This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 118, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration," the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For Senators' convenience, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed grouping of the amendments to Senators. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matter that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil.
Gender Recognition Bill 2014 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages
This is an historic and happy day. I am delighted to have the opportunity to be here on this auspicious occasion as we bring the Gender Recognition Bill through the final legislative step prior to its enactment.
Senators will agree that we have all learned a huge amount in the past few years about the lived experience of transgender people in our communities. We have gained this insight as a result of meeting with transgender people, parents of transgender children and the organisations which represent them. I am deeply pleased that we are now in a position to make a meaningful and positive contribution to that lived experience by providing for formal legal recognition of the preferred gender of transgender people. The fact that the number of people who will be directly affected by the provisions of this legislation will be quite small is unimportant. What is important is the statement it sends out about our maturity as a people and a society, mirroring the positive message that was sent by people in Ireland through the recent marriage equality referendum. Regardless of how few people are directly affected, this legislation carries huge significance for each individual involved and for their families, friends and communities.
It is appropriate that I formally thank and congratulate my colleague at the Department of Social Protection, the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, who took on a huge amount of the work after I was appointed Tánaiste. He has invested a great amount of energy and commitment in bringing this Bill through this Chamber and through the Dáil. Before he addresses the specifics of the Bill, it is interesting to reflect briefly on the journey we have all taken in bringing this legislation onto the Statute Book.
The lack of legal recognition for transgender people is a long-standing issue. As far back as 2008, the High Court declared that the State was in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights in this regard. On the first day I addressed the Seanad about this legislation, I paid tribute to Dr. Lydia Foy and I do so again today. Dr. Foy has just joined us in the Visitors Gallery. I should say the distinguished Visitors Gallery because the people who are here today are very distinguished by the campaigning they have done, particularly Dr. Foy.
In our programme for Government, we included a commitment that transgender persons would be provided with legal recognition. In July 2011, I published the report of the gender recognition advisory group, GRAG. That report was an important step on the road but it is instructive how far we have come since then.
Following on a period of consultation, we published the general scheme of the gender recognition Bill in mid-2013. The general scheme was subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, which published its report in January 2014. I believe this was a positive process which added much to our knowledge of the issues involved.
Following the committee's report, I brought the matter back to the Cabinet and the revised general scheme of the Bill was published in June last year. The work of drafting the legislation was accelerated and prioritised and we were then in a position to introduce the Bill in this Chamber in January this year.
Some key aspects of the committee's report are reflected in the Bill before us, for instance, the use of the term "preferred gender", as well as provision for persons aged between 16 and 18 years. Other changes to the Bill have reflected the debates in both Houses since the start of the year. I was particularly pleased to be able to secure agreement at the Cabinet on the most significant change of all - the introduction of a system of self-declaration.
The fundamental concept underlying this legislation, which is relatively simple and has remained so throughout this whole process, is that where a person has been issued with a gender recognition certificate by the Department of Social Protection, that person's preferred gender will be formally and legally recognised for all purposes, including dealings with the State, public bodies and civil and commercial society.
The legislation is long overdue. Getting to this point has been a difficult and challenging undertaking due to the complex and sensitive issues involved. I thank everyone who has contributed to the process. I thank my colleagues in the Labour Party, particularly Senators Marie Moloney and Ivana Bacik. I thank those who campaigned on this issue, such as Senators Katherine Zappone and Jillian van Turnhout, and our colleagues in government in Fine Gael. I am conscious that right from the beginning the Independent Senators and Fianna Fáil were extremely supportive and it was a genuine example of Parliament, in particular this House, being used as a forum for a wide cross-party discussion in which we reached agreement in the best interests not only of the transgender community but of Irish society. It reflects a genuine commitment on the part of the Government to enabling transgender persons to be recognised for all purposes in their preferred gender.
As I have to attend the Dáil shortly, because of the change of arrangements, I will ask my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, to take over at this point.
I thank the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, and welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys.
Group one, on which the Tánaiste spoke, relates to the subject matter of amendments Nos. 1, 4 to 6, inclusive, and 16 to 18, inclusive. As it is technically Report Stage, Senators can only speak once on each grouping. The only other point I would make is that it should not be a Second Stage speech.
Will the Minister of State speak first?
I will make a brief contribution.
As the Minister of State wishes.
I thank the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, for the work that she has done throughout this Bill. I am delighted to be back in the Seanad today as we move towards the enactment of what is a ground-breaking and quite complex human rights legislation. It has been the target at every Stage to try to get this legislation through both Houses by the close of this session and we are getting to the finish line just in time.
Complex legal and constitutional issues have been raised at every Stage. This Bill has been considered by Government on no fewer than nine separate occasions since mid-2013. That is a reflection of the engagement that has taken place.
During the process, it has been my privilege to engage with many who are in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery today on many of the issues. I have had conversations with members of the transgender community and their parents and it has been informative and educational.
It would be fair to say, therefore, that this Bill has been significantly reshaped since it was first presented to this House and I want to pay tribute to all the Senators who have engaged so intensely in the development of this truly important piece of legislation. I truly believe the debate we had when I was in the House several months ago has really shaped the Bill.
Among the key changes introduced to the Bill following its passage through the pre-legislative scrutiny process and the subsequent debates in this House and in Dáil Éireann are: the introduction of a self-declaration model for applicants aged over 18 years; using the term "preferred gender" as opposed to "acquired gender" within the text of the Bill; providing a route to recognition for those between the ages of 16 and 18 years; providing for a formal review process, which, it was argued so well in this House, should report within ten to 12 months; and aligning legislation in relation to the issuing of passports to transgender persons. All of these issues were of keen interest to this House and I have no hesitation in saying that the legislation has been greatly enhanced as a consequence of the debates in it.
Before we turn to the various groups of amendments in accordance with the direction of the Cathaoirleach, I want to address briefly one key issue. Senators will be aware that the Bill, as it stands, continues to require that an applicant for gender recognition must be single. I had hoped that it would have been possible to amend this aspect of the Bill but I am not, as yet, in a position to do so. As I stated in the Dáil, we are constrained by a constitutional issue in this regard. We are obliged to await the outcome of the Court of Appeal proceedings on the result of the recent marriage equality referendum before we can act. We simply cannot legislate in this area in advance of the court's decision. I have already given a clear commitment that should the Court of Appeal uphold the result of the referendum, the appropriate legislative changes will be included in the marriage Bill. As it stands, this Bill will cater for the vast majority of transgender persons who wish to have their preferred gender formally recognised and who wish to obtain a birth certificate in their preferred gender.
No doubt the legislation will be subject to change in the future as we gain experience of the operation of the gender recognition process. The formal review process which now forms part of the Bill will be robust and challenging and will highlight any areas which require further changes. I am happy also that there is work being commenced through the Department of Education and Skills to explore with all concerned how transgender issues can be addressed within the schools system and I thank the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, for taking that work on. A meeting has already taken place and she has been in contact to hold another meeting in early September. That will be important work.
I will now address the amendments which have been passed by the Dáil and are before the House today. There were a total of 21 amendments to the Bill in the Dáil and they relate to sections 9 to 12, inclusive, and 14 to 16, inclusive, and to section 38, which deals exclusively with amendments to the Passports Act 2008. They are grouped under four headings, the first of which deals with amendments providing for self-declaration by an applicant aged 18 years or over for a gender recognition certificate by removing the requirement for a supporting medical statement from a medical practitioner.
Does the Chair want me to go through the groups or group one?
We will deal with group one first. The amendments are amendments Nos. 1, 4 to 6, inclusive, and 16 to 18, inclusive. We will go to the Opposition first.
I welcome the Minister of State back and acknowledge his tenacity, commitment and perseverance to get what he considers to be the best possible Bill at this stage for the adult transgender community.
As Broden Giambrone, director of TENI, wrote to me in an e-mail yesterday, after all this time Lydia's 22-year journey has finally come to an end. I welcome Dr. Lydia Foy and want to begin by acknowledging her courage and staying power, the work of Mr. Michael Farrell and FLAC in supporting her, TENI, BeLonGTo, TransParenCI and other advocates and self-advocates for their engagement with us, parliamentarians, such as the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, Deputy Joanna Tuffy, the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, and, of course, the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton.
We welcome them all, and it is fantastic to have them here with us. In particular, I acknowledge the presence of the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton. She stated she was not willing to draft a Bill on the basis of the prime recommendations of the gender recognition advisory group, which reported soon after she became Minister for Social Protection. Instead, she began a long consultation process with the sector and its academic, legal and law-maker advocates to produce a Bill which she hoped would be human rights-compliant and progressive. This was with the support of her officials who are here with us today.
The Bill before us in its final form has travelled a very long journey, to which the Tánaiste and the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, have referred, picking up some significant progressive elements along the way, and I acknowledge this. However, the Government has resisted incorporating other elements, particularly with regard to young people, which will place the Act out of step with where the people are - in this case, our treasured young people and their parents. The other arena in gender recognition law with which we have not engaged is the restriction of the definition of preferred gender to male or female and the exclusion of a third non-binary category for those who do not or cannot identify as one of the binary genders, male or female. Although it is a great day for the transgender community in Ireland, and we all acknowledge this, we still have not embraced the full reality of the lives of transgender people, and this is what law-makers should do. It is hugely regrettable, and I will continue to advocate on their behalf long after the Bill becomes law.
The first group of amendments provides for self-declaration by transgender people, which is a remarkable achievement of the legislation. In 2013, as the Minister of State is aware, I published a gender recognition Bill with the expert support of the TENI legal working group, to which Dr. Fergus Ryan made a significant contribution. It was supported by draughtsmanship from members of the public interest law alliance of FLAC. That Bill provided for a self-declaration model, and we considered it to be a benchmark Bill for the Government, as it was published prior to the heads of the Government's Bill. This model was not accepted in the Government's Bill originally. When the Bill left the Seanad on 17 February 2015, the Government even resisted adding a person's GP to the definition of "primary treating physician" for the purpose of certifying an individual's gender recognition.
When the Bill was last with us in the Seanad, it was a long distance from self-declaration. Even though, on that day, I produced in the Seanad a letter from the Irish College of General Practitioners supporting my amendment to include GPs in the list of primary treating medical practitioners, the Government still refused on the basis that more consultation needed to take place with representative organisations of GPs. With the help of Dr. Philip Crowley, an incredible ally and friend of the trans community, before the Bill went to the Dáil I was sent a copy of a letter written to the Tánaiste by the Irish Medical Organisation, which stated that it too recommended the inclusion of GPs as medical practitioners who could support the certification process of trans people.
As we all recall, the Bill went through Second Stage in the Dáil in early March, and paused for Committee and Remaining Stages to take place after the marriage equality referendum. This was when the extraordinary movement on the self-declaratory model occurred in the Government. The Government has reached the summit of best international practice in this regard and it is a fine achievement.
I particularly welcome that the wording now used in Government's Bill closely matches that used in the template statutory declaration in my Bill, which spoke of the person's settled and solemn intention formed after careful consideration to live permanently as a person of the preferred gender. I understand from information provided by the Department of Social Protection that the Bill, once enacted, will come into operation by the end of the summer. I note that the template statutory declaration contained in my Bill might be useful to the Government and the Department at this stage and they should use it and adapt it as they see fit.
I will not make a Second Stage speech, as we have done so on numerous occasions. We have spoken on the Bill at length. I add my voice to the welcome for Dr. Foy, among others, in the Visitors Gallery. I have made new friends in the past year while working on the Bill. In particular, I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, who worked closely with me on a number of items, the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, and the officials. I want to say this now in case we do not have time at the end.
This is the most progressive legislation I have worked on since I came to the Seanad. It is great to see that sometimes the minority benefits from legislation. I can see by the smiles of some of the people in the Visitors Gallery that they are happy with this. Of course, it is not perfect, and of course people would like to see other provisions in the Bill. I am very disappointed that we cannot deal with forced divorce today, which is something on which I worked. It is out of our hands and is now in the courts. I only hope and pray that it will not take two and a half years in the courts as the case concerning the legislation on children did. It is out of our hands and we have no control over it. If it does take two and a half years, I hope that whoever is be in the Chamber and in government will bring forward the amendment to give people peace of mind. People have been fighting for this for years and I hope they will see fit to do this. It shows what parties working together can do. In fairness to everyone here, the Opposition and Independent Senators worked on the Bill to bring forward the best Bill we possibly could.
I very much welcome the amendment to remove the requirement for supporting statements from medical practitioners, which is something on which I worked closely with the Minister of State. I am delighted that the amendment will go through and that such statements will no longer be required. If there is time, I will speak again at the end of the debate, but I wanted to say these few words in case I do not have time to speak later. I am delighted to welcome the Bill.
I welcome the Minister of State, who is a decent man. His heart and intellect are in the right place. The Minister of State indicated that the Bill shows the relevance and value of Seanad Éireann. Many of the amendments accepted and introduced by the Dáil were argued for passionately in this House, and it is a great relief to see them included as a result of action in the Dáil.
I sympathised with the Minister of State when he stated that he had hoped to amend the Bill's requirement for people to be divorced, which is an absolute and utter absurdity. This has been held up by a couple of legal actions. I honestly think that although every citizen has the right to take an action, vexatious actions - these, in my opinion, are two vexatious actions - should be dealt with summarily, as they were in the High Court, and simply swept out of the way. The idea of waiting for two and a half years is an absolute thoroughgoing absurdity. I imagine the two men who took these cases would not feel this should happen. The people have expressed their will massively. Two individuals have sought to frustrate this, and they have not really produced any cogent grounds for so doing. Just to hold up a Bill for this type of malarkey is a complete and utter load of rubbish, but it is a fact and we must face it.
The Minister of State said this was not the end of the matter and that all types of new things would transpire. They have started transpiring. They transpired on my desk, because I received a charming letter from a very interesting and civilised person who drew attention to the situation of people with non-binary identity. With the indulgence of the House, I will mention a few points which are relevant to the discussion on the Bill. In the United States, research has been done which found that approximately one third of transgender people identify as non-binary, either sometimes male and sometimes female or other than male or female. Scottish research suggests that the figure is approximately one in five. US research estimates that the total number of transgender people may be between 0.1% and 0.5% of the population.
If we take the lower estimate, it suggests there are 4,500 transgender people in Ireland of whom approximately 900 may be in this category of non-binary. What the people who describe themselves as non-binary - we are again in the area of self-description - have in common with transgender people is that the gender assigned to them at birth is not the gender they feel enshrines their reality.
According to my correspondent, the lack of a third gender option means that the Bill will continue to deny a basic human right to those of us who cannot identify as male or female - the legal recognition of our existence as the people we are. The Yogiakarta Principle No. 3 deals with legal recognition and provides that states should take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure the procedures exist whereby all Government issued identity papers, which indicate a person's gender-sex, including birth certificates, passports, etc., reflect the person's self defined gender identity. The Minister made the point that this is not an international treaty but rather a series of principles and so on, but my correspondent points to the fact that the introduction to the principles makes it clear that they are not a new agreement but an interpretation of already existing and legally binding agreements.
To those of us who are elderly and whose sexuality has expired on the way, this may seem to be an unusual refinement. It is only in recent days that I heard of this binary situation but, interestingly, a number of other countries have already introduced a third category for gender in state-issued identity documents, and a good example is Australia. Another, in the case of passports, is New Zealand. The Australian Human Rights Commission conducted an in-depth survey of how gender is recorded in state documents and issued guidelines which specify that all state documents can use a third gender option.
I place that before the House but I have to say I am rather exhausted from all this. In my day one was gay, full stop, and that included women and so on. In that regard, now we would need the entire alphabet.
May I recognise the distinguished and wonderful people in the Visitors Gallery? I will single out two because they are heroes who go back generations. I am talking about Dr. Lydia Foy and Michael Farrell, who has been such a noble representative of the legal profession. So often we hear people giving out yards about the legal profession. I know of no finer practitioner than Michael Farrell. Over many years, as a serial litigant, I have benefited from the advice and help, very often on a pro bono basis, of the legal profession.
A meeting was organised by Senator Ivana Bacik in Trinity College Dublin a few days ago and Senator Katherine Zappone's partner, or spouse, Ann Louise Gilligan, eloquently and passionately made that point about people in the legal profession who deserve our heartfelt thanks.
It is always difficult to follow Senator David Norris, but this is a day to celebrate as we see the final passage of the Gender Recognition Bill through the Seanad. I welcome all the visitors in the Visitors Gallery and pay tribute to those who have worked so hard to see this day finally happen, particularly Dr. Lydia Foy and Michael Farrell. I will not say they have worked on this for generations, as Senator Norris suggested - they are both far too young - but I pay tribute to the immense work they have done on this, and the great work that has been done by FLAC, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, TENI, and other organisations.
The group one amendments are particularly significant because they provide for the self-declaration by an applicant, who is 18 years or over, for a gender recognition certificate, and they remove the requirement for a supporting medical statement from a medical practitioner.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House and pay tribute to the immense work he and the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, have done on this Bill. The group one amendments are an indication of the huge amount of work that has gone into it. As the Minister said, there were nine occasions on which this Bill, or variations of it, were discussed at Cabinet and when it was brought before us in the Seanad, this issue of self-determination was addressed in many of the contributions. It is welcome that was taken on board by Government and addressed during the legislation process.
Reference was made to changes in the legislative process. It is a huge strength of the legislative process that a Bill that starts life in one shape and ends up in quite a different and greatly improved shape before us today. The Employment Equality (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill that was before the House last week has become a rather different Bill to the original one that started life in the Seanad two years ago. It is a particular strength of the Seanad that we reshape and improve legislation, and make it more progressive.
TENI has pointed out that the group one amendments give us hugely progressive legislation because it means that with the self-determination process, Ireland will become only the fourth country in the world specifically to introduce legislation based on self-determination. We are at the summit of this sort of legislation. Changes will be made. The fact the Seanad built in a review process is hugely significant because that shows that we all understand the need to move the legislation on and change it where necessary, in line with changing understandings and practice.
Senator David Norris referred to the third non-binary category. I, too, have had correspondence on that. It is an important point that we need to address in the future. The review is the ideal time to do that. I know other colleagues will be raising the issue of recognition for those below the age of 16 years. It is progressive that we have built in a process whereby minors, that is, those aged between 16 to 18 years, may seek recognition. That was not in the original recommendation before it went to the committee but is another change that has come in. Looking at what may be done, particularly with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and what may be done on that in the future is important.
The issue of forced divorce is something we would have liked to address in this Bill but after the long delay we have seen and the many years Dr. Foy's case has taken, and the time it has taken to bring this legislation to this point, it is important that we have the legislation concluded without further delay.
Senator Norris kindly referred to the seminar I organised with Dr. Mary Rogan last week. One of the issues raised at that seminar was the issue of delays in bringing into force the marriage equality referendum and whether anything could be done in the future to ensure that the will of the people cannot be curtailed or delayed in the way the children's referendum was delayed. We should examine the constitutionality of introducing legislation and placing time limits on the giving of judgments in this sort of challenge.
I am departing from the celebratory theme of these amendments. I welcome the group one amendments, in particular, and the other changes that were made in the Dáil. I thank all those involved for their great work on the Bill.
We in Fianna Fáil have actively supported both the concept and the detail of this Bill from the outset. Many of the contributions to date have taken up nearly all the points I had intended making and, therefore, I will not delay the House other than to say I agree with everything said by colleagues on all sides.
I endorse the welcome extended to those in the Visitors Gallery who are directly affected by this legislation. This must be a very happy day for them but I could not help but reflect that here is the full power of both Government and Parliament combined in addressing an issue that affects a small group of people and acknowledges that, irrespective of the size of that minority, they are citizens of this country and are entitled to full rights here. I am sure they would recognise that the legislative process they have been following closely since the inception of this Bill has gone a long way to recognising and acknowledging them as equal citizens and that they should not walk out of here feeling that they are in any way diminished but are instead empowered by what is happening today, and what happened in the other House. I am very happy to be associated with that. I am somewhat diminished in the face of the enormous challenges that have faced this group of people throughout their lives. I do not believe any of us can understand what they have and are going through but, hopefully, the dawn has come after the dark night of their existence so far.
I would like to record a tribute to my colleague, Senator Averil Power, who initially took on this role and engaged me as the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on social protection.
She was totally committed to the cause from the outset. It was suggested to me that it is not something that generates votes. It is not something parliamentarians would take up on the basis that it would give them some sort of edge with the electorate. In that sense, not only Senator Power, but those who have been working hard on this legislation have been doing so out of a genuine commitment and on the basis of a humanity that is within them which wishes to see a wrong being righted. As such, I am happy to pay tribute to them.
I also pay tribute to the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, who hit the ground running on this legislation, not only steering it through, but also reaching out in an extraordinary way to everyone who had a view on this. The Minister of State consulted with them every step of the way to ensure what was said, in particular in this House, was listened to and acted on. I am not in any way taking away from what happened in the other House, but most of the changes that are taking place in this legislation happened here. It happened here because of the genuine commitment of those who have spoken so far and who are here today. The buck stops with the Minister of State. He is the person who had to steer this through and ensure that it acknowledged all of the various aspects of a complex issue.
It is an issue that has further complexities in the issue of binary. It came up in the House and Senator David Norris made reference in correspondence to the Australian model, which was already referred to here by several people. In that model, "binary" is mentioned on passports. I agree with Senator Ivana Bacik and the Minister of State, who, in one of his many concessions to the debate in this House, has enshrined the matter in amendments, that there should be a review of the legislation. I have no doubt that it is an issue like this that will be looked at in any ongoing review to, if nothing else, tidy up and put a complete picture on the legislation. It would be unacceptable if, having come this far in recognising the transgender population, there was an element of the legislation that would deny some their rights. I have no doubt that will be an issue that is looked at again.
On the constitutional issue that has been raised, I am concerned that people would criticise the right of people to go before the courts. There is an undertone that somehow people should not go before the courts if they have a point of view. I do not agree with the issue that has been raised.
I was referring to limits on the time within which a court can deliver a judgment.
I was not talking about the Senator; I was referring more to Senator David Norris's comments.
I agree completely with people's right to go to court but vexatious cases should be dealt with summarily. The High Court indicated that there was no basis for the case.
I appreciate that. I simply assure Senator Ivana Bacik that she was not in my thoughts.
I was very reassured that I was in the Senator's thoughts.
The Senator is always in my thoughts. He referred to two and a half years, which would be horrendous. The people have spoken and whether one agrees or disagrees, the people's views should not be thwarted by a delay. As they say, justice delayed is justice denied. I hope there will be some sort of fast-track mechanism to ensure this comes to a head. One of the key points that was made in the context of the Bill was on divorce and people having to be single, which was not acceptable.
Overall, I am very proud, without any hint of ego, to be here on this day. It makes it all the more worthwhile to be a legislator when one sees in action a law that is going to help people and improve their lives. For that, I applaud everybody.
As always, the Minister of State is welcome the House. I thank the Tánaiste for her commitment to the issue of gender recognition and thank the Minister of State for the energetic and robust debates we have had here in the Chamber and outside. I join other Members in welcoming the distinguished guests who have joined us here today, in particular Dr. Lydia Foy and Michael Farrell. As I look at each face in the Visitors Gallery and think of the journey I have been on, I note that I did not know the majority of these people a few years ago, but now I feel I know them as friends. They have had to share their lives with me for me to understand what we are debating here today and see the importance of today. That says a great deal. I have met some really amazing and brilliant people.
As the Minister of State knows, I have met many parents and children directly affected by this issue. While I am really happy today and recognise that is a great day, it is a bittersweet moment for me. It brings me back to my childhood when teams were being picked. There is a team getting on the human rights bus that is going. They are the adults and they are going to get it but the children did not get picked. That feeling of being left out in the cold yet again makes it very difficult for me again today that we did not do anything for children, even though we had that opportunity. As we meet today, young people organised by TENI are meeting on the issue. BelongTo has a group of children meeting on this very issue. It is not that these children do not exist; they do. The Minister of State and I have met the parents and we know the real issues they face.
I will not go back over and rehearse every issue, but there have been developments since we debated the issue in the House in February. The calls I have made were informed and very much supported by organisations such as TENI and BeLonG To but also by the ISPCC, Children's Rights Alliance, NYCI, SpunOut, Epic, Amnesty and the USI, just to name a few. At its parliamentary assembly, the Council of Europe issued a resolution on discrimination against transgender people in Europe and said we needed to ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in all decisions concerning children. This is on transgender people; I am not picking something out of place. Indeed, since we have been debating the matter, Malta has passed gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics legislation which ensures that up to the age of 14 years one is free to live and then one decides the gender that is going to be placed on one's birth certificate. In Norway, the Government has proposed legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny, not some independent Senator, to look at gender recognition from age seven. I welcome the commitment the Minister of State made in February to have the roundtable among education partners and I welcome the fact that one meeting has happened, but it is only one meeting. No education partners have been contacted on the issue of transgender children. We will face September again and there will be children who cannot live as they wish and go to the schools they wish to attend because they are being actively blocked.
Much has been made of the marriage equality referendum, which was a joyous and tremendous day, but there was also the children's referendum which took two years for the Supreme Court to clear. That is the lens we also need to be looking at. We need to ensure that our legislation is also looking at that lens. The Government's national policy framework for children and young people, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, is a whole-of-government document, not just one relating to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. It very clearly sets out that the development of laws, policies and services should take into account the needs, rights and best interests of children and young people. It says that efforts should be made to involve children and young people in policy and decision-making processes. While that is Government policy, we saw in this process that children were excluded from the debate at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage. I have gone over my notes to confirm that. There was no good reason for it. I have gone back over the e-mails and the acting Clerk of the Dáil has confirmed that they should have been allowed to give testimony at those committee hearings, but were not.
We did not allow their voices to be heard, and we should not have done that. Other committees allow children to appear before them.
As I said, the best interests of the child should be our paramount consideration, taking account of the views of the child and the evolving capacity of the child. I proposed an interim gender recognition certificate where everybody is ad idem, that is, the parents, the child and an independent person, be that the Minister, a general practitioner or a court. Obviously, that was not successful. It was brought forward again in the Dáil. That led me to read the debates in the Dáil on Second and Report Stages, in particular. It was noticeable that Members of all parties and none raised the issue of children and the importance of including children in the Gender Recognition Bill. There was one exception, the Labour Party. Its Members did not, so perhaps it is Labour Party policy. I do not understand. I have read through all of the transcripts and no Member from the Labour Party raised this issue. I am still at a loss. The International Lesbian and Gay Association gave really compelling testimony before the 29th session of the Human Rights Council. Obviously, it welcomed what we are doing in Ireland but also noted that there was no process for legal recognition of minors under 16 years of age. These children exist and deserve protection. A parent of a six year old trans girl said: "I just want to keep this child alive. I have a happy child now. ... Why end up with a dead child?... It's important that she gets documents that reflect her gender."
The difficulty for me, to which I have not received a satisfactory answer, is that we saw the court case, S. v. An Bord Uchtála in 2009, where the judge made an order to grant. It was a case involving an intersex child born abroad. The difficulty is that because this Bill excludes children, are we saying to the courts that we do not want them to interfere or do anything on children? We are closing the door on this. As a legislator, I believe we are sending a clear message to children that we will not talk about gender recognition. That is a problem for me. I am also worried about one of the amendments from the Dáil regarding passports. Again, I have dealt with some cases where children have got their gender changed, not on their birth certificate but on their passport. This amendment will not allow that to happen. Even more children have been squeezed out of this. There are four to five children a year who will not now be able to get a passport in the gender they wish because we have tightened the knot again and really made sure that children are firmly outside the room when it comes to gender recognition.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs wrote to the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection and proposed written amendments. I appreciate that she did not feel she was in a position to accept those amendments. Is the Minister saying that this is now under the remit of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs? If it is, I will table amendments to the Children First Bill. This must be made clear because I do not wish to be told when we debate the Children First Bill that it should have been done in the Gender Recognition Bill or that it should be done by the Minister for Social Protection. Will the Minister clearly state whether this is in the remit of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs? When will the meeting with the education partners take place? I am not asking for an exact date, but a timeframe for when it will take place.
One of the proposals sent by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs was that we would explicitly state that children and young people would be included in the strategic review. Will the Minister give a firm commitment on that? I do not wish to be told two years hence: "Children are not in the Bill so how can one strategically review children if they are not in the Bill?" I wish to be told clearly that this issue will not be left behind. It is a joyous day for adults, but there are children whom I have met and to whom we have said: "Go sit in the corner; we are not ready to deal with this yet." In fact, we have slammed the door.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. This is my first task as the social protection spokesperson for the Government in the Seanad. I am replacing Senator Hildegarde Naughton. I acknowledge the part she has played, together with my distinguished colleagues in the Seanad. There are too many of them to mention individually. I have attended meetings on the matter but this is my first time to speak as spokesperson.
I wish to acknowledge the progress made in drafting this important legislation. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, whom I have heard speak on this subject in the Seanad on several occasions, on his work on bringing the legislation to this Stage. The Bill represents an important improvement to the lives of those with gender identity issues and it is a clear statement about the Government's commitment to addressing the needs of those affected. I did not have a Second Stage statement prepared-----
It is not appropriate to give a Second Stage speech now.
I appreciate that, but many Members have given what I consider to be a Second Stage speech. I will sum up by saying-----
We are dealing with a group of amendments.
Everybody else should have been told the same thing.
They were. The Leas-Chathaoirleach assured me that he so informed the House.
Gabh mo leithscéal. I am breaking the law; nobody else did.
The fundamental concept underlying the legislation is relatively simple. The preferred gender of a person who has been issued with a gender recognition certificate by the Department of Social Protection will be formally and legally recognised for all purposes, including dealings with the State, public bodies and civil and commercial society. I have acknowledged the part the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, has played, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection has acknowledged his contribution. It is an historic day for the Seanad. Amendments have come from the Dáil but the Seanad has had a role with this Bill from the beginning. I congratulate one and all.
Like previous speakers, I will start by acknowledging the presence in the Visitors Gallery of people who have worked on this issue for a long time, particularly Dr. Lydia Foy. She fought a personal challenge and put her personal life in the public domain in a difficult way for an extended period of time to bring us to the current position. I join others in paying particular tribute to her for her work and congratulating her on it.
There are representatives of several groups in the Visitors Gallery, ranging from Transgender Equality Network Ireland, TENI, to LGBT Noise and BeLonG To. I see Dr. Fergus Ryan, who is one of the great human rights champions on the legal side. He worked with me on my adoption Bill and on the amendments we brought forward last week to the section 37 Bill in an effort to strengthen it. He has also championed this Bill and sought to strengthen it in the past few years. I also acknowledge Michael Farrell who worked with Dr. Lydia Foy on her case and has been championing this from a legal perspective. There are also GLEN, ICCL, Amnesty International and many other human rights champions who have been pursuing this issue and calling on us to act.
Before getting into my critique of the Bill, to be fair to the Minister of State and the Tánaiste, I should also acknowledge that they are the first Ministers to legislate on this issue in Ireland. That is significant and should be acknowledged. This has been a long time coming. It should not have required Dr. Lydia Foy to fight a personal case to make us bring this legislation forward, and it should not have taken us such a long time to deal with it. However, it is happening and it is a positive step forward.
That said, I share the concerns expressed by others that the Bill does not go far enough. I appreciate Senator Mooney's generosity in acknowledging the work I have been doing on this issue and I thank him for helping me to secure the support of a wider group of colleagues on the matter. When I first approached him and we discussed it, he acknowledged that it was not something he had personally been involved with. In fact, until Broden Giambrone sat me down and explained it to me it was not something I had personally been involved with or of which I had any great knowledge.
I remember saying to him that first day that we had coffee in LH2000 that I believed in human rights and that everybody is entitled to equality, dignity and respect. I said I did not know enough about transgender people but asked what I needed to do to ensure we could deliver those basic human rights for transgender people of all ages. It was a learning experience for me to work with TENI. Its representatives are particularly good at being patient with someone who did not understand the issue. There was no question too stupid. I have found them extraordinarily supportive over the past few years on this issue, in answering my questions and helping me to draft amendments to improve the legislation.
It is welcome that we are bringing forward this Bill, but there are issues on which I brought forward amendments last year. One was to provide for self-declaration. The second was to treat over-16s as adults, to recognise that 16 is generally the age for medical consent and for decision-making. The third was to provide a procedure to allow recognition for those under 16 through a court process. The last was to remove the requirement for divorce. I am glad to see in the amendments the Minister of State is bringing forward that we are moving to self-declaration. That is extremely positive. Many of us on all sides of the House argued for that both in the Seanad and in the Dáil. I welcome the fact that the Government listened to us on that and that it has changed. That is significant. I also welcome the fact that the marriage equality referendum has made the forced divorce requirement redundant. I never accepted that it was necessary and legal opinions were given at the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection early on, where various groups argued legally that it was not required. At least now, whenever the court case challenging the marriage equality referendum finishes, that requirement will be removed. That is very positive.
On the other two areas, the lack of provision for those aged under 16 and the very restrictive process in place for 16 and 18 year olds, I share the disappointment of Senator Jillian van Turnhout and others that the Government did not go further on those issues. In particular, the lack of recognition for under-16s is a huge flaw in the Bill. I agree with the sentiments expressed by my colleagues, that this is a very happy and positive day for transgender adults but an incredibly sad day for transgender children because we are doing nothing at all for those aged under 16 years.
The horrifying thing is that for many transgender children every day is an incredibly sad day. Every day is a challenge. Once young people realise they are transgender, which, according to TENI, typically happens around the age of three or four years, they face many challenges in coming to terms with that themselves, in reaching out to their parents and explaining to them how they feel, in working over time to win over the support of their parents and then in going through the daily struggles of being in a very gendered school system, and so on. For many young people, it is just too tough. We have a horrifying situation in this country as it is in terms of youth mental health. This is an issue I have done a great deal of work on and published an action plan on two years ago. While I was researching that I found it particularly disturbing to see the mental health statistics for the LGBT community in general and particularly for transgender people. The current Bill does nothing to address this. There is no process for transgender people under 16 years. I find it deeply upsetting that we are not reaching out and doing something for those young people. I also do not understand the logic behind it. Other countries, such as Argentina, do not have an age limit, so there are systems elsewhere that are genuinely based on the best interests of the child and that have found a way of providing recognition for younger people. When I brought forward an amendment on this issue previously when the Bill was in the House, we suggested the Government simply extend the procedure it was providing in the Bill for 16 to 18 year olds to those aged under 16 years. It is too restrictive for 16 year olds, who are adults and should be entitled to self-determine, but if we at least had a system where a young person under 16 could go to court with their parent's permission and apply for gender recognition, that would mean we were doing something for young people and recognising that the people who know best about their children are parents. Nobody makes this decision lightly.
The refusal to do anything for young people in terms of statements the Minister of State, the Tánaiste and others have made previously seems to be based, as TENI has pointed out, on a lack of trust in young people. It assumes this is a decision young people or their parents might take too lightly. Words like "safety" and "youth protection" have been used in the debate. As TENI has pointed out, the clear suggestion is that trans youth, even those in their mid-teens who may have lived for several years in their self-identified gender and who may have identified as trans since the age of three or four, must be protected from naive choices they may come to regret later. That is based on a false assumption. It is overly paternalistic, judgmental and has no research base whatsoever. In fact, as has been pointed out, the UK study referred to by Transparency and TENI points out that the percentage of transgender people who came to the realisation of their gender variance at age 18 years or later is less than 4%; therefore, most of them knew much earlier, while 16% of participants were aware they were transgender before they left primary school. Young people know who they are from an early age.
We had a referendum on children's rights two years ago and the people went out and voted in favour of provision that recognises that the most important thing in terms of any decision-making regarding children is the best interests of the child. That is now going into the Constitution, but this legislation ignores it. The Children's Ombudsman has made that point, as have various other groups. The Ombudsman has argued that the legislation potentially falls foul of the European Convention on Human Rights and the provision there under Article 8 for the protection of family life and of people's private lives. I do not understand the failure to move on this area. I acknowledge that the Government has moved on other areas and has improved the Bill, but this is a monumental gap. It is so sad for young trans children in primary and secondary school. Many of them leave the school system simply because they cannot cope with the daily struggle of not being recognised for who they are at school. That has such an impact on the rest of their lives that they drop out of the school system early. For those young people, the Government is offering nothing. That is incredibly sad.
This is an issue on which I intend to keep fighting. The Bill provides for a review in two years time. I hope I will be a Member of the Oireachtas in some form in two years time but, if not, I promise I will continue to work on this issue from outside, because of all the issues I have worked on in the last few years, this is an issue that has touched my heart. I have listened to the personal stories of trans adults and, particularly, trans children, who showed enormous bravery in speaking; the witnesses who came to our committee; and the people who have spoken out in the media and elsewhere, including Dr. Foy, who fought her case on the issue. The bravery shown by the trans community has been phenomenal and it is incumbent on all of us in this House to go as far as we can for them. I am sorry that is not happening today, but I promise this is something I will stick with until we get progressive legislation that delivers for all transgender people of all ages.
Does the Minister of State wish to reply to group 1 or does he wish to leave it until the end?
I will reply to group 1 because the debate has been so wide-ranging. I thank Senator Katherine Zappone for her remarks in the beginning and for her work and for the Private Members' Bill that she published. She is quite right. The debate in this House did influence and change legislation as it travelled through. I am truly grateful for the work done by everybody in the House.
Senator Marie Moloney may take my phone number off speed dial now.
It it worthwhile saying again that I hope, once the case is finished in the courts, that the requirement to be single will be amended as quickly as possible. I would have far preferred to be in front of the House today proposing such an amendment, but unfortunately I cannot. It came to mind when Senators Norris and Bacik spoke about the courts. I accept what was said about the time limit. Growing up, one of my favourite programmes was "Yes Minister", featuring a civil servant called Sir Humphrey. The phrase, "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment," sprang to mind. I hope it is dealt with in the courts in a speedy manner, and we can then amend the Bill, which would be positive.
I am happy to come back to any points I missed. I agree with Senator Paschal Mooney's comments about Senator Averil Power. When she was a member of Fianna Fáil she represented it very ably and made some excellent points, and her contribution reflects that. On Committee Stage in the Seanad and Dáil we worked in co-operation, and all meetings involved discussions not only with elected representatives but with those in the Visitors Gallery. That process improved the Bill. Senator Ivana Bacik spoke about how our understanding of such issues has changed quickly. We had a responsibility to the vast majority whose views this Bill reflects to pass the legislation at some stage. The Bill is all the stronger because of the built-in review mechanisms. Elements that arose during the debate can be dealt with in the review period, and people's understanding will improve as we move on.
I will try to respond to direct questions, even though they are not part of the grouping. I am watching the clock. Senator Jillian van Turnhout referred to the S case, which was an intersex case concerning an adopted child - it was a foreign adoption - in which the court ordered the adoption register to be changed. Such an action would still be possible, as far as I am aware. The Senator may have a different view. We depend on the advice of the Attorney General, especially regarding forced divorce, who advised that this did not need to be addressed in the Bill and could be dealt with. We have to operate on the advice we are given.
On Report Stage, Deputy Joan Collins referred to correspondence to the Tánaiste from the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The Minister, Deputy James Reilly, did not bring specific amendments to the Cabinet, and any changes to the Bill required a Government decision. There was a need to bring specific amendments to the Cabinet, but that did not happen in this case. Last month, after a Cabinet decision to include self-declaration in the Bill, the Minister wrote to the Tánaiste suggesting two amendments to the Bill. The first was that the review of the operation of the Act under section 7 of the Bill should incorporate consideration of the need for persons under 16 who are not eligible for an exemption to apply for a gender recognition certificate under section 12 of the Bill. I have stated on a number of occasions during the passage of the Bill that the issue of gender recognition for children under 16 years needs further examination and that there is a lack of research and information on this very sensitive issue. When I first debated this Bill in the Seanad, I emphasised that the review was not something I viewed as a box-ticking exercise. Rather, it is to be a comprehensive review. What we know now and what we will know when the Bill comes into operation may be very different. We should not try to determine how many people have sought a certificate or got a birth certificate, because what is important is how the Bill operates within society, including for children. People referred to issues including that of non-binary gender, all of which have to be covered. From the time the Bill was published, just before Christmas, until now, a large amount of interaction, discussion, research and understanding has taken place, and the Bill has reflected a lot of that.
This is an emotive issue. Senator Averil Power said she was very new to it and did not understand it. TENI and BeLonGTo were very helpful and discussed the issue with me. My intention is to take a keen interest in this Bill and how things change. As long as I am a Member of the Dáil there will be no question of my ever walking away or leaving children behind, because that is an important element of the Bill.
I do not know why children could not have given evidence at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage, but it may have enriched the Bill. In fairness to the Tánaiste, the recommendation was to deal with those under 16 in a different way. She went back to the Cabinet and reflected the change, as well as taking advice from the Attorney General. There is a lot more work to be done. I was asked whether this came under the remit of the Tánaiste or the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, but whether it is they or I who bring this forward, it is quite important that we take up the issue in the autumn and develop it. I would be quite happy for the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, to lead on this, because he is the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and that Department has a wider remit than the Department of Social Protection on this issue. Either way, I would support that. My understanding is that e-mails have been sent to many groups and that a meeting will take place in September, because many boards of management are on summer holidays. The Minister for Education and Skills is anxious to follow up on this. The Department of Education and Skills has taken up this issue since Deputy Ruairí Quinn was Minister and has worked with GLEN on anti-bullying policies. A tremendous amount has been achieved and the former Minister did a significant amount of work and it is the intention of the Minister, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to follow it.
Most of the debate has centred on what is not in the Bill rather than the content of the amendments made by the Dáil, which is what is before the House. I remind Members that we have limited time. I call on the Minister of State to address the subject matter of the amendments in group 2, that is, amendments Nos. 2, 3, 14, 15, 19 and 20.
These are technical amendments regarding a reference in the Bill to the registrar of inter-country adoptions and the foreign births register.
It is section 90 and not section 91. Amendment No. 3 is necessary in order that the reference in the same sub-paragraph (iv) reads "section 91(1)(b) of that Act". Amendments Nos. 14, 19 and 20 relate to the foreign births register. They amend the reference to "Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade" to "Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade", as the latter is the appropriate wording.
Section 14 (9)(b) provides that the Minister for Social Protection shall notify the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a gender recognition certificate is revoked under section 14. It also provides that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade shall amend the person's entry in the register of gender recognition of foreign births accordingly. Amendment 15 inserts "if applicable" into this provision as there may be no such entry. It is not mandatory for a holder of a gender recognition certificate to ensure that such an entry is made.
We will move on to group 3, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 7 to 13, inclusive.
Amendments Nos. 7 to 13, inclusive, were passed on Committee Stage in the Dáil and amend section 12 of the Bill, "Application to court for exemption", by 16 and 17 year olds. The amendments provide for the inclusion of the supporting statement from the applicant's primary treating medical practitioner, either an endocrinologist or a psychiatrist, to confirm that the child has transitioned or is transitioning into his or her preferred gender. The medical element of the process will remain strictly within the boundaries of the court so that where a child receives a court exemption they will not be required to provide any further medical evidence to the Department in relation to the application for a gender recognition certificate. That is an important element and it should be remembered.
Does anybody want to contribute on this group?
I wish to raise a few points in regard to the section in terms of children, specifically the 16 to 17 year olds. I do not understand why at the very least the Government was not willing to include general practitioners, GPs, in the definition of a primary medical practitioner, particularly in light of the fact that the Minister had two prime representative organisations of general practitioners supporting that recommendation. At the very least it might have gone some way in ameliorating the huge and onerous process, which some say is not even feasible in terms of time factor for 16 and 17 years. Why did the Minister not include for young persons their general practitioners in the list of primary medical practitioners?
I very much agree with Senator Jillian van Turnhout's points made in terms of young people which these amendments particularly cover and what Senator Averil Power put forward. In my own journey on the issue, I remember my first meeting with a trans boy a couple of years ago and, again through participation in the BeLonGTo support group, he told me how he used to be scared of himself and, as he put it, "I spent a long time hiding from the inside of me or the core of me". It is with great regret that I also note that in this group of amendments more could not have been done for young people, particularly 16 to 17 year olds. As Senator Jillian van Turnhout put it very well, there is really nothing for children under the age of 16. The Minister of State could have offered some kind of solutions, perhaps the recommended interim gender certificates put forward by Senator Jillian van Turnhout and others. I certainly will continue to advocate for that, for the inclusion of children long after this Bill has been signed. It is regrettable that it was not included, although I acknowledge the great achievements in terms of self-declaration and the movement in terms of forced divorce.
The Minister of State said that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, did not bring forward amendments to the Cabinet table.
To the Cabinet. Yes.
I saw a copy of a letter he wrote, and I do not know whether it was after the time in question, to add GPs to the list of medical professionals under section 12(a) for those in the 16 to 17 year age group. Another issue is the promised review of the legislation, which will specifically consider the needs of persons aged under 16 years. The Minister did not bring amendments to that effect to the Cabinet.
That is what I said.
That is what the Minister of State is saying. I want to confirm if there is a date for the promised review. Will it be in six, nine or 12 months time or will it be within a definite period? The Minister may have said in her statement that it would be in ten to 12 months.
I, too, echo what Senator Katherine Zappone said. In regard to what Senator Terry Brennan has raised, I do not want to get caught up in semantics about whether the Minister brought it to the Cabinet. My understanding was that the Minister wrote to the Tánaiste; I would have thought that was courteous, that one would write to the Minister who is leading the Bill asking that Minister to bring the amendments to the Cabinet. I do not want to get caught up in the semantics of it but did the Minister of State's Department specifically go back to the GPs, as has been outlined by Senator Katherine Zappone, to ask about the 16 and 17 years olds? Did he ask the question or has he assumed, as he did when Senator Katherine Zappone first brought forward the letter from the GPs, that they would not be able to do this? My understanding is that they are willing but maybe they need to be asked.
There was an exchange of correspondence in regard to it but no amendments were brought to the Cabinet, and amendments would need to have been brought to amend the Bill on this Stage. There was correspondence from the Tánaiste to the Minister. The engagement with the Irish College of General Practitioners, ICGP, was very good. It engaged positively with the Department in regard to certifying those aged over 18 years, which accounted for the majority of the engagement, but I understand that the ICGP did not envisage a role for GPs in regard to applications by 16 and 17 year olds or with the process for revoking gender recognition certificates. That is my understanding of the discussions that took place with our officials. The ICGP had an open and full discussion with the officials and that is what we would have taken from that engagement. In terms of amending the Bill on this Stage, we would have to have had a much wider engagement in regard to the 16 and 18 year olds and we would have had to go back to the Attorney General on that issue. A broad discussion would have been needed if such a change had been brought to the Cabinet. The Minister, Deputy James Reilly, did not bring an amendment to the Cabinet for the Attorney General to examine or advise on. No amendment was brought to the Cabinet.
I wish to clarify this, as the Minister of State was talking to the Leader of the House when I spoke. I do not want to get involved in semantics, but I would have thought that it was the role of the Tánaiste to bring this to the Cabinet. I would have thought as a courtesy, as an outsider, that it was appropriate that the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, wrote to the Tánaiste rather than him bringing it to the Cabinet. This catching up in terms of semantics is not appropriate. I would have thought that the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, acted appropriately by writing his suggested amendments to the Tánaiste.
The Minister of State has only one minute in which to conclude as we have to finish this business at 3 p.m. Does he wish to refer to that issue?
Does the Minister of State want to refer to group 4, the subject matter of amendment No. 21?
Group 4 relates to updating of the Passports Act 2008 to reflect the introduction of gender recognition legislation based on a model of self-declaration. We do not have the time to go through it in detail. This is to reflect the current legislation when this was passed. The amendment will be made to the Passports Act 2008.
On group 4 on the passport issue, I raised it when I spoke earlier. I welcome all the commitments the Minister of State has given and appreciate that we are pressed for time.
I am merely fearful that this will preclude that from happening. The Minister of State may not be able to give me an answer today, but I want to note it.
I am sorry to interrupt the Senator and the Minister of State. We have reached 3 p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House, I must adjourn the debate and move on to No. 2.
Can we continue for a few minutes?
We have a time schedule for business for today. I cannot extend the time. I will allow two minutes, no more. Otherwise, we will have to resume it at 9.30 p.m. at the end of business.
Is anybody speaking on group four?