Within reason. I will go over one or two points in particular, perhaps giving answers, before returning to the policy issues. There was a question from the genealogists regarding the death certificate and having information on the place and date of birth. I have agreed to this being included in the legislation, so that should assuage their concerns.
Senator Mansergh spoke about the fact that the clergyman or woman would normally facilitate the registration. We are not saying that cannot happen, but it is the responsibility of the married couple to ensure it does happen. They can still allow the clergyman or woman to forward that registration form. Several issues arose surrounding people going away on their honeymoons and forgetting to send in their registration forms. Once they say "I do", they are married. Thereafter they have a certain period to register, after which a reminder is issued. In the heat of the moment, people forget about some of the practicalities involved in getting married, and an automatic reminder goes out to the couple to come to the registrar and send in their form. That is very important as undoubtedly we are reflecting not only the modernisation of a system but a modern society. We also appreciate that people often forget, and have not been given enough time to participate in many important life events, so we have facilitated that by the extension of the time within which people can register. In the main, there has been a fair amount of support for this legislation, and I very much welcome that. There are several issues of particular concern to a number of people, and we will be taking them into consideration.
One issue particular to the Church of Ireland has been raised. It came to our notice very recently following the Committee Stage of the legislation. I thank Senator Mansergh and my officials in the Department, who were more than forthcoming in supporting the issues and concerns raised by the Church of Ireland. It is now intended that the new ceremony include the substantive requirements for a valid marriage but accommodate the liturgical requirements of the different religious denominations. The marriage registration form must be completed by all parties to the marriage immediately after the ceremony. We will be addressing the liturgical issues.
Following consultations with the Church of Ireland on the matter, it has been proposed that the form of ceremony to be approved by an tArd-Chláraitheoir will include a declaration before witnesses before the commencement of the liturgy. That meets the needs of the churches, and legal advice has been taken to ensure that it also meets the requirement of section 51(3) of the Bill as drafted. I believe that we will be able to give a conclusive answer to the Church of Ireland very quickly. I thank it most sincerely, not only for bringing it to our attention but equally for facilitating the agreement that will move forward the issues brought to my attention.
We may have a greater opportunity to discuss the registration of a father's particulars on Committee Stage. Many Members have raised that matter. Several of the concerns raised have touched on the practicalities of life, and I certainly agree with them. The provisions in the Bill allow for registration with an extended period of three months. That may in some way address some of the pressurised concerns expressed by Members. Furthermore, there are facilities for registration immediately after the birth of the child in the major hospitals. This is progressive and will certainly facilitate parents. The emphasis of sections 22 and 23 of the legislation is to facilitate and encourage fathers to register. That is what we would like to see happening.
We also provide within the legislative framework of the Bill for application to be made by either parent acting alone and supported by a court order to name the father in the Register of Births. However, I advise Senators of a matter of which I had to educate myself before this legislation. There is no presumption in law that a man other than the husband of a married woman is the father of her child. There would be practical and legal difficulties for a registrar in requiring a man to register the birth of a child without paternity being conclusively established. That said, Members will see that we speak of a "person" in the legislation and then of the "father". Perhaps I am pre-empting an amendment from the Opposition. It indicates that one is a person until such time as it has been determined that one is the father. That creates difficulties in itself.
However, I know from the statistics made available by an tArd-Chláraitheoir that we have a high percentage of fathers participating in the registration initially. Moreover, we have quite a number of applications — I believe 1,500 — to reregister births, indicating that there has been a discussion within the family and a decision made to have the name on the register. We would all like to encourage people to register, but it is also very important that we do not institute any compulsion. There are issues — I am sure every Member has encountered them in his or her constituency — where there are serious difficulties pertaining to people putting a name on the register and consequential distressing emotional difficulties. Therefore, in appreciating the importance of the registration of a child and the complexities attached to people's relationships, the aim under section 22 is to facilitate, as much as possible, the registration by the father.
Another issue raised by a number of Members was the mother's marital status on the birth certificate. Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Bill sets out the required particulars to be entered in the register of birth. The civil registration service is required under the Vital Statistics Act 1952 to collect the marital status of the child's mother when registering a birth. It is also used to determine if the presumption of paternity of the husband applies and also determines whether section 22 of the Bill applies, that is, where parents are not married. The marital status does not appear on the birth certificate and it is used for statistical purposes as are many other pieces of information which are garnered but not used on the certificate. In the interests of equality, I have included the marital status of the man in the Schedule following debate in the other House.
Reference was made during the debate to the re-registering of a birth following the marriage of the parents. I accepted an amendment to facilitate this and it will resolve the issue of the child's surname. In cases of remarriage of a widow, the birth entry of any child of the new marriage will include any former surname or surnames of the parent or parents to facilitate those particular and pertinent situations.
On the registration of guardianship, I am glad Members appreciate it is not, in itself, a life event and that its role within registration would be dubious. It was raised on a number of occasions on Second and Committee Stages in the other House. The Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 provides for a declaration by the mother and father in regard to the guardianship of the child. Such declarations may be made before a peace commissioner, a commissioner for oaths or a notary public. The 1964 Act made no provision for the registration of such declarations and the schedule to the statutory declaration contains a warning that a declaration is an important document and should be kept in a safe place. A father may also be appointed as a guardian by order of the court. The tArd-Chláraitheoir has no function in the registration of guardianship orders granted by the courts or in regard to the registration of statutory declarations of guardianship nor would it be appropriate that he or she would have that function.
However, following the debate in the other House, I wrote to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to bring to his attention the issues raised by Members concerning guardianship within the legislation. As Members know, an interdepartmental committee is looking at the issue of marriage. Equated to that, many issues may arise which would have legislative impacts. Arising from the debates which have taken place, I have advised the Minister of the views of Members of the other House which were emulated in this House.
Questions were asked about the number of life events registered in 2002. For the information of Members, I will briefly outline the level of activity in regard to life event registration which takes place annually. Some 60,000 births, 400 stillbirths, 250 Irish adoptions, 336 foreign adoptions, 20,000 marriages and 30,000 deaths were registered. There were 1,500 re-registrations of births, 1,500 late registrations and 4,000 amendments. Some 500,000 certificates were produced and there were 1.2 million searches. A considerable amount of work was carried out in 2002.
I compliment the tArd-Chláraitheoir and the staff who have moved to Roscommon. I believe there are only 15 staff members left to go to Roscommon. They have decentralised despite the legislation and they have done tremendous work to ensure all those records are made available electronically. Without a doubt, this legislation is proactive and modern and it emulates many of the concerns expressed by Members. It will bring a better public service to many.
On the registration of deaths, I said we would facilitate the place of birth. An issue was raised by Senator Mansergh in regard to the date of death and often the place of death in particular circumstances.