is one to which section 23(3)(b)(i ) applies, or

(b) the intending parents specified in the statement, where the DAHR procedure concerned is one to which section 23(3)(b)(ii) applies.

(9) A person’s consent under this section to the use of an embryo in a DAHR procedure may not be restricted other than as provided for in subsection (8).

(10) In this section, “assisted human reproduction procedure” means a procedure performed with the objective of it resulting in the implantation of an embryo in the womb of the woman on whose request the procedure is performed, where-—

(a) the embryo has been or will be formed from a gamete provided by the woman and a gamete provided by a man, and

(b) the procedure is performed for the purpose of the woman and the man becoming the parents of a child born as a result of the procedure.”.

I indicated my intention on Committee Stage to introduce this new section, which deals with embryo donation. It is separate and distinct from the existing section 14. That section deals with embryo donation only where the embryo in question was itself formed using donor gametes and where the person or couple from whom it was formed have completed their family and now wish to donate an embryo or embryos to assist others.

The proposed new section provides for the situation in which a couple has undertaken fertility treatment in the course of which embryos have been formed using their gametes. It ensures that if, having completed treatment, they wish to donate any remaining embryos, they may do so. Their donation must be in accordance with the same general conditions that apply where a donor embryo was formed using donor gametes. In particular, if there is a child born later as a result of their donation, their details will be recorded on the national donor-conceived person register in order that the child's identity rights will be safeguarded.

Amendment No. 20 is consequential on amendment No. 19. It specifies the information that must be provided to couples who donate embryos which were formed using their gametes. It is similar to the existing section 5 except that in this case the identities of both donors are recorded on the register because both contributed a gamete to the embryo's formation.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 18, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“Information to be provided for purposes of section 14

15. The operator of a DAHR facility shall, before a person makes a declaration under section 14(5)(b), inform him or her-—

(a) that, in the event that he or she consents under section 14 to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure-—

(i) he or she is entitled to seek the information referred to in section 32(2), and

(ii) where such a DAHR procedure is performed, he or she consents to the provision to the Minister of the information referred to in section 26(2)(a) in respect of him or her,

(b) that, in the event that a child is born as a result of the DAHR procedure referred to in paragraph(a)-—

(i) he or she shall not be the parent of that child,

(ii) the information specified in section 31(3)(d) in relation to him or her shall be recorded on the Register,

(iii) the child may, in accordance with section 33, access the information specified in section 31(3)(d) in respect of him or her and seek to contact him or her,

(iv) the person’s entitlement to obtain information recorded on the Register is subject to section 34 and is otherwise restricted to the information referred to in section 32(2), and

(v) having regard to the child’s right to his or her identity, it is desirable that he or she keep updated, in accordance with section 36(1), the information in relation to him or her that is recorded on the Register, and

(c) of his or her right under section 16, in the event that he or she consents under section 14 to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure, to revoke that consent.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 20, to delete lines 1 to 4 and substitute the following:

"(a) in the event that he or she consents under section 14 to the use of the embryo in a further DAHR procedure-—

(i) he or she is entitled to seek the information referred to in section 32(2), and

(ii) where such a further DAHR procedure is performed, he or she consents to the provision to the Minister of the information referred to in section 26(2)(a) in respect of him or her,

and”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 20, to delete lines 17 to 24 and substitute the following:

“Revocation of consent given under section 14 or 14

16. (1) Subject to subsection (2), a donor under section 14 or 14 of an embryo may, by notice in writing to the operator of the DAHR facility to which his or her declaration under section 14(5)(b) or section 14(5)(b), as the case may be, was made, revoke his or her consent under the relevant section.

(2) A revocation of consent under subsection (1) shall have no effect in respect of a DAHR procedure or, as the case may be, a further DAHR procedure to which the consent relates that has been performed before the notice under that subsection is received by the operator of the DAHR facility at which the procedure is performed.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 20, line 30, to delete “section 14” and substitute “section 14 or 14”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 24 and 82 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 21, line 33, to delete “enactments.” and substitute “enactments (within the meaning of that Act).”.

These are minor drafting amendments to clarify the proper interpretation of the relevant terms: in the case of amendment No. 24, the term "repeals enactments" and in the case of amendment No. 82, the term "donor conceived child".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 25, 29 and 81 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 22, to delete lines 6 to 8 and substitute the following:

"(3) The child to whom an application for a declaration under this section relates shall be joined as a party to the proceedings.".

These are amendments to sections allowing applications for a declaration of parentage in regard to a donor-conceived child. The amendment ensures that the child concerned is joined as a party to proceedings. This is in line with the provisions for declaration of parentage in other circumstances which require that the child concerned is a party to proceedings.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 26 to 28, inclusive, 30 and 80 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 22, line 25, to delete "in the prescribed manner".

These are minor drafting amendments to remove references to the making of rules of court. This is covered by section 24 of the Interpretation Act 2005 and there is no requirement to make express provision for rules of court.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 22, lines 39 and 40, to delete "shall be in a form to be prescribed by rules of court and".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 23, lines 4 and 5, to delete "in such manner as may be prescribed by rules of court".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 23, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"(3) The child to whom an application for a declaration under this section relates shall be joined as a party to the proceedings.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 23, lines 31 and 32, to delete "shall be in a form to be prescribed by rules of court and".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 24, to delete lines 16 to 19 and substitute the following:

"(2) The operator of a DAHR facility shall not acquire an embryo for use in a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure unless, at the time of such acquisition, he or she also acquires the information specified in subsection (3) in respect of--

(a) the donor or, as the case may be, each donor of the embryo who provided a gamete that was used in the formation of the embryo, and

(b) where applicable, the donor of a gamete that was used in the formation of the embryo.".

This is an amendment signalled on Committee Stage. It takes account of the fact that, in some cases, an embryo donor may have no genetic connection with an embryo because the embryo is itself formed using donor gametes. The effect of the amendment is to ensure that the details of that original donor may also be recorded on the national donor-conceived person register in order to fully safeguard the child's right to know his or her genetic identity. That is a key principle throughout this Bill - namely, that the child has a right to information about its genetic identity.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 32 not moved.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 25, to delete lines 21 to 36, and in page 26, to delete lines 1 to 35 and substitute the following:

"Use of gamete or embryo in DAHR procedure

24. (1) The operator of a DAHR facility shall not use or permit to be used in a DAHR procedure a gamete provided by a donor unless--

(a) the gamete has been acquired in accordance with section 22(1), and

(b) the donor of that gamete--

(i) has consented under section 6 to the use of the gamete in a DAHR procedure, or

(ii) where the gamete is acquired from outside the State, has consented to the use of the gamete in a DAHR procedure, where that consent is substantially the same as that provided for in section 6.

(2) The operator of a DAHR facility shall not use or permit to be used in a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure an embryo unless--

(a) it has acquired the embryo in accordance with section 22(2), and

(b) the donor, or as the case may be, each donor of the embryo--

(i) has consented under section 14, to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure or, as the case may be, a further DAHR procedure, or

(ii) where the embryo is acquired from outside the State, has consented to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure, where that consent is substantially the same as that provided for in section 14.

(3) The operator of a DAHR facility shall not use or permit to be used in a DAHR procedure a gamete provided by a donor, where he or she has become aware that--

(a) the consent of the donor under section 6 has been revoked under section 8, or

(b) in the case of a gamete to which subsection (1)(b)(ii) or (5) applies, the consent of the donor referred to in that subsection has been revoked.

(4) The operator of a DAHR facility shall not use or permit to be used in a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure an embryo where he or she has become aware that--

(a) the consent of the donor under section 14 has been revoked under section 16, or

(b) in the case of an embryo to which subsection (2)(b)(ii) or (6) applies, the consent of the donor referred to in that subsection has been revoked.

(5) Notwithstanding subsection (1), for a period of 3 years from the date on which that subsection comes into operation, a gamete to which paragraph (a) of that subsection does not apply may be used in a DAHR procedure where--

(a) the gamete concerned has been acquired before that date by the DAHR facility concerned,

(b) the donor of the gamete has consented to the use of the gamete in a DAHR procedure, and

(c) the intending parent is the parent of a child born as a result of a DAHR procedure performed before that date, where the gamete used in that procedure was provided by the same donor.

(6) Subsection (2)(a) shall not apply to an embryo where--

(a) the embryo was formed before the date on which the subsection comes into operation,

(b) the embryo was acquired by the DAHR facility before that date, and

(c) the donor or, as the case may be, each donor of the embryo has consented to the use of the embryo in a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure.

(7) Where an embryo to which subsection (6) applies is used in a DAHR procedure or a further DAHR procedure, nothing in this section shall operate to prevent the recording on the Register of the information specified in section 31(3)(d) in respect of the donor from whose gamete the embryo was formed.

(8) The operator of a DAHR facility may use or permit to be used in a DAHR procedure an embryo that was formed before the date on which this subsection comes into operation, where--

(a) the embryo has been formed for the purposes of the DAHR procedure,

(b) the donor of the gamete that was used in the formation of the embryo has consented to the use of the gamete in a DAHR procedure, and

(c) each person who, at the time of the formation of the embryo, was an intending parent, has consented under section 9, or as the case may be, section 11, to the parentage under section 5 of a child born as a result of the procedure.

On Committee Stage I indicated my intention to make certain amendments in this section, in particular to clarify the nature of a donor's consent referred to in subsections (5)(b) and (6)(c). Both subsections refer to gametes and embryos, possibly anonymously sourced, which are the subject of certain transitional arrangements. The original information specified that the consent should be substantially the same as that provided in sections 6 and 14. However, given that those consents are so focused on the identity of the donors, I concluded that this threshold was too high and would make the transition provision unworkable. Accordingly, I have changed those to specify that the donor has consented to the use of the gamete or embryo in a donor-assisted human reproduction procedure. The revised provision also includes a new subsection (8) which clarifies that where a person or a couple have existing embryos created using an intending parent's gamete and a donor gamete, there is no legal barrier to their using those embryos in a DAHR procedure. There are also consequential amendments and cross-references to the new section that is inserted by amendment No. 19.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 26, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

"(8) A transition period of 12 months, from the date of enactment, will be allowed for cases where patients have already selected or paid for anonymous sperm donors or have the donation currently in storage in Irish clinics awaiting use in treatment, to complete their treatment cycles.

(9) A transition period of 12 months, from the date of enactment, will be allowed for cases where individuals have already initiated the process of anonymous egg donation, to complete their treatment cycles.

(10) A transition period will be allowed for cases of treatment resulting in a sibling child from an anonymous donor for a period of 3 years from the birth of the first child or 3 years from the date of enactment, whichever of the two is longer.".

The Minister gave me assurances on this issue on Committee Stage. The only reason I resubmit the amendment is to firm up the assurance that, after the enactment of the legislation, families who have availed of the various types of procedure as outlined in the amendment would have the extra one year. To be fair, the Minister pointed out that the Bill does provide for the sibling issue over the three years. This is really just to firm up that commitment in the House.

It is a very relevant amendment. The amendment would provide for a transition period to allow couples currently undertaking donor-assisted human reproduction procedures to continue their treatment and to facilitate an orderly move to the regulatory framework, which is envisaged in Parts 2 and 3 of the Bill. The Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists also raised this issue and, obviously, the availability of such a transition would be of huge concern to many couples.

These provisions have to be worked on further and more detail is needed. On Committee Stage I indicated my broad agreement that such a transitional period had its merits and, indeed, I believe it is necessary. As the Deputy has outlined, certain transitional provisions are already included in section 20(5) and 20(6). The Deputy's provision in the proposed subsection (10) would, to some extent, cut across the provisions set out in subsection (6), which sets out a three-year period that is, effectively, a four-year period, given the transition period of at least one year from the commencement date. This is to allow the couple to have a sibling using gametes from the same anonymous donor.

I said on Committee Stage that I was prepared to offer a clear commitment to the House, together with the Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, that Parts 2 and 3 would not be commenced for a minimum period of one year from the date of enactment. I repeat that commitment today to ensure that the interests of the many couples undergoing the stresses of donor-assisted fertility treatment can, with their medical teams, continue their treatment. The one-year period will provide at least the same transition period, which will enable couples currently undergoing treatment to continue with that treatment and will give clinics time to prepare for the new regulatory framework. This is a practical and pragmatic administrative solution for which I am today giving a binding commitment in order to enable a seamless transition to the new arrangements. On the basis of that, I ask Deputy Mac Lochlainn not to press the amendment. I have given a very clear commitment in regard to accepting the need for a transition period as well as outlining how long that will be in both instances.

Based on those very welcome and firm assurances, I am very happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 35, in the name of Deputy Lucinda Creighton, is out of order because it does not arise from committee proceedings.

Amendment No. 35 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 36 to 38, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 27, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

"(1) An operator of a donation facility shall retain--

(a) a written consent of a person made under section 6, and

(b) a record of the revocation, under section 8, by a person referred to in paragraph (a) of his or her consent.".

This is related to records and consents. As I said, this is a critical issue on which the Bill is very clear. On the amendments, I had indicated on Committee Stage that I intended to provide drafting clarification in this section to ensure it is clear which facility must retain records of consents or revocations of consents. Again, it is extraordinary to think that, since the commission reported in 2005, this issue has not been dealt with. However, we are saying in each case it is at the facility at which a donation is made, or where the consent was given, that the records must be maintained. These amendments provide that clarification and make the necessary consequential amendments, including taking account of the new cross-references.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 27, line 37, to delete "section 6, 9, 11 or 14" and substitute "section 9, 11 or 14".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 28, line 1, to delete "section 8, 10, 12 or 16" and substitute "section 10, 12 or 16".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 32, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

"(3) The Minister shall comply with a request made in accordance with subsection (1) or (2).".

This amendment specifies, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Minister must comply with a request from a donor, a donor-conceived child over the age of 18 or the parent of a donor-conceived child under the age of 18 for certain non-identifying information.

It will make the non-identifying information available to the child and the parents.

I ask the Minister to clarify how that will happen. This information will be life-changing for the person who receives it at the age of 18 or 19. It cannot happen in a bald way. What are the arrangements for ensuring that it is dealt with sensitively?

I refer to medical information. Is the Minister making any provision for medical records or information to be made available? This is a critical issue for people who are not aware of who their genetic parents are until they are adults. What arrangements, if any, is the Minister making to ensure that information is available?

This type of information is currently completely unregulated. As the Deputy knows, anonymous donations are accepted in this country. That means, in effect, that a child has no access to genetic information. This Bill and the new AHR Bill make it absolutely clear that as a policy and principle a child has the right to have access to that information. It is the first time we are including in legislation the very relevant point the Deputy made, that is, that a child is entitled to have access to that information. There will be a change in the regulations from anonymous to non-anonymous so that a child will have access to genetic information.

The Bill is very clear in its provisions on consent. The rules on donor consent in respect of parentage will state it must be given very clearly. The kind of information which must be kept will be very clear in the consent forms, which will have to be developed under regulations. There is an issue around the arrangement to develop and record the information, and I have spoken about how the records will have to be kept by the relevant clinics. The information will have to be gathered and available. The issue of consent is relevant to this discussion.

A register of information will have to be kept in the Department of Health to begin with, but will then move to the new authority when it is established. Much like having access to adoption information, procedures and information such as these are very sensitive. It would be the responsibility of parents to share this information. Parents will know that their children are entitled to this information. In the same manner as adoption, the best practice is to tell a child at an early stage that he or she is adopted. We are moving towards more open adoption. As in the case of adoption, in cases of assisted human reproduction the best practice, as I have been informed based on a review of the international literature, is that the more open parents can be with children, the better the outcome.

As the Bill progresses, we will have the same sort of supportive system we would like to have for those seeking information on adoption. The Minister, and eventually the authority, will develop procedures on that information. The information applies to those who are 18 years of age, but this provision deals with non-identifying information. It will be available before that. One would expect and demand that clinics keep all relevant medical information on a donor.

This is welcome to a certain extent and is an improvement on the current situation, but I asked the Minister two fundamental questions which she has not answered. This issue, along with many others, underlines the problem with rushing this Bill. I suggest, given the fact that only four Members are in the Chamber, that the vast majority of Deputies have not read the Bill. It is very fundamental and should not have been rushed, a point I want to repeat.

I asked the Minister what the arrangements will be for passing on that information. When an 18 year old requests his or her birth certificate, what will be the arrangements for telling that person there is additional information? It is not adequate to say that this will be developed as the Bill progresses. It will be passed and signed, I presume, within the next few weeks.

What arrangements will be in place to ensure that people will get access to that information? Will all registrars know that some additional information may need to be passed on? What will the advice be to registrars in terms of how that life-changing news is passed on to somebody and ensure it is done in a sensitive way? Is it the intention of the Minister that health information would form part of the anonymous information that would be available to a young person in those circumstances?

The arrangements will of course include health information. It would be non-identifying information, in that a donor's name would not be given at that point. Non-identifying health information would be given and collected in the first instance by the clinic. We had a debate on the Bill on Committee Stage, at which Deputy Shortall was not present, and there was no guillotine in terms of Members' opportunities to contribute, nor was there on Second Stage when 60 Members made contributions. It is true that we are prioritising and allocating time to the Bill.

The details of what could be called the support system that would be built around the provision of the information is something that will be developed in the AHR legislation. This is not retrospective, except in very particular instances such as where court proceedings allow for it in certain very clear situations. This is prospective. When a child is 18 years of age, he or she will have access to identifying information. There is time to develop regulations and best practice, which should be in the best interests of the child, on the provision of this information.

We have had detailed contact with the Department of Social Protection on the necessary changes to the register. This information is like that concerning adoption, where there is a different type of birth certificate. In cases of AHR or DAHR, the person seeking a birth certificate will be told extra information is available. I agree with the Deputy that this is critical for individuals and that is the reason the Bill addresses that point, namely, that the identity of the donor must be known. These are very basic decisions about genetic identity.

As Sweden did 20 years ago, we are moving to known donation. It is the right practice. If a child has the right to genetic information, procedures on how a child and parent can access that information will be established. It is part of a continuum. One part is moving from anonymous to known donation. The second part is the issue of consent and making sure it is built into our legislation very clearly. The next part is the regulation of all clinics so they adhere in a uniform way across the country to the provisions in this Bill and to the broader assisted human reproduction provisions to be developed by the Department of Health.

Access to information is part and parcel of the approach we are taking.

Does Deputy Mattie McGrath wish to speak to amendment No. 39?

Yes, I have a brief comment. As a previous Deputy noted, the Bill is being rushed and adequate time is not being given to it. I compliment the Chairman of the committee because when we dealt with the Bill on Committee Stage, he was very fair and understanding. I have amendments but I cannot find them in this morning's groupings.

The Deputy is speaking to amendment No. 39.

Yes. It deals with the area of assisted human reproduction and those rights. It is a massive area. The Minister knows that many people are not happy with current adoption rights, including a former Minister and colleague of the current Minister. The process has been rushed at an indecent pace and the Bill is too big and complex to get around it in a year, not to say a month. I am totally dissatisfied with the amount of time allowed for discussion.

The Deputy has been allocated time on this occasion to refer to a specific amendment.

I accept that but I cannot locate the amendments I raised on Committee Stage. I am just making the points relating to that.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 32, line 36, to delete “or well-being”.

I propose to discuss amendments Nos. 40 and 41 together. These arise out of the discussions on Committee Stage and refer to the circumstances where a donor may seek to have his or her identity kept from a donor-conceived child. This gave rise to some concern that the identity rights of the child would not be properly safeguarded. In light of those discussions, I have decided to further refine the provisions, and amendment No. 40 removes the reference to the "well-being" of the donor or donor-conceived child being affected. This is too subjective a threshold, and a number of Deputies spoke about this on Committee Stage. I am clarifying the highly exceptional nature of any decision to withhold donor information by providing that the information can be withheld only when it would affect the "safety" of the donor or the donor-conceived child. I should stress that I consider it highly unlikely that information will ultimately be withheld on this basis but I consider it essential to ensure that the Minister for Health or the authority to be established has some means of dealing with any truly exceptional circumstances which may arise.

Amendment No. 41 makes further associated provision by clarifying that the Minister will have the scope to provide a donor-conceived child with the reasons for refusal. If he does not, the court will be able to consider the contents of any representations made and determine whether, in the circumstances, the donor-conceived child should be given the information. The strong presumption, as I mentioned to Deputy Shortall, based on the initial consents made by a donor, is that donor information will be released to a child. If the Minister so decides, and the donor objects, he or she will have the usual right to apply to the courts for a review of that decision.

We had much discussion on Committee Stage about the terms and what may be exceptional circumstances. In order to really make it clear that we see this as something extremely unusual and an exceptional circumstance, I was advised, legally, that I needed to include an exclusion in case there was a circumstance where the information would compromise the safety of the child. I was advised that we should have this provision. Even in the case of refusal, there is a right of appeal to the court. The donor-conceived child or adult can go to court, which can obtain the information and make a determination in the usual way.

Will the Minister clarify who would make that determination on either side?

In the legislation, at present it would be the Minister for Health. As I indicated, when the provisions are taken over by an authority, it would make that determination. I am advised that it is essential to ensure that the Minister for Health would have some means of dealing with any truly exceptional circumstances that might arise. We discussed in much detail how the court would get the information, given that the person has been refused information in the first instance. Making the information available to the person defeats the point of having said "No" because of safety issues. I have taken advice on the matter. There is precedent with regard to adoption, for example, where the court makes the application to get the information and make a determination, as any court normally would.

I have a similar question and the Minister has answered it partially. What kind of group would we hand this to? What kind of agency would have the information? Would it be a quango? It is very sensitive.

The Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction indicated in 2005 that much like there is an adoption authority, there should be an authority established to deal with this wide-ranging area and the ethical, medical and regulatory framework issues that arise in the area. It is very clear that we need an authority as they have in the UK and most other countries that would deal with these issues. It is envisaged, as assisted human reproduction legislation develops and during the course of the consultation, that there would be discussion of the exact type of authority that needs to be developed in order to oversee the area along with the Department of Health.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 33, to delete lines 1 to 8 and substitute the following:

“(3) Where a relevant donor to whom subsection (2) applies makes representations to the Minister in accordance with that subsection, the Minister shall consider those representations, having regard to the right of the donor-conceived child to his or her identity, and—

(a) if satisfied that sufficient reasons exist to withhold the information concerned from the donor-conceived child, shall refuse the request under subsection (1) and notify the donor-conceived child of the refusal and, in doing so, may inform him or her of the content of the representations of the relevant donor under subsection (2), or

(b) if not so satisfied, shall release the information to the donor-conceived child concerned.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 34, to delete lines 1 to 21 and substitute the following:

“Information in respect of other persons to be provided to donor-conceived child

35. (1) A donor-conceived child who has attained the age of 18 years may request the Minister to record on the Register a statement of his or her name, date of birth and contact details and confirming that he or she consents, on the making by a person of a request under subsection (2), to the release, in accordance with this section, to that person of that information.

(2) A donor-conceived child who has attained the age of 18 years (in this section referred to as a “requesting person”) may request from the Minister the name, date of birth and contact details of a relevant person.

(3) Where the Minister receives a request under subsection (2), and the donor-conceived child to whom the requested information relates has made a statement under subsection (1) that is recorded on the Register, the Minister shall send the donor-conceived child a notice informing him or her that—

(a) a request under subsection (2) has been made by the requesting person, and

(b) unless the donor-conceived child informs the Minister, within 12 weeks of the date of the sending of the notice, that he or she objects to the release to the requesting person of the information contained in the statement under subsection (1), the Minister shall release that information to the requesting person.

(4) Where a donor-conceived child to whom a notice under subsection (3) has been sent does not, in accordance with that subsection, object to the release of the information concerned, the Minister shall release that information to the requesting person.

(5) In this section, “relevant person” means, in relation to a requesting person, a donor-conceived child in relation to whom a relevant donor is also a relevant donor in relation to the requesting person.”.

Section 35 gives certain rights to donor-conceived children born from gametes of the same donor. As originally formulated, the section referred to “donor-conceived siblings”. There was some concern that this would be interpreted as constituting a legally recognised familial relationship. The section has therefore been redrafted to ensure this interpretation cannot arise.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 35, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“Jurisdiction ( Parts 2 and 3 )

38. (1) The jurisdiction conferred on the District Court by section 19 shall be exercised by—

(a) a judge of the District Court who is assigned to the district court district in which an applicant under that section ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation, or

(b) where no applicant under that section ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation in the State, a judge who is assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan District.

(2) The jurisdiction conferred on the Circuit Court by sections 20 and 33 shall be exercised by—

(a) the judge of the circuit in which an applicant under the section concerned ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation, or

(b) where no applicant under the section concerned ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation in the State, by a judge of the court for the time being assigned to the Dublin Circuit.

(3) The jurisdiction conferred on the Circuit Court by section 30 shall be exercised by the judge of the circuit in which the DAHR facility concerned is located.”.

This is a new section to confer standard jurisdiction on the courts with regard to the functions under sections 19,20, 30 and 33. It is a straightforward amendment relating to jurisdiction of courts.

Amendment agreed to. Amendment No. 44 not moved.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 36, after line 36, to insert the following:

" 'enactment’ means a statute or an instrument made under a power conferred by statute;

'enforcement order' shall be construed in accordance with section 18A(1);".

These are minor drafting amendments, inserting additional definitions for clarity.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 46 to 48, inclusive, 51, 52, 54 to 59, inclusive and 83 are related. Amendment No. 48 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 47 and amendment No. 56 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 55. Amendment No. 59 is consequential on amendment No. 58. The amendments may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 37, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

“(b) in subsection (4)—

(i) in paragraph (c), by the deletion of “child,” and substitution of “child, and”,

and

(ii) by the deletion of paragraph (d),”.

Amendments Nos. 46 to 48, 51, 52 and 54 to 59, inclusive, and 83 are linked. These are intended to address some of the concerns raised on Second Stage and further discussed on Committee Stage on the position of non-marital fathers. There was some disagreement but many Deputies supported automatic guardianship. Others spoke about supporting automatic guardianship but felt there should be exceptions but there was no agreement on what those exceptions should be, although Deputies raised the issues of domestic violence and rape, where fathers were not involved and the situation that would arise and the difficulties that would face the mother in those circumstances. My aim, pending further policy analysis on automatic guardianship, is to provide better information to parents from the outset. I take the point that was made on several occasions that many, particularly young, fathers are not aware that they can make a statutory declaration of fatherhood now and do not use that mechanism. This set of amendments is designed to ensure that parents are aware of the option of statutory declarations and can easily avail of them.

Amendment No. 46 will delete certain elements required to make a statutory declaration making a non-marital father a guardian of his child. Section 2(4)(d) of the 1964 Act provided that the parents of the child concerned must have made arrangements in relation to custody of, and access to, the child. In general, parents will not make a statutory declaration unless they are on good terms, and possibly cohabiting in any case. In such cases, the requirement for “arrangements” to be made is not a useful or meaningful one. Although the custody and access arrangements referred to do not need to be through formal written arrangements, removing the requirement to have such arrangements may be useful in removing a perceived barrier to making a statutory declaration when registering the child's birth. Amendments Nos. 57 to 59, inclusive, make the same change in relation to a statutory declaration to be made by cohabiting parents who have a child through donor-assisted human reproduction, and the same considerations apply.

These changes are a useful support to amendment No. 83. Deputy Collins tabled an amendment on this issue. My amendment is intended to provide better information to non-marital parents and to make it easier for fathers to become guardians of their children, where they are not cohabiting in a family unit. The existing mechanism of making a statutory declaration is a simple and inexpensive one but there is insufficient awareness of its existence and many parents simply do not use it. With approximately one third of births being outside marriage, it is important to ensure parents are aware of their rights and responsibilities and of how to secure them. This amendment to the Civil Registration Act 2004 is to achieve that aim. Where the parents or either of them register the birth of their child, the registrar will give them a copy of the statutory declaration in order that they can consider whether to make a statutory declaration appointing the father or second parent as a guardian of the child, witnessed by the registrar. They do not need to decide then and there. They can jointly make the declaration, witnessed by the registrar, within two weeks of registering or re-registering the child’s birth - my understanding is that at present the birth has to be registered within three months - that is, 14 days after that three months. The couple decides when to register the birth and has 14 days after that, with the registrar to make the statutory declaration. The couple does not have to make the declaration to the registrar and some couples may not. The father may not undertake a statutory declaration for quite a long time after that and it is still completely open to the couple to make the statutory declaration in the usual format before a peace commissioner or commissioner of oaths. The registrar will not charge any fee for witnessing the statutory declaration and we intend to ensure information is provided wherever births are registered about the statutory declaration. Several Deputies said there was no information about the statutory declaration, whether in maternity hospitals or when the couple went to register the birth. This makes it easier. If the parents decide not to make the statutory declaration at that time, there is nothing to prevent their doing so at a later point.

This approach will ensure that from the commencement of these provisions, which will be without undue delay, non-marital parents will have the necessary information to decide jointly whether the father will be a guardian of the child. Coupled with ensuring they have the necessary information, they will also be able to make the statutory declaration for free having had sufficient time to consider the decision. Where a child’s parents have been cohabiting for 12 months and have not taken steps to appoint the father as a guardian, other provisions of the Bill will ensure he becomes a guardian automatically. It is in the Bill that there is automatic guardianship once the couple have been cohabiting for 12 months. That provision remains, and in the case of those couples, the father is automatically the guardian, including three months after the birth of the child.

Amendment No. 48 is to clarify for avoidance of any doubt that the period of cohabitation for the automatic acquisition of guardianship commences from the date on which the legislation comes into effect. In general, legislation is not retrospective, and in view of the rights and responsibilities which accrue on guardianship, there must be clarity as to whether there is any intention of creating retrospective rights. Fathers who live with their partners and children and who are not guardians can, if they wish, secure those rights and responsibilities sooner, whether by means of making a statutory declaration or the option of applying to the court, which is still available to parents in that situation.

Amendment No. 56 makes the same clarification in respect of the automatic acquisition of guardianship by the cohabiting parent of a child born through donor-assisted human reproduction. I have listened to the debate and moved to deal with certain issues. This makes it far more likely that at the time of a birth, the natural father will assert his rights through the statutory declaration where a couple agrees with this and can do it when registering the birth.

Amendment No. 83, which inserts a new section 27A, reads “a registrar may, during the period of 14 days immediately following the date on which the birth of a child is registered or re-registered, take and receive a statutory declaration”. What is the effect of the words “take” and “receive”? Does “take” mean witness and does “receive” mean take a copy of? Will the Minister clarify that?

It is to witness. He is effectively a witness.

Will a copy be kept? I presume it will.

No, it is not intended that the registrar will be responsible for the copy.

That is a broader issue which will have to be considered at a future date The question of whether to have a repository links to a point a number of Deputies made relating to making available the statutory declarations. Guardianship is given in many different places such as the courts and via the statutory declaration process. A number of issues remain to be considered and a significant amount of work needs to be done in the future but I am not dealing with it in this legislation. This is a first step in ensuring the registrar is in a position to witness the statutory declaration and ensure that parents avail of it at the earliest possible opportunity.

When the registrar witnesses the declaration, will the couple be given information about their legal position?

It is the intention that as much information as possible will be made available by the registrar regarding the statutory declaration. The information deficit around the statutory declaration and guardianship rights, particularly for fathers but for mothers also, is a big issue and I have started to address it in this legislation.

I wish to speak to amendment No. 47. We discussed this at length on Committee Stage and I appreciate that the Minister has put in an amendment to strengthen the area of statutory declarations.

This is a serious debate and organisations such as Treoir have been to the forefront in highlighting the issue. There is inequality as between a father and a mother as things stand. There must be thousands of fathers out there who did not realise when they registered their name on the child's birth certificate that it did not automatically entitle them to guardianship. One third of children are born to mothers who are not married, many of whom are very young and even teenagers. We always tell young men to step up to the plate, to be a father, be a man and pay their maintenance. We tell them to be there for their child and to support their child, even if they are not going to continue in a relationship with the mother. Without this legislation being enacted, we will not have equality as a father's right to guardianship is subject to the consent of the mother. This makes it an unequal relationship. When a man proudly registers his name, he will be advised that it confers no entitlement to guardianship and that he should seek the agreement of the mother to a statutory declaration. If the mother disagrees, however, it will end up in court.

I appreciate that this provides a measure of safety but we should devise a system where people do not go down the road of going to court on these matters. The registrar should be able to give the necessary information from the get-go. The fact that a father is there means he wants to be there and wants to fulfil his responsibilities. It is unfortunate that, with so many men walking away from their responsibilities, when a man actually turns up to accept his responsibility and wants his name on the register he cannot have equality.

The point is sometimes made that in many cases men are not really equal parents because they do not share the parenting responsibilities. Then there are the cases of domestic abuse and where a man who is not really a fit father likes the idea of calling himself a father without what comes with it and it is for these cases that there is an option to go to court.

This Bill is very welcome and long overdue. The difficulty is that until we have reform of family law, a mediation Bill and investment in the court system we will have the spectacle of separated parents in packed courtrooms across the State, with all the stress that goes with that. We will not have equality between a father and a mother, particularly in cases where a father steps up to the plate. I do not think conditionality in the form of residency - what I have called "the co-habitance clause" - is fair because sometimes a father cannot live with a mother. The mother may live with her parents if she is very young, or maybe the father has to work away from home so cannot comply with the need to live with her for three months after the child is born and nine other months. It is unfortunate we have that requirement and I cannot agree to it so I will press my amendment today. I do not assume I will get support from the Minister today but as we develop these debates through future legislation we can revisit the issue and ensure the overall system gives as many guarantees and protections as possible for the father, the mother and, most important, the child.

I realise there is not much time and I may come back to the subject at a later stage. This is an extremely important debate and some issues that have been raised need a lot of debate. The previous speaker said there was not equality between fathers and mothers. He is dead right and we all know where most of the inequality lies. It lies in the fact that one in five women is a victim of domestic violence. One third of all parents are single parents, 90% of them mothers, and 50% of fathers do not pay any maintenance to those mothers. It is on these matters that we need to legislate.

How do we check if somebody has lived with somebody for 12 months? It seems to be impossible to prove it. Will a mother have the right to revoke guardianship based on the fact that it is automatic? What about those women who are fleeing domestic violence and who may have lived with a violent man for a number of years? I had a woman in my clinic on Monday morning in such a situation.

Custody is very clearly laid out in the law in front of us but a lot of people confuse custody with guardianship. If a man wants to be a man and a father then custody and access are surely the key things he will want and he will be able to prove he is a father in that way. However, the problem with guardianship is that a man who was violent towards his partner would still have the right to dictate where that woman lives because residency is part of guardianship. He can prevent the children getting access to passports to leave the country. There are major repercussions for women in those situations and there are quite a large number of such women.

Violence against women is at epidemic levels around the globe and it is understated in this country. One in four women in Europe is a sufferer and I doubt more women are being abused in Europe than Ireland.

How will the checks of the 12 year residency criteria be carried out? I do not believe in any case that this proves a person is a good father.

Will the woman have a right to challenge guardianship after the father has claimed automatic right to be a guardian?

Debate adjourned.