Civil Registration Bill 2003 [Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.

Before we commence, I remind Senators that they may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment, who may reply to the discussion thereon. Each amendment must also be seconded on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 1 in the name of Senator McCarthy is related to amendment No. 13, and amendment No. 14 is an alternative to the latter. Amendments Nos. 1, 13 and 14 will be taken together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"(3) As soon as may be after the passing of this Act, the Minister shall prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas, a statement as to the implications of introducing a system of registration of guardianship orders and agreements.".

We debated this amendment at some length on Committee Stage. It is about putting a system in place for a register of guardianship orders and agreements. Many organisations representing birth fathers have called for such a provision.

The Minister made a case for not accepting the amendment but I wonder if she has had an attack of conscience and changed her stance since returning to her constituency. I look forward to her response, particularly if she accepts the amendment.

I second the amendment.

As previously indicated, an tArd Chláraitheoir has no function in the registration of guardianship orders granted by the courts, or in the registration of statutory declarations of guardianship, nor would it be appropriate that she or he could have such a function. The Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 provides for a declaration by the mother and father on the guardianship of the child. This is a private contract between the parents with regard to guardianship, custody or access arrangements relating to their child. Such a declaration 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 the declaration is an important document and should be kept in a safe place. As indicated on Committee Stage, I expect that parents would lodge such important documents with their solicitors.

A father may also be appointed as guardian of a child by order of the court. These orders form part of the court records. Other statutory declarations or important private contracts relating to families, such as separation agreements, are not registered by an tArd Chláraitheoir, nor would it be appropriate for him or her to maintain such a register.

Following the debate on Committee Stage, I made further inquiries as to the arrangements that apply in other administrations. I confirm that in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the recording of similar agreements is not a matter for the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The registration of these agreements fall to be maintained by the courts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland such agreements may be registered in the Book of Council in Session maintained by the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland, which has responsibility for judicial registers.

I have brought the issues raised during the debates in both Houses to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I understand that the provision of a register of guardianship will be considered in the context of the forthcoming family law Bill. I am not, therefore, in a position to accept amendments Nos. 1 and 14. Amendment No. 13 deletes the text inserted by amendment No. 28 on Committee Stage.

I wish to move amendmentNo. 14.

The Senator may not move the amendment until all earlier amendments have been disposed of. He should have spoken on the amendments before the Minister replied.

That was not clear. I wish to make one contribution on this group of amendments.

Only the proposer of an amendment may speak after a Minister has replied. I will allow the Senator to make one contribution, although it is not provided for in procedure.

Thank you, a Chathaoirligh. This is a bad day's work. The Government's decision to override the democratic view of the House, as expressed last week on Committee Stage in amendment No. 28, is bad for democracy and this House. The purpose of the amendment tabled by my colleague, Senator Cummins, and I last week was simple, namely, to include in the civil registration code for the first time a framework for registering voluntary guardianship agreements. If the Government had accepted the amendment, it would have gone a long way towards accepting what unmarried mothers and fathers are seeking. This issue does not favour one side of the equation over the other, but is in the interests of all unmarried parents who seek this change.

I regret that the Minister has introduced amendment No. 13 in an attempt to negate a section the House inserted in the Bill. If the Seanad is to have any role as a reviewing Chamber, it should be to ensure that issues such as these are debated, as this one has been, and to stand by the decisions at which it arrives. The Government's attitude in refusing to accept the democratic will of the House on this matter is a retrograde step.

My amendment, which I tabled knowing that the Minister intended to do this, gives the Minister the power to introduce this section at a time of her choosing, following consultation with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, instead of deleting what we inserted last week after extensive debate. The Minister stated that other countries have dealt with this in a different way. I accept that, but I suggest that we do it in this way because a guardianship agreement between an unmarried father and an unmarried mother is a very important life event for those people. It is very important for a child to know that this very important document is in a safe place, is registered by the State and is open to recourse by the courts or anyone else in terms of where that document has been registered.

Let me put the view, received by my office at 1 p.m. today, from Treoir, the group that represents unmarried parents in Ireland. Regarding a register of joint guardianship agreements, Treoir believes strongly that the appropriate place for such a register is the Registrar General's Office with the records of significant life events because, in effect, the guardianship of married parents is registered in the Registrar General's Office through marriage registration and it is appropriate that guardianship agreements be registered there and not in the courts.

The debate in the House last week and previously was an excellent one but, before we vote on this matter, my solution is to leave the section that was inserted in the Bill last week and to give the Minister absolute discretion to introduce the section when she wishes, in consultation with her colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, rather than railroading in a Government amendment negating the section in question. I ask her to rethink this and not to use the Government's majority in the way it is normally used because I believe there is considerable public support for making sure that guardianship arrangements are part and parcel of the civil registration code. I make that plea to the Minister even at this late stage.

Before I call Senator McCarthy to respond to amendment No. 1, does the Minister wish to reply?

Do I understand that other Senators who wish to speak on the amendment cannot do so?

No. Latitude was allowed because the Senator sought clarification. The Minister may reply if she wishes.

There are a number of issues. First, the issue of guardianship is not defined as a life event. That may be disputed. It is an important event, but it is not a life event. I have indicated that I will encourage my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to introduce a register in the courts because that is where the court orders are available and there is no point having two different registers.

The Senator spoke about guardianship in the context of unmarried parents. Guardianship is also an issue for people who are separated, divorced, previously married and so on. It is also a matter for the courts to determine in very difficult and often tragic circumstances. Equated to that is the aspect, on which I differ from the Senator, of marriage and guardianship. Marriage entails joint custody. Therefore, guardianship is an issue that does not arise——

I never referred to that. I am talking about unmarried mothers.

——except in circumstances where people are separated, divorced or whatever. This is the best way, administratively and every other way, to deal with the issue of guardianship. I am not against the public pronouncement of guardianship. I feel this is best suited to the courts. On the negating of amendment No. 28, as the Senator is aware in his mischievous little way of proceeding with that wry smile——

It is nothing mischievous.

The amendment reflected something that did not exist in the first place. The previous amendment would have to have indicated that there would be a register of guardianship. The Senator's amendment would have reflected what he would like to see within that guardianship register. As the register does not exist, then it would in itself be negated. It is on that basis that we are pursuing this amendment once again.

I concur with Senator Brian Hayes. The Minister's response is inappropriate to say the least. It is a sad day not alone for this House but for democracy in general if the Minister persists with this course of action as she quite evidently plans to. There were many valid calls for a system of guardianship registration to be introduced and this is a retrograde step. The Minister has been congratulated quite rightly for introducing this legislation. I am of the view that there are situations and there have been opportunities which could have been taken up by the Minister to improve this legislation and to create better law and a better system of registration overall.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I will clarify the procedure on Report Stage of a Bill. A Senator may only speak once on Report Stage before the Minister is called upon to reply. Only the proposer of the amendment can contribute after the Minister has replied. I hope that is clear. We did bend the rules a little.

On a point of order, if a number of amendments are grouped, we may speak to that group.

Yes, before the Minister replies. A Senator may speak once before the Minister replies.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 15, line 38, after "State" to insert "or to which section 26 or 27 applies".

The register of births covers all children born in the State and there are two additional cases of children born outside the State, those children born to Irish citizens permanently living abroad where there is no system of registration or where if there is, a birth certificate may not be available; children born on Irish vessels coming to or from the State or born to members of the Garda Síochána or Defence Forces serving abroad.

The provisions for registration of foreign births are created by sections 26 and 27 of the Bill but in the Bill as published, neither of these provisions applies to stillbirths. Following an amendment by the Labour Party in the Lower House, the Minister introduced an amendment to permit the registration of foreign stillbirths in a similar manner to the registration of foreign births. In attempting to explain this earlier, I succeeded in confusing all and sundry. The position here is quite simple. Section 13(1)(a) refers to “a register of all births occurring in the State or to which section 26 or 27 applies (which shall be known and is referred to in this Act, as the register of births),”. There is provision in sections 26 and 27 for the registration of stillbirths, however if this amendment is not agreed to, it makes a nonsense of the amendment taken in the Lower House because the words “in the State” have not been amended in section 13(1)(b). I feel very strongly that this is an amendment that will increase and improve the ability of the Bill to create good law.

I second the amendment.

There is still a confusion on the part of the Senator on what was decided in the Lower House. The section provides for the establishment of registers of births, stillbirths, adoptions and foreign adoptions, deaths, marriages, decrees of divorce and decrees of nullity of marriage. Sections 26 and 27 provide for the registration of certain births and stillbirths to Irish citizens domiciled outside the State where there is no system of registration of births or where copies of certificates cannot be obtained. These sections provide for the recording and registration of certain other births occurring outside the State.

I understand the purpose of the Senator's amendment is to mean that stillbirths should be treated in a similar manner to births. My view is that sections 26(2) and 27(6) meet the requirements of the amendment proposed by the Senator. In my view, what the Senator wants to establish has been established in sections 26(2) and 27(6). I do not disagree with the Senator but in my view, what the Senator wishes has been adequately covered by the amendment I accepted in the Lower House. It would serve no purpose to accept a further amendment.

I agree with the Minister that provision is made in sections 26 and 27. However, to give effect to that, section 13(1)(b) must be amended to include the same wording as section 13(1)(a), namely after “State” to insert “or to which section 26 or 27 applies”. If this amendment is not accepted, the anomaly is quite obvious. The Bill in itself becomes contradictory which, to say the least, is bad law. The implication in the two sections would be that stillbirths could only be registered in the State as opposed to the system of foreign registration or registration of foreign stillbirths. More significant confusion could arise as to which register of foreign stillbirths registrations should be entered on. There are separate births and stillbirths registers and under section 13 the stillbirths register is confined to the State. It might be argued that a foreign stillbirth should be registered on the births register.

If the wording in this amendment is not accepted, it will make a nonsense of section 13(1)(a). The sole intention of this amendment is to improve the Bill from that viewpoint. As the Minister has quite correctly said, the provision exists in sections 26 and 27 but if the wording is not included in section 13(1)(b), it contradicts the wording of section 13(1)(a), thus leading to bad law. The contrast is there for all to see.

Section 13 refers to sections 26 and 27 but the wording is not there with respect to this issue. It is inherently contradictory and I believe it will lead to a degree of confusion as to the correct register to be used. The Minister needs to accept this amendment. Initially the Bill did not provide for this but as the amendment was accepted in the Lower House, such provision exists. In order to give full effect to it, technically speaking, section 13(1)(b) will require to be amended accordingly.

In order to be clear, the Attorney General has advised me that the Bill contains provisions to do exactly what is desired. Subsections (1) and (5) apply to the stillbirth of a child as they apply to the birth of a child. Accordingly, references in those subsections to birth or births shall be construed as including references to stillbirth or stillbirths, respectively. This clarifies what the Senator wishes to be clarified under section 13(1)(b), namely that the register will include all births occurring in the State, births and stillbirths. This subsection clarifies that when this legislation refers to births, it equally refers to stillbirths. I hope that clarifies the situation, given that I am not a lawyer.

The wording——

It shall be construed in the above manner.

——"or to which sections 26 or 27 applies," confines section 13(1)(b) to within the State and the registration of foreign stillbirths is not covered, in terms of the literal meaning of the amendment.

It is. Section 27(6) deals with that issue; it states "occurring outside the State." Section 13 just deals with the issue of registers.

That is correct. As the interpretation of section 13(1)(b) now stands, it refers to a register in the State. However, if the wording, including the references to section 26 or 27, is applied, it does exactly what the Minister for Social and Family Affairs has just said and will inextricably link the wording of section 13(1)(b) with sections 26 and 27. The literal meaning of section 13(1)(b) is “in the State” and does not extend to outside it. Unless the reference is there, it does not necessarily link it to sections 26 and 27.

The entire section, including the amendment, refers to recording registrations of certain other births occurring outside the State. Section 13 covers births in the State while section 27 covers births outside the State. As that is construed as including reference to stillbirths and births respectively, it covers the issue the Senator is raising. Section 26(2) of the Bill states:

Subsection (1) applies to the stillbirth of a child as it applies to the birth of a child and, accordingly, references in that subsection to birth and births shall be construed as including references to stillbirth and stillbirths, respectively.

Sections 26(2) and 27(6) indicate clearly that when speaking of a birth of a child it shall be construed as including the stillbirth of a child and that there is no differential in both the registration of births and stillbirths.

I do not wish to be pedantic on this issue, but as a result of accepting an amendment in the Lower House on section 13(1)(a), section 13(1)(b) is rendered incorrect. It strictly confines, as the literal meaning interprets, a register of stillbirths occurring in the State. If the same logic that applies in section 13(1)(a) is applied to section 13(1)(b), then it is exactly as the Minister has said that by including the words of this amendment “or to which section 26 and 27 apply”. It concerns the literal interpretation of that section. The Minister accepted a Labour Party amendment on Committee Stage in the Dáil. The change this amendment proposes renders section 13(1)(b) incorrect. There are two similar events. One finishes “in the State” and the other “of to which sections 26 and 27 applies”. It is a literal interpretation. The Bill will return to the Lower House and the Minister should look at accepting this technical amendment. Otherwise, it will lead to bad law because section 13(1)(b) is inherently contradictory as it currently stands.

I do not agree with that determination because section 13(1)(b) states:

a register of all stillbirths occurring in the State (which shall be known and referred to in this Act as the register of stillbirths).

Section 13(1)(a) of the Bill states:

a register of all births occurring in the State or to which section 26 or 27 applies (which shall be known, and is referred to in this Act, as the register of births).

The Senator is attempting to establish a register of foreign stillbirths, whereas section 27 deals with the recording and registration of births outside the State. Births on this occasion, because the definition has been clarified in two subsections, shall be construed as referring to stillbirth as well. It is more than adequately covered on the basis of the recording of that information.

Is the amendment being pressed? I have allowed much latitude on this, Senator McCarthy.

I appreciate the latitude, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. I know what the Minister is attempting to state and I agree with her in a funny way.

We are all agreed then.

If this amendment is not accepted, the interpretation of section 13(1)(b) begins and ends with “the State”. The Minister accepted a similar amendment in the Lower House and it basically renders the Government amendment redundant and nonsensical and will lead to bad law. It is the literal interpretation of section 13(1)(b) that is at issue. It is not so much the mechanics of the implications of section 13(1)(b), but the literal interpretation that will lead to bad law as it stands.

I am not able to respond to the Senator's arguments anymore. I have exhausted mymodus operandi on this issue.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 29.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.

Níl

  • Bohan, Eddie.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lydon, Donal J.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Cummins and McCarthy; Níl, Senators Minihan and Moylan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:

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

The purpose of this amendment is to make the Bill more user-friendly by providing for people who cannot attend the registrar or when both people cannot attend. It reflects technological advances because today some of this information can be processed electronically or by other methods which do not require people to be present to register a birth. This is more realistic and more compatible with Department policy, if the advertising campaign is to be believed. I appeal to the Minister to look favourably on this amendment.

I second the amendment. We do not want people blocking places if there is no need for them to be there.

I did not quite grasp that comment. We already discussed this matter extensively. When the time comes for Senator McCarthy he certainly will be most vociferous in ensuring he participates in the registration of a future voter and will rise to his obligations as a parent, as many of us have done already. Given that the registration of a child's birth is such an important life event, it is the duty of the parents to do it. It is not too onerous for the parents to do this on the basis that the large maternity hospitals will now facilitate it, moments after the birth if necessary. A child will now be able to be registered in any of the registrars' offices. I appreciate that children may not be born in the place where the parents may reside.

If we allow this to be optional, it would undermine the importance of the registration of a child and would take away from what is a very important event. The restrictions that existed heretofore were an inconvenience to many people. We have now extended the time in which it is possible to register the birth of a child, which should facilitate the registration. The legislation provides that a qualified informant can facilitate a person who cannot register a child due to ill health. We have done our best to facilitate any difficulties that might arise.

On this basis, we should not water down the requirement for the parents to be present to register the child. I doubt whether there have been many requests for the parents not to be there except in the exceptional circumstances addressed in the legislation.

The Minister's reply is noted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 20, after line 45, to insert the following:

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

While the Minister gave a satisfactory response to this issue on Committee Stage, some Senators still have some concerns.

I second the amendment. I have concerns about the provision and I seek clarification from the Minister. A child born on a vessel might end up being registered in the place from which the vessel departed, for example, Cherbourg. Is there any occasion on which a child born in Irish waters on a foreign vessel cannot be registered as born in Ireland, for example, if the child is born coming into Dublin Port on a foreign vessel? I am not clear about section 27. Is a child born in Irish waters on a foreign registered boat always registered in Ireland? Is a child born on an Irish vessel outside Irish waters always registered as being born in Ireland?

I want to make sure I clarify this matter.

The Minister better not be at sea on this matter.

This is why I want to be certain. Where the birth of a child born on a foreign registered vessel in Irish waters is registered depends on the domicile of the parents. One reason we are anxious to have this legislation passed is that a child born on an Irish vessel will be registered as Irish.

Regardless of the domicile of the parents.

Pregnant women should be encouraged to travel in Irish vessels.

As the Senator will understand, coming from the medical profession, the last place I would like to give birth is on an Irish registered vessel or aeroplane.

The Minister has clarified the point for me.

This is the crux of one of the concerns expressed to us. We never had such a facility before.

I tabled this amendment so that Senator Henry could ask her question. On Committee Stage, I pointed out a case where a child was born in an ambulance and the registrar used a distance between two towns as the place of birth. The Minister pointed out that the birth certificate can be amended afterwards which is satisfactory and the amendment was withdrawn on that basis.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 22, line 16, to delete "The father of a child" and substitute "A man".

I thank the Minister for helping me to understand the rights of alleged and unmarried fathers in the context of this section. On Committee Stage she clarified the matter very eloquently as follows. A father in Irish law is presumed to be a father if he is married to a mother and they have a child. However, he is not presumed to be a father outside wedlock unless he can prove he is the father or if the unmarried mother accepts it. Does the Minister agree?

Yes. In the case of a married person, the man who is married to the mother must declare otherwise.

I am addressing cases where parents are not married. I thought I was being helpful to the Minister and I will try again. Section 22(1) as currently drafted states:

The father of a child who was not married to the mother of the child at the date of his or her birth or at any time during the period of 10 months before such birth shall not be required to give information under this Act about the birth.

My amendment proposes to delete "The father of a child" and substitute "A man" so the section would state:

A man who was not married to the mother of the child at the date of his or her birth or at any time during the period of 10 months before such birth shall not be required to give information under this Act about the birth.

While I believe this clarifies the section, there could be some difficulties as has been pointed out by the noises off-stage. We need clarity on this matter. Regardless of whether this amendment is agreed, the big issue, as pointed out on Committee Stage, is the opt out clause. Following the enactment of this Bill, we need to send a positive signal to unmarried parents that fathers should have their names registered on birth certificates. While the vast majority of fathers do so, it is nowhere near 100%, which should be achievable.

Articles 8.1 and 8.2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child indicate we have entered clear international commitments to do what we can to ensure that children born outside wedlock know their parents and particularly their fathers. I would hate to see some men use this section as an opt out clause. While I know the Minister is of the same mind, I ask her to reply to my helpful amendment, which I thought would clear up the matter before the experts loaded in their advice. We must listen to them also.

I second the amendment.

It has been brought to my attention that this wording is not the same as the wording in section 49 of the Status of Children Act 1987, which states "no person shall as father of the child be required to give information concerning the birth". Would it not be a good idea to keep the wording the same? The Bill is a very good one, but in these sections there are differences in wording compared to previous Acts which contain similar provisions.

I accept the Senator's point, but if the change resulted in the wording, "A man who was not married to the mother of the child at the date of his or her birth," this would give rights or exemptions to any man. There is no presumption of relationship if the term is changed from "the father" to "a man". While I accept what the Senator is trying to achieve, this amendment does not achieve it.

Interestingly, under current law there is no such presumption.

One is "a person" unless one is married. There is a presumption in law that one is the father if one is married to the mother, except when that presumption is taken away. I have thought long and hard about this and I have been convinced by quite a number of arguments. We have discussed this many times. I would like to see the Senator's objectives being met but how should we go about it? We are talking, first, about the right of a child to know who his father is, and second, about encouraging the two parents to register. The more I thought about this and the more questions I asked, the more complicated it became. I see where the Senator is coming from, but Senator Cox is right — introducing the word "man" would not have the intended effect because of the current presumption in law.

I considered the issue of the compulsory naming of a father and the registration of a father's particulars. Sometimes, unless we have all the facts we cannot make valuable judgments. In the birth registrations of January 2004, for example, in Erinville Hospital in Cork there was 91% registration of fathers; in Limerick Regional Maternity Hospital there was 93% registration; in Tralee General Hospital there was 95% registration; and in Sligo General Hospital there was 94%. This indicates high participation of fathers in the registration of their children.

Are there statistics for Dublin?

I do not think I have the figures for Dublin here.

Do the Minister's statistics cover every maternity hospital?

I have been told that the Dublin hospitals are a black spot in this regard.

Let us go beyond this and imagine it is compulsory for the father to register. What difficulties would result from this? It would put an onus on the State to determine paternity. One can imagine the mess that would create. Also,prima facie evidence of paternity would be required to register a birth where the parents are not married. Hospitals, GPs and midwives could not act as qualified informants as they would not be in a position to name the father. If they did name the father without the necessary evidence it would leave them and the State open to litigation. As Members know, we facilitated registration through the qualified informant.

Surrogacy and donor insemination would present particular difficulties. In cases of under age pregnancies, incest and rape, if the father was named the State would be obliged to take criminal proceedings. I have come to the conclusion that all we can do as Members of either House is to actively encourage fathers to put their names down on the birth register. If there is anything we can do, in terms of providing information, to encourage fathers to register we will consider that. We have done this on the basis of facilitating people as much as possible in registration.

The reason we do not have the figures requested by Senator Henry is that we only have statistics for hospitals in which there is electronic registration, which has not yet been set up in Dublin. Once that is available, I will forward the figures to any Member who is interested.

Although I agree that Senator Brian Hayes's aim is laudable, this amendment may not be the right way of dealing with the matter. This is an example of how a number of issues raised on the floor of the House, although very sensible, could lead us into some strange and difficult legal tangles. On the basis of the information I have I feel that compelling fathers to register may not be the best way forward. Rather, encouragement, not only within the registration process but also within any other process such as parenting, is the way forward.

I understand the difficulty with the lack of definition in the phrase "a man". Perhaps substituting "Adam" would be an improvement.

What happens if Adam becomes Eve?

Sometimes Eve becomes Adam, if we are to include transsexual relationships. There is an interesting argument about married couples. There is a presumption that the husband is automatically the father of his wife's child, but this may not always be the case. Some people have even suggested that husbands should also be required to declare their paternity.

I understand the dilemma faced by the Government, but I do not want section 22, which runs counter to the spirit of the universal declaration on the rights of the child, cited by a small minority of unmarried men who want to opt out of playing a full role in the lives of their children. Every child in the State, whether born in or out of wedlock, has a right to know who his or her parents are. However, it must be remembered that those parents, male and female, have the responsibility of raising the child. We have a responsibility to say that publicly, despite our reservations about this section.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 22, line 17, to delete "the" where it firstly occurs and substitute "a".

I propose to withdraw this amendment. If we were to refer to Adam as a man, it would require that we insert a reference to "a child", as against "the child".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, not moved.
Government amendment No. 13:
To delete the text inserted in page 42 between lines 11 and 12 by Amendment No. 28 in Committee.

This amendment has already been discussed with amendment No. 1.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 17.

  • Bohan, Eddie.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lydon, Donal J.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Cummins and McCarthy.
Amendment declared carried.

As amendment No. 13 has been carried, amendment No. 14 cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 14 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 49, line 40, after "divorce" to insert "or makes an order recognising a foreign decree of divorce as being valid in the State".

This amendment provides for a comprehensive list of divorce decrees to cover circumstances where the court may accept a foreign order as being valid in this country.

I second the amendment.

We have had the opportunity to discuss this topic. Section 59 provides for the registration of decrees of divorce and nullity of marriages granted in the State. The civil registration service, except in specific instances regarding births, stillbirths and deaths, records actual vital events occurring to persons within the State. Events occurring in foreign jurisdictions fall to be recorded in the country in which they occur. The provision to record all decrees of divorce and nullity granted by the courts will provide a complete record of all such events from a future date. The Courts Service will act as registrar in respect of all future decrees of divorce and civil nullity. These are considered a vital event as they have serious legal and social implications for the status of individuals. The provision will facilitate persons granted a divorce in the State who wish to remarry. In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to accept these amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 not moved.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 50, line 23, after "person" to insert "concerned, as the case may be,".

The purpose of this amendment is to insert after the word "person" the words "concerned, as the case may be". This is intended to improve the drafting of the Bill. It is in line with my previous comments on making the legislation reader friendly.

I second the amendment.

The section provides for the introduction of a new appeals system to provide a formal means of redress regarding the registration of life events. The addition of the extra wording as suggested is considered unnecessary. It might in fact confuse, rather than clarify the matter. I am satisfied that the drafting of the provisions in the section complies with best practice. As a consequence, I am not in a position to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 51, line 40, to delete "may" and substitute "shall be entitled".

I propose this amendment because of the large number of people here who may refuse to allow people to look through registers which might be important to them. I know the Minister and Senator Mansergh said that the word "may" will be taken in law as meaning "must". We can compare this with section 35 which uses the phrase "shall be entitled to search". Those who have charge of the registers have a great deal of power. I fear that if we do not include the words "shall be entitled to", we will end up with people being officious and denying others the right to make searches. It is not a big issue to ask for the words "shall be entitled to" to be included.

I second the amendment.

Section 61(1)(a) provides for the searching of indexes to the registers under such conditions as may be determined by an tArd-Chláraitheoir. The provision of this section will not pretend to prohibit the searching of the indices to the registers. The purpose of the provision is to allow for the effective organisation, management and future development of the service. On that basis I am not in a position to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 20 not moved.
Government amendment No. 21:
In page 52, line 40, before "the applicant" to insert "if".

This section provides for searches in the register of stillbirths. The amendment is to provide clarity in understanding the provisions of the section.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 22 to 32, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 35 is an alternative to amendment No. 33. Amendments Nos. 33 and 35 will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 65, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:

"Forename(s) and birth surname of father of deceased.

Forename(s) and birth surname of mother of deceased.".

I am delighted the Minister has agreed to accept this proposal. I thank the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations for its work and observations on the Bill. The certificate will be more comprehensive as a result. I commend the Minister on accepting our amendment.

I second the amendment. Genealogists of the present and future generations will be thankful to the Minister.

Contrary to what was said about me, I listen to everything said. Part 5 of the First Schedule sets out the required particulars to be registered in respect of a death. Having considered the views put forward by Senators on Committee Stage, I decided to bring forward my own amendment.

A key concern of the modernisation programme is to ensure that all deaths are registered. To address this, a new death registration form which combines the medical certificate of cause of death and a death registration form has been introduced. I am also conscious that the State should not place any additional burdens on a family or next of kin at the time of bereavement. That said, I recognise the importance of information to genealogists and family researchers at home and abroad. Having been convinced of the merits of including the forename or names and birth surnames of the parents of the deceased in the death register, I brought forward the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 34 not moved.
Government amendment No. 35:
In page 66, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:
"Forename(s) and birth surname of father of deceased.
Forename(s) and birth surname of mother of deceased.".
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister and her officials for the work and effort in communication in which they engaged with all those involved with the legislation. As we said on Second Stage, this is important legislation reforming some laws that date back hundreds of years. Unfortunately, because of a misunderstanding at the time, certain things were alluded to in regard to the amendment which the Government changed again today, which was lost in a vote on Committee Stage. It is unclear as to how one vote can be won and another can be lost. If the Opposition won——

That matter is not relevant to the discussion.

Given that it was raised in the context of the Bill, it is appropriate for me to comment. I am only responding to the comments made during Report Stage.

I refer the Senator to Standing Order 56A.

I accept the advice of the Chair. It has been an interesting debate, particularly on Second and Committee Stages, which dealt with societal issues of parental responsibility, especially that of fathers, whether they are men, Adams or whoever. I hope this discussion will continue and we will see a change in the culture surrounding parenthood, to which I look forward.

I join Senator Cox in thanking the Minister for presenting this excellent Bill to the House. I hope the amendments that were accepted will improve the Bill further. It is regrettable that the democratic wishes of last week were not accepted, but I am pleased the Minister accepted some Opposition amendments. The Bill is important and the debate has been a healthy one to which speakers made a significant contribution. They spoke most eloquently in regard to a number of amendments. I look forward to the Bill serving us for as long as the legislation it replaces, going back over 100 years. I compliment the Minister.

I join in the glowing tributes paid to the Minister and her officials. It was a complex and sensitive Bill and the Minister deserves to be congratulated on its introduction. I still hold strong views on section 13(1)(b). I shall go to my grave maintaining I was correct in that regard.

We will register that.

The legislation is a step in the right direction.

Discussion on the Bill gave rise to a more serious issue — how the House does its business. Three weeks ago a technical flaw was discovered on Committee Stage of the An Bord Bia Bill. The Minister, Deputy Walsh, agreed to accept the amendment but informed me that he could not accept it in the House and it would be dealt with in the Lower House. This gives rise to a broad range of questions in regard to that Bill. However, I thank the Minister and her officials for the many happy hours of debate we had on this Bill.

When one looks at the list of Acts which have been repealed one sees how important the legislation is and the Minister and her officials deserve great praise in regard to it. Naturally, like Senator McCarthy, there are also things I would like changed. I was sorry that ethical bodies such as the Association of Irish Humanists were left out along the way as solemnisers of marriage. I never worked out why they were put to one side because they seemed to think they would get in there.

The Minister clarified an enormous amount in the debate. I am still not sure, because the Minister said she did not know at the end of Committee Stage, why the particulars of marriage are not entered in the Bill in the First Schedule. I suppose those are things that we will understand in time. I congratulate the Minister and her officials on this enormous body of work in straightening out and clarifying for us many difficult areas.

As the Minister said, we gave her questions to bring to other colleagues as they did not fall within her area of responsibility. I look forward to hearing from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the near future.

I congratulate the Minister on the way she brought the legislation through the House. It enhances the credibility of the democratic process and of the Seanad when, as a result of debate, some amendments for which good arguments have been made are accepted. In a spirit of cross-party co-operation, and because he asked me to, I thank the Minister on my behalf and that of Senator Brian Hayes and Senator Henry for accepting the amendment at the end. It will enhance the genealogical aspect of register. I congratulate the Minister on overcoming hesitations on that issue.

It is a pity none of the speakers live in my constituency. I thank the Acting Chairman and the staff of the House for facilitating us with the debate. I particularly thank the Members who participated in the consideration of the Bill. I wholeheartedly agree that the process by which we examine our legislation is forthcoming. It gives an opportunity to enjoy good debate and banter and to put across a number of important points of view.

I am happy to take on board the considerations and concerns of both Houses. I hope we have been able to produce better legislation. I thank my officials who have spent a number of years on the preparation of the legislation. It has taken much consideration, consultation and amendment prior to its publication.

I am sure that whichever Minister amends this legislation, he or she will do so on the basis of change in society. Parts of the legislation we are amending date from 1844; I hope it does not take as long again. We are better to have had the discussions and deliberations that have taken place in the House.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 4.50 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.