I thank both Deputy Collins and Deputy Ó Snodaigh for raising this important and, indeed, personal and very sensitive issue. I hope that we will be in a position, if not this evening, but certainly at some early date, to chart a future path which will allow for advice towards a resolution. It would not be appropriate for me at this stage to share personal details in relation to any person or their family, but I would, for the purposes of this debate be pleased to address the broader issues raised by the Deputies and, specifically, the entitlement to Irish citizenship of children born to same-sex couples.
The Passport Act 2008 that has been referred to sets out the legislative framework within which the passport service processes all applications for passports.
Pursuant to section 7 of that Act, a passport cannot be issued unless the Minister is satisfied the person is an Irish citizen and satisfied as to the identity of the person. Citizenship, as Deputies will be aware, is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, which is under the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality. Legislative measures in regard to citizenship do not fall within the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They do fall within the remit of the Passport Service. In this context, the service has received a number of applications from same-sex married couples seeking to obtain Irish passports for their children born abroad and, in giving due consideration to these applications, has raised a number of issues in regard to both citizenship and guardianship with the relevant Departments and the Office of the Attorney General.
I would like to set out the current legislation. Section 7 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, addresses citizenship by descent and provides that a person is an Irish citizen from birth if at the time of his or her birth either parent was an Irish citizen, although an additional requirement of registration is imposed in respect of children born outside the State of Ireland where the Irish citizen parent was also born outside the island of Ireland. The Passport Service has received legal advice that states that, for the purposes of the 1956 Act, a parent is understood to mean either the mother or father of the child. For the purposes of Irish law, the mother of a child is the person who gives birth to the child or a female adopter of the child. In general, the father is the person identified as the genetic father of the child or a male adopter.
The Passport Service has received passport applications for children born outside the State to same-sex couples where one member of the couple is an Irish citizen and the other is not. The question arises as to whether, under the current legislation, where the Irish citizen is neither the birth mother nor the genetic father, or alternatively the male or female adopter of the child, the child qualifies for Irish citizenship by descent. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sought advice on its understanding of the 1956 Act from the Office of the Attorney General, which recommended that confirmation should be sought from the Department of Justice and Equality. The Passport Service has sought clarification on this and other related matters, including the effect on citizenship of Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, once commenced in May 2020, from the Department of Justice and Equality. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will issue passports in accordance with any legislative changes on commencement.
While I will not get into the detail of any personal case in the House, I will bring today's debate to the attention of all appropriate colleagues in my Department and the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Health, which may also have certain responsibilities in this regard. I assure the Deputies that my officials are working closely with officials from other relevant Departments to ensure this matter is clarified as soon as possible.