Civil Registration Bill 2003: Committee Stage.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 7, subsection (2), line 23, to delete "shall come" and substitute "comes".
The Law Reform Commission has advised that the active voice rather than passive be applied. This is in line with a recommendation of the Law Reform Commission for some time and many Bills now have the active voice.
I preface my remarks by thanking the committee for facilitating this debate this afternoon on this important legislation. On amendment No. 1 in the name of Deputy Neville, the section provides for the Title of the Act and the commencement of the different parts. The Office of the Attorney General provides assistance to the Departments in progressing legislative initiatives and one of the key legal advisory functions of that office is to provide a legislative drafting service. My Department seeks and abides by the advice of that office and, in particular, that of the Parliamentary Counsel. I am satisfied that the drafting of the provisions in this section complies with best practice. I am not, therefore, in a position to accept the amendment as proposed.
Has the Minister consulted them about this because they would be aware of the Law Reform Commission's advice?
Yes. As always, we have had extensive consultations with the legal office.
I am talking about the amendment. She should not give me——
One may crib about these matters, but I can tell the Deputy that my officials have been working extensively on the huge number of amendments, for which we had a short period of time to determine.
We did not have a problem with the Minister having more time.
We are satisfied that the legal officer of the State is abundantly aware of everything that the Law Reform Commission may propose. As the committee is aware, these are proposals by the commission in an advisory role and the legal office would be more than acutely aware of them.
We are disappointed the Minister did not have more time to consider these because we would like to have had more time as well. In fact, we got submissions from the Law Reform Commission which would have aided us in drafting further amendments but it was too late because of the short period between Second and Committee Stages.
It is not in our nature in this committee to adopt an adversarial attitude except in some of the buoyant conversation.
I am deputising for Deputy Ring and I am sure he would be quite adversarial if he was here.
The legislation has been published since last July.
I do not want to go into how the legislation works, but we all wanted to listen to our colleagues, including the Minister, on Second Stage before we made up our minds on any amendments.
Regardless, I am not in a position to accept the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 2 is out of order as it involves a potential charge on Revenue.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."
In discussing section 1, we had quite an examination of the whole area of guardianship. I accept that amendment No. 2 is out of order.
There is a subsequent amendment. Are all the amendments on guardianship out of order? In section 8——
Amendments Nos. 2, 13, 14a, 28a and 97——
Amendment No. 2 is out of order.
Can we appeal to the Minister?
Can we discuss this under section 1?
I take the point. It was actually drafted with a view to ensuring that it would not be out of order, so I am somewhat surprised that amendment No. 2, in the names of Deputy Seán Ryan and I, is out of order. It is carefully constructed not to be out of order, and I am absolutely astounded. On previous occasions when we discussed items like carers and so on, where we always knew there was a potential cost on the Exchequer or charge on the Revenue, we constructed amendments so as just to have a debate and make the Minister aware of the feelings of the committee.
I am somewhat surprised by that ruling but I am somebody who accepts rulings. I made a point, and not lightly, in my speech on Second Stage in regard to guardianship and the absence of registration of orders or agreements on guardianship. It is a major life event and should warrant formal registration. I support those who have sought the inclusion of guardianship registration in the Bill. It is important also in ensuring that the guardianship of children by unmarried couples is treated in a spirit of equality. This has certainly not yet been achieved.
Organisations have been contacting Deputy Neville and I in this regard, and I am sure they have contacted the Minister also. They have indicated that this is a missed opportunity in the Bill by not allowing for the setting up of a system of registering joint guardianship agreements, as provided for in SI 5/1998. There are statutory agreements which unmarried couples can sign in the presence of a Peace Commissioner or a Commissioner of Oaths agreeing to joint guardianship of their child. Unmarried mothers have sole rights and fathers have no automatic rights. However, these are less effective if those agreements are not registered in some form and there is no central register for such agreements.
That is why a facility for registering such agreements should be included in this Bill. This is a golden opportunity to do this. Guardianship is the most significant right a parent can have in respect of a child, and it is essential that a central register of joint guardianship agreements is put in place. I appeal to the Minister to look at this and return to it on Report Stage because she has the power to bring something forward, with the help of the Minister for Finance, if there is a charge.
Where is the charge? It only involves the setting up of an additional register and surely to God, as part of the overall system of registration we are putting in place to deal with nullities, divorce and everything else, this particular major life event should be included. A number of amendments in the names of Deputies Seán Ryan and Neville are now obviously out of order, but I appeal to the Minister to reconsider this and submit an appropriate amendment, with the full backing of the Government and the Attorney General, on Report Stage to ensure this is included in this very important legislation.
It is important to try to get the best possible Bill at the end of the day. This Bill is long overdue. It was promised some time ago and many community organisations have been seeking it for years. We have now been told that some of the most relevant elements, as we perceive it, in the Bill are out of order. The Bill has the broad support of all parties. We have obviously tabled some Opposition amendments and placed a different emphasis on different aspects of the Bill, which we hoped could be teased out on Committee and Report Stages.
However, we are told now that this amendment involves a potential charge on the Revenue. Sometimes, in getting something correct, something may need to be put in place to facilitate a better Bill. We are talking here about the merits of a system of registration of guardianship orders and agreements. The Bill should be extended to cover guardianship registration as it is a sufficiently significant life event to warrant a system of State registration.
Calls for a system of registration of guardianship have been made by organisations representing natural fathers, and we support these proposals. In putting forward and supporting these proposals to get a better Bill, we are then restricted by this directive that it involves the expenditure of some small amount of money. I support my colleague, Deputy Penrose, in asking the Minister to take on board the various views being put forward to make this a better Bill. She could then come forward, perhaps on Report Stage, with some amendments to deal with this very important issue.
I support the two previous speakers. Married parents of a child are joint guardians and have equal rights to the child. In other circumstances guardianship is conferred by the courts or can be acquired through the use of a statutory declaration. Guardianship is the most commonly used approach by unmarried couples and also in circumstances where one parent dies.
A guardian has a duty to maintain and properly care for the child and has the right to make decisions about life events of the child, such as its religious and secular education, health requirements and general welfare. Guardians have a right to custody and access to that child. Thus, a guardian has a key role in the life of a child. A guardian has the same role as parents who, as I said, are joint guardians.
I spoke on Second Stage, and it is a subject we will return to, about the right of the child to know both of its parents and to be parented by both. I am not talking about the rights of fathers or mothers but the rights of children to be parented by both parents. That is a right of every child. When a child is born outside of marriage the mother is the sole guardian. The father is not a guardian. The position of the father is very uncertain in the circumstances, and if the mother agrees, the father can become a joint guardian following a joint declaration, just as any other guardianship would be initiated.
The declaration states the names of the parents of the child, that they are unmarried and that they agree that the father should be appointed as joint guardian. The declaration also states that the parents have agreed arrangements regarding custody and access to the child. Joint guardianship initiates the process of giving the father, or any other person who acts as the father, a statutory role in the rearing of the child. That is very important role in a child's life. It is as important as the registration of parents, so there should be a registration of guardianship because of the important role it plays. Every facility should be put in place to formalise the role of the father in all but exceptional circumstances in the life of a child.
I advise the committee that I have no role in determining whether amendments are acceptable. I have quite extensive notes on the amendment, so I was not aware that it was out of order.
Could the Minister quote from those notes?
There are a couple of issues here. This issue was raised at Second Stage and has been written about quite extensively by people with their own particular points of view. I have a number of things to say about the legislation. It does not deal with children's rights, nor does registration in any way determine that a person is a parent. A person is born, married and dies. In the main, those are the major life events, so we do not register people as parents.
I appreciate very much, on the basis of much conversation and what has been written in the media, the view that there should be registration of guardianship. Committee members have alluded to the fact that there are two types of guardianship available. One is under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, which gives an opportunity to provide for a declaration by the mother and father in regard to the guardianship of the child. As has been pointed out, there is also the possibility of a statutory declaration, which is a very important document indicating the guardians of the children. Another methodology is carried out through the courts and is registered and recorded in the courts, similar to other things such as a deed poll or whatever.
The Ard-Chláraitheoir - I must be careful because I believe my Donegal Gaeilge drove people mad on radio last week - has no function in the registration of guardianship orders granted by the courts or the registration of the statutory declaration of guardianships. It would be inappropriate that he or she would have this function.
We are looking particularly at what are determined to be major life events - births, stillbirths, deaths, marriages and adoptions. In future, this will include decrees of nullity and decrees of divorce. This type of registration, unlike guardianship for example, is mandatory. One must register these life events, and there are penalties for non-registration. In discussing this and thinking about the views expressed by the Members of the House, the best way forward, if people want to have a registration, is to look at the statutory declaration. It perhaps could be registered in regard to joint guardianship, and appropriate provisions could be made within the courts service, on a similar basis to the lodging of deed polls with the Registrar of the High Court.
This would mean having a common repository for both guardianship orders and statutory declarations. That would be the best way forward, as opposed to having a different type of registrar or registration of guardianship. In other words, one takes one's statutory guardianship or court order, which is registered anyway within the Courts Service, and have both, if people wish, registered within the Courts Service. I appreciate where people are coming from and the genuine views they have on guardianship, but this is the best way of dealing with this issue, as opposed to setting up a new register of guardianship. On that basis, I would not be in a position to accept the amendment, but the other proposal can be looked at.
We are in an invidious position. We are allowed to comment on this but the amendments have been ruled out of order——
Are all of the amendments out of order?
Amendments Nos. 2, 13, 14a, 28a and 97 are out of order.
The amendments are out of order.
We are not in a position to move the amendment, but I ask the Minister to bring something back on Report Stage that might give us her own legal view on her proposals regarding the Courts Service and so on, which do not appear to impinge or impose a charge on Revenue. Perhaps she can do that for Report Stage, but we are in the invidious position now whereby we would like to have this included in the Bill and feel it is important, but we are not in position to move the amendment.
For the benefit of the committee, given that this would cross over into the jurisdiction of another Cabinet member, I will, if we get out of here before night, speak to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about it. As committee members know, a number of Bills are going through that Department reflecting changes in courts services, and perhaps in that context I will bring attention to the views of the Members of the House and of the committee on guardianship, if that is acceptable to members.
We are obviously not in a position to pursue this, but we advocate that the Minister pursues it strongly. It is an important issue for many people.
Section 1 agreed to.
Amendment No. 3 is out of order.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 16, after "applies" where it secondly occurs to insert the following:
"and includes a birth, stillbirth, adoption, foreign adoption, marriage or death that could have been, but was not, registered in a register formerly maintained under the repealed enactments".
I am amending the interpretation of an "event" to include a birth, stillbirth, adoption, foreign adoption, marriage or death that could have been, but was not, registered in a register maintained under of any of the Acts being repealed in this Bill. This is a transitional measure to provide for the registration of such events which were not registered prior to the commencement of this Bill. In other words, we could always ensure that nobody would be left out of this Bill because of the repeal of any previous legislation.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:
" 'personal public service number' has the meaning assigned to it by the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993;".
I am making this amendment to the section on interpretation to provide a more appropriate meaning and location for the reference to the PPS number in the Bill. This reference is currently located in section 53(4).
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 6, 7, 22, 105 and 105 are cognate and amendment No. 14 is related. Amendments Nos. 6, 7, 14, 22, 105 and 105 may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 36, to delete "appointed under" and substitute "within the meaning of".
This is to clarify that the reference to the registrars in this section refers to those appointed under section 17 of the Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 41, to delete "appointed under" and substitute "within the meaning of".
These are all technical amendments.
They are all clarifications.
They are clarifications of the interpretation. Amendment No. 7 is similar to amendment No. 6 and that is the reason it is being introduced.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 9, subsection (1), lines 6 and 7, to delete "him or her to act on his or her behalf and to his or her successor" and substitute "the registrar to act on the registrar's behalf and to the successor of the registrar".
Amendment No. 8 is a more specific amendment. The registrar can authorise a person to act on his or her behalf and also to the successor to the registrar.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 9, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) For the purposes of this Act there is an impediment to a marriage if-
(a) the marriage would be void by virtue of the Marriage Act 1835 as amended by the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Acts 1907 and 1921,
(b) one of the parties to the marriage is, or both are, already married,
(c) one or both, of the parties to the intended marriage will be under the age of 18 years on the date of solemnisation of the intended marriage and an exemption from the application of section 31(1)(a) of the Family Law Act 1995 in relation to the marriage was not granted under section 33 of that Act,
(d) the marriage would be void by virtue of the Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811, or
(e) both parties are of the same sex.”.
I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 9:
In the proposed new subsection (2)(a), after “1921” to insert the following:
", subject to the requirement that the marriage of a person to the divorced spouse of the person's sibling shall be lawful".
I would like to hear the Minister's reply to this amendment.
On which list is amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 9?
It is on the second additional list.
We got it at 10 o'clock last night. This section, as I indicated earlier, deals with interpretations. The interdepartmental committee on the reform of marriage law is examining a number of issues including the capacity to marry. It intends publishing a discussion paper on this issue and seeking views and observations from all interested parties. I will bring the views of the member on this amendment to the attention of that committee but in the circumstances, until that committee has completed its consultation and agreed policy initiatives, I am not in a position to accept this amendment.
I accept that. The Minister is obviously aware that we received her amendments only yesterday and we had to react fairly quickly. This is antiquated legislation on impediments which make marriages void. In the context of post-1996, matters would have changed significantly and that is why we tabled the amendment. It, like a number of other amendments on issues such as reassignment, was tabled to alert the Minister that there are other difficulties out there which may well have to be examined in the context of the review and further studies in this area. We feel the Minister should ask the committee examining this aspect of marriage to deal with this. It is a matter which has been out of date for seven or eight years. In that context I will not be pursuing the amendment any further. I raise it for the Minister's further consideration.
Amendment to amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9 provides for a precise meaning for the use of the term impediment, mostly in the context of Part 6 which deals with amendments to marriage laws. The term impediment is already provided for in the Bill. The amendment is a clarification of the wording as to what is an impediment to a marriage.
Is that the same as is the Marriage Act of 1835 as amended by the Acts of 1907 and 1921?
It refers to the Acts of 1907, 1921, 1995 and 1811. It refers to a number of pieces of legislation.
I do not know if this is in the Minister's competence, but the wording of subsection (2)(d) is not appropriate.
I appreciate that. It must have been a piece of legislation that was never looked at.
It refers to that particular piece of legislation.
The Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811.
That is the name of the Act.
It is time to repeal the wording in some of those Acts if they are still in force because that sort of term should not appear in modern legislation. I know that legally the Minister cannot do anything about it.
I cannot change it but I understand what the Deputy means.
Is the Taoiseach not consolidating Acts dating back to 1400?
Perhaps all Departments should look at their Acts to see how they apply.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 9, subsection (2), between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:
"(a) a reference to a birth, stillbirth, adoption, foreign adoption, marriage or death includes a reference to such an event that could have been, but was not, registered in a register formerly maintained under the repealed enactments;”.
This is a transitional measure to provide that references to births, stillbirths, adoptions, including foreign adoptions, marriages or deaths that were not registered previous to the commencement of this Act includes a reference to such events.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 10, subsection (2), lines 11 to 14, to delete all words from and including ", and" in line 11 down to and including "Act" in line 14.
This section provides for the Minister for Health and Children to make regulations in respect of the Act. This amendment removes the power for the Minister for Health and Children to amend the Act by regulations and the Attorney General advises that this power would be unconstitutional.
The recent High Court decision was an important boost to the democratic procedures of this House. This practice of amending legislation by statutory instrument, etc., has gathered momentum in Governments over the years. This is an important amendment. I wholeheartedly support it because obviously it is in that context that the Attorney General has acted.
It is important that the various areas where statutory instruments or secondary legislation are used should never expand outside the context of the primary legislation and that they should be discussed in that context. When we pass primary legislation we expect that is exactly the way the matters will be implemented. The recent judgment by Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan has certainly reinforced that view and this amendment is well made by the Minister in that context.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 4 and 5 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 6 stand part of the Bill."
We would like to insert provision for a guardianship register here.
In that context, surely a guardianship register could be included by the Minister for Finance. He is now indicating in regard to the administration of this Bill that all money is being provided by the Oireachtas. Therefore, we urge that the guardianship register be included. I am sure that——
I wish to ask the Minister a question. It is provided that the expenses incurred by the Minister in the administration of this Act shall have such an extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance to be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas. If we amended the Bill to include guardianship, that would surely be covered. Why would it not?
Yes, we would have to do it then. Of course——
That was the whole purpose of putting down the amendments.
What we are specifically talking about in regard to the sanction of the Minister for Finance and the Houses of the Oireachtas is the Vote and discussions that we have on the budget and the Estimates, which must go before the House. I am not——
The Minister is just after doing it for everything else.
I have sanction to do that but I do not have sanction to do anything else.
Why did the Minister not do it for guardianship?
I am not in a position to do so. It has nothing to do with money, it is the principle of the issue. The reason it was determined by someone else that these amendments could not be moved was the implication that they would have a charge on the State. I point out to Deputy Neville that these are the rules of the House. If we want to change the rules of the House that is fine, we will head over to the Ceann Comhairle's office to institute that.
Everything we do in this Bill involves a cost on the State. Introducing computers into the whole area of registration is a cost.
Does section 6 stand part of the Bill?
By way of clarification, we can address a section without amendments? That is what I was doing.
For the information of committee members, the amendments were ruled out of order because the inclusion of registration of guardianship orders would be an additional service which would require the establishment of the new register, with associated costs. The amendment has been ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on Revenue.
We accept that. That is obviously the ruling, but the import of what Deputy Neville is saying is that anything we try to do to improve the Bill will involve a cost on the State. Suppose we suggested a different type of computer, for example, that could be an additional charge. How do we improve a Bill with this impediment or obstacle to bringing forward amendments?
If we were to propose that the commission should go to Donegal rather than Roscommon, that would be an extra cost as well.
That would be a horrendous cost——
There would be additional political coverage as well. I will give the Minister a chance to mull over that.
I would not do that to poor old Roscommon. It is in the Connacht-Ulster constituency. One never knows.
Question put and agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 12, 16, 17 and 26 are cognate and may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 11, subsection (7), lines 39 and 40, to delete "not less favourable to him or her than" and substitute "equivalent to".
This section provides for the continuation of the existing office of An tArd-Chláraitheoir. The objective of this amendment is to clarify that the terms and conditions under which An tArd-Chláraitheoir is appointed under this Bill are equal to those prevailing currently. Equally, the terms and conditions under which an tArd-Chláraitheoir Cúnta is appointed under this Bill are equal to those prevailing currently. The amendment states that the terms and conditions under which the staff of An tArd-Chláraitheoir appointed under this Bill are equal to those prevailing currently. The final amendment to the section provides that the terms and conditions under which registrars are appointed under this Bill are equal to those prevailing currently. Maybe An tArd-Chláraitheoir will not agree.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 13 is out of order.
While I acknowledge the ruling, the whole purpose of this amendment was to extend the registration system to cover guardianship orders and agreements. In strengthening the Bill, this particular section for the amendment would be appropriate. We have been told that we cannot pursue this, but we feel that in strengthening the Bill, the substance of the amendment should be included in this section.
Amendment No. 13 not moved.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 12, subsection (1)(h), line 32, after "registrars" to insert "(within the meaning of section 17)".
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 14a is out of order as it entails a charge on the Revenue.
Amendment No. 14a not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 8, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
This is about An tArd-Chláraitheoir having responsibility to provide a sub-office of the Oifig an Chláraitheoir in Dublin to cater for public searches of the records and the issuing of copies and certificates. That is amendment No. 14a.
No, that is dealt with further on.
The amendment is out of order——
Was it ruled out of order because of another charge on the Exchequer?
That is my problem again, another charge on the Revenue. Nevertheless——
Does the Deputy wish to make a point in any case?
Yes, I want to make a point. One of the problems we have - it will arise in further amendments - is that we are going to move to a centralised system but the various county-based registers of births, deaths and marriages are located around the State and hold the full set of original civil registrations dating back to April 1845. These local registers are compiled in a completely different way from the copies maintained in the Office of the Registrar General in Dublin. I was trying to ensure that sub-offices would be available to cater for public searches of the records and for the issuing of certificates and so on. Having everything centralised is grand and necessary up to a point and centralising the records is a laudable objective but it is directly contrary to the Government's decentralisation policy. If we are to remove local registers, it will make local searches completely impossible.
Although I have never done it myself, one hears of people who spend a long time doing searches in local areas and who can do a huge amount of work. There would be no gain in searching the new computerised index system as it will contain no further data than its predecessor, the hard copy paper-based indexed volumes. It would be more than helpful for local people if, in future, a search could be done at a local register. We are in difficulty in that irrespective of what we propose in this area, it will apparently impose a charge on the Exchequer.
I do not know what is the Minister's own view in this regard. Must everybody up sticks, no matter where they are, to go to the centralised register? It is important to have a centralised office - I support that - but having a local office is also important to maintain and make available the local records, particularly for researchers and people of that ilk. Maybe this is an issue to which the Minister has given some thought. If, as it appears, the proposal involves a charge on the Exchequer then I am in difficulty straight away again.
I am not sure I understand exactly what Deputy Penrose is saying, and maybe the Minister can clarify this for us. I understand that all records have been computerised and worked on over the past six years or whatever, and that a very sophisticated operation has been going on since 1998 in Roscommon town, where almost all the country's records have been computerised. This facility will be available to anybody anywhere.
The new situation, as I understand it, is that this will be available to everybody everywhere. This is the most progressive step. Some of those who have worked on this project were just involved as part of a three-year FÁS scheme, but some 40 civil servants are also based in Roscommon. I attended a launch in Government Buildings some months back when this was spoken about in public, but many people are unaware of what has occurred. Records and books had to be trawled through and are all now computerised. This will be one of the areas of Government that will be very much available to citizens.
The Department of Health and Children in particular is to be complimented, as well as the staff who worked on this project on the Racecourse Road in Roscommon for the past six years. I would like to see that facility being availed of by other Departments and State agencies. I understand the facilities there are quite unique. Indeed, I am not sure they are to be found in many other countries in Europe. There is a certain protection of the records, although I am not sure of its full extent. Maybe I am not fully correct as regards the records but perhaps the Minister will confirm the position.
Just to delight Deputy Penrose, Deputy Finneran is absolutely right about what has happened. This work has been ongoing in Roscommon since 1996, and it is a tribute to a number of people. The contrary argument - that there still be a research facility located in Dublin as opposed to research availability all over the country - was the subject of discussion and debate in the House. It will be possible to have a very advanced research facility available in every registration office. We will have access at local level.
There is a commitment, and we do not need legislation on it, to retain that research facility here in Dublin. There was a concern that everything would be moved to Roscommon but there will be a facility in Dublin. All historical data will be available electronically by the end of 2004, and the facility will remain in Joyce House until all this work has been completed. It is envisaged that when the project moves completely to Roscommon, the Dublin research function can be located more suitably, and discussions are ongoing about a more appropriate location for a research facility.
Regional and local access to this facility is second to none. The work being done has almost been completed by the people in Roscommon. The research facility will be retained in Dublin and, furthermore, the project has received European recognition for the work it has done due to its uniqueness and its customer service provision. I cannot accept the amendment as it is out of order but the work is being done anyway.
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 13, subsection (1), line 13, to delete "Sibhalta" and substitute "Shibhialta".
This is a technical amendment to correct a typographical error. It is just a misspelling.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 14, subsection (9), lines 5 and 6, to delete "not less favourable to him or her than" and substitute "equivalent to".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 14, subsection (2), lines 21 and 22, to delete "not less favourable to them than" and substitute "equivalent to".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 10, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 14, subsection (1), line 26, to delete "2004" and substitute "2005".
This section deals with the drawing up of an annual report on the operations of the civil registration service. The amendment inserts a more appropriate date of 2005 for the preparation of the first annual report by the Ard-Chláraitheoir than the one currently included in the Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 11, as amended, agreed to.
Section 12 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 19, 48, 51 and 52 are related and may be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 15, subsection (1)(b), line 20, after “State” to insert “further to which section 26 or 27 (as applied by section 28(8)) applies”.
The register of births covers all children born in the State and two additional cases of children born outside the State. These include children born to Irish citizens permanently resident in the State who have the children abroad where the birth is not registered or, alternatively, where no registration of birth system exists or where a registration system exists but copies of birth certificates are not made available. The second exception is where children are born on Irish vessels, vessels coming to or from the State or to members of the Garda Síochána or Defence Forces serving abroad. Provisions for the registration of such foreign births are included in sections 26 and 27 of the Bill but, unfortunately, neither provision applies to stillbirths. Accordingly, the only stillbirths that can be registered are those which take place in the State. A stillbirth abroad cannot be registered, even if a live birth could be registered under the same circumstances. This amendment will address this anomaly and permit the registration of foreign stillbirths in a manner similar to that of foreign births. I hope the Minister will take this on board.
It was indicated that amendments Nos. 48, 51 and 52 are related to this amendment. Amendments Nos. 48 and 51 in my name will address the concerns expressed in amendment No. 19.
Will the Minister accept the amendment?
Government amendments Nos. 48 and 51 take into consideration the point made in amendment No. 19.
So we will agree our amendment and that is fair enough.
I can only agree to my amendment but it achieves the same end.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 15, subsection (2), line 40, to delete "Act" and substitute "Act,".
This is a technical amendment.
We accept the additional comma.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 16, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following subsection:
"(6) An tArd-Chláraitheoir may give a direction in writing to a registrar (within the meaning of section 17) or other person who holds a marriage register book provided under the repealed enactments to deliver the book or a copy of it to an authority specified in the direction not later than 28 days from the date of the direction.”.
This section of the Bill deals with the maintenance of the registers of births, stillbirths, adoptions, deaths, marriages and for the introduction of the registers of decree of divorce and decrees of nullity. This amendment provides for An tArd-Chláraitheoir to request any person who holds an old manuscript book to return it to the local registration authority within 28 days of the request.
Are these manuscript books floating around? Why is this necessary?
Registrars would still have these records and it has been decided that for their safe custody they would be best kept under the auspices of An tArd-Chláraitheoir.
The record holders are official registrars.
Many of them are private registrars. There was always an obligation on them to return their records when a book of registrations was completed but now they are compelled to do it.
The records could be sitting in an attic for 100 years. Does that mean we do not have a complete list of births, marriages and deaths?
We have a complete list of everything.
If the registration book is not returned, how do we know about a marriage?
When the book is completed, it must be returned to An tArd-Chláraitheoir, that was always the case.
The Minister obviously feels strongly enough to make it compulsory.
It is a precautionary measure.
This implies that the registers of registrars who died up to 100 years ago are missing. If so, there is an incomplete register of marriages in this country.
I will start again. The committee's complication of matters is driving me nuts, as is the typing of the committee log.
All registrations are live but under this system we want the old books back. If the registrar died, someone would have to ensure that everything is returned to An tArd-Chláraitheoir and not left in the attic. It was always insisted upon but we are now compelling people to do it in this legislation.
Will this operate from the date of enactment or will it be retrospective? In most church marriages, the priest or sacristan fills in the registration certificate and forwards it to the registration office. He retains with the book a portion of the detail on it. Must everything be returned from now on or only official documents?
The Deputy is complicating matters.
I am not trying to complicate matters.
There are different formats of registration for different religions. The Deputy is talking about marriage.
I am confused now. Deputy Neville is saying there may be a pile of books in an attic and no one knows about those who are registered in them. That does not happen. Every quarter, the private registrar fills in a form and gives the information to An tArd-Chláraitheoir. When the person completes the book, he must now give the book back to An tArd-Chláraitheoir for safekeeping.
Has the information already been forwarded?
The information is forwarded on a quarterly basis. I am not running the show. Deputy Dan Wallace asked about the priest filling in the civil registration form. He is facilitating the civil aspect of a marriage on behalf of the State and the information is then forwarded to a registrar.
The main form is sent immediately to the registrar but the book remains.
Yes, that is the church register.
That is the book signed by the couple.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 13, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 17, subsection (10), line 21, to delete "appointed under" and substitute "within the meaning of".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 14, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 17, subsection (5), line 39, to delete "2003" and substitute "2005".
This section provides for the establishment of local registration authorities in the health boards for the administration of the civil registration service. The amendment inserts a more appropriate date of 2005 for the preparation of an annual estimate of income and expenditure by the local registration authority than that currently included in the Bill.
Where is it indicated that the health board will be the local registration authority or that this will change with the imminent abolition of the health boards?
The health legislation will facilitate that, it will incorporate references to all legislation.
I absolutely detest this aspect of legislation. Draftsmen make reference to things all over the place. Codified legislation is the only way forward, particularly for the public, who are often bamboozled by the technicalities involved.
I have enough trouble with registrars at the moment.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, agreed to.
Section 16 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 18, subsection (4), lines 25 to 29, to delete all words from and including "functions" in line 25 down to and including "other" in line 29 and substitute "the".
The purpose of this amendment is to address a flaw in the Bill because, as it stands, the functions of a registrar are not spelled out in full, they must be deduced by referring to the originating legislation of 1844. This is a recipe for complete confusion and effectively nullifies the objective of modernising the legislation. Section 17(4) means that all of the old legislation remains in effect and will have to be consulted to determine the functions of registrars. The amendment would delete the reference to the old legislation and force the Minister to spell out the functions of the registrars.
I make a living from doing this and it is a nightmare, even for a trained lawyer. A primary objective of legislation is to make the law accessible to the public and reduce legalese. This is an easy way out and I want the functions of the registrars to be spelled out in primary legislation so that it is not necessary to refer to the 1844 Act.
This amendment relates to the section of the Bill dealing with the staff of the registration authorities. The subsection provides that the functions of registrars appointed under this Bill will correspond to those that exist at present. This measure ensures that the health board personnel who work as registrars are in a position to continue to undertake their work without being interrupted by the implementation of the provisions of the Bill when enacted. Accepting the amendment as worded would disrupt the continuance of the registration service, the opposite of what is intended. The functions are laid out in the previous legislation and I do not want to change.
I want them set out here. It could not be contrary to the purpose of the legislation because the Minister has referred to section 57 of the 1844 Act in section 17(4) and that sets out a particular level of functions. Why should we not spell them out clearly in this Bill?
We will be back in a few years debating a consolidation Bill.
We have the opportunity to bring a 160 year old corpus of legislation age into the present.
If it is acceptable under this Bill, why not include it instead of referring to an Act of 1844?
I support the amendment because later amendments tabled by the Minister almost make this a consolidation Bill with the repeal of much legislation. Why not go the whole way? We have seen references in amendments to Acts which were not referred to in page 5 of the Bill, such as the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationships) Acts of 1907 and 1921 and the appalling Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811. If we are going so far to get rid of contradictions in previous legislation, surely the opportunity should be taken to avoid constant references to legislation that is outdated. We should take what is useful in the old legislation and put it into this new Bill, which is largely consolidating in nature.
The section specifically looks at the staff of the authorities, not their powers and functions. I have dispersed the powers and functions in each section because different functions attach to each type of registration - the registration of a birth is different from the registration of a marriage. The functions are dispersed within the legislation.
Normally in legislation, powers and functions are written down in one area. If we did that, the whole Bill would end up as a powers and functions Bill. The powers and functions of each part of the job of the registrar are defined within each section. The Bill does not refer back to the 1844 legislation, it uses a different method.
What is the difference between the two methods? Why are we repealing so much of the old legislation while keeping what is convenient in place, rather than putting it into the Bill?
The powers and functions of the registrar are dispersed throughout the legislation. The section dealing with the registration of births and stillbirths will tell the registrar what to do on such occasions. The section on marriage outlines different duties. We are not referring to the old Act on the basis of the powers and functions of the registrar or the staff of the authorities.
Why then does the section include the reference, "...section 57 of the Act of 1844 and other functions conferred on him or her under this Act"?
It is a continuation of the functions. Life cannot stop while we wait for the President to sign this Bill into law.
The other Act is in place until she does that.
We are going to repeal it.
It will not be repealed until the President signs this Bill into law.
The subsection reads:
(4) A registrar shall have and perform in the functional area of the authority by which he or she was appointed functions corresponding as nearly as may be to those standing conferred immediately before the commencement of this section on a registrar appointed under the repealed enactments or section 57 of the Act of 1844 and any other functions conferred on him or her by or under this Act (including a scheme made by the authority by which he or she was appointed).
The Deputy wants the specific powers and functions of each registration included in the performance of the functional area of the authority.
This Bill should clearly set out the functions of registrars. If someone disagrees with something later on, he will have a right of access to the courts and if the functions are clearly set out, it will be easier for the court to come to a determination. The Minister should look at this before Report Stage.
The Deputy wants the powers and functions aspects of this Bill inserted in a specific section and removed from the rest of it.
I would then have to take the powers and functions in the Bill and transfer them all into a new section.
Referring to the 1844 Act is a safety net in case anything happens in the transitional period.
There is no transitional period. The existing provisions will remain until the Bill is signed into law by the President.
Or until the Minister gives the ministerial order.
I am prepared to withdraw this amendment and ask the Minister to have the Attorney General or Parliamentary Counsel examine it before Report Stage in the interests of clarity and modernisation.
It will assist the public when reading the Bill.
As the Deputy knows, there is no such thing as easy reading in legislation. It will end up as a matter of interpretation before the courts at the end of the day.
The new fashion in judicial evaluation is to examine the records of meetings like this to assist in divining the intention of the Legislature as it debates matters. I want to be helpful and the Minister should take this back to the Attorney General or Parliamentary Counsel and elicit their views. Deputies Boyle and Neville have also made the case for the amendment and it would be worthwhile to re-examine it. This amendment will make the Bill more comprehensible to the public and this is an area in which the public has an interest.
I will withdraw the amendment but I will resubmit it on Report Stage and I expect the Minister to table an appropriate amendment herself that will deal with the concerns of all Deputies.
This is more complicated than simply talking about the powers and functions of staff.
I am prepared to withdraw the amendment to allow the Minister time to examine the idea.
Why is it so complicated?
It is complicated because things change in life and different things happen. Changes in life experiences are reflected in previous legislation which would fall through the net if we did not refer to the 1844 Act.
I am only asking the Minister to refer it to the Parliamentary Counsel.
There will be further deliberation on the matter.
If this comes to interpretation before the courts, someone will have recourse to the record of this committee.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 19, subsection (11), lines 16 and 17, to delete "of births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages".
This amendment is editorial in nature and deletes unnecessary words; the meaning of "registrar" is contained in section 14.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 19, subsection (11), lines 17 and 18, to delete "not less favourable to him or her than" and substitute "equivalent to".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 19, lines 22 to 29, to delete subsection (13) and substitute the following:
"(13) A reference in any statute passed before the commencement of this section or in any instrument made under such a statute to a Superintendent Registrar or a registrar of births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages shall be construed as a reference to a Superintendent Registrar appointed under this section or a registrar, as the case may be, and, accordingly, a function standing vested in Superintendent Registrars or registrars of births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages immediately before such commencement under a provision of such a statute or instrument that continues in force after such commencement shall, upon such commencement, stand vested in Superintendent Registrars appointed under this section or registrars, as the case may be, and may be performed by, such a Superintendent Registrar or by a registrar, as the case may be.".
This amendment is a transitional measure that provides that any function discharged by the superintendent registrar, or a registrar appointed under the repealed Act, may be discharged by a superintendent registrar or a registrar appointed under the provisions of this Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 19, subsection (14), line 30, after "registrar" where it secondly occurs to insert "of births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages".
This amendment provides for the definition of a registrar.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 18 stand part of the Bill."
Amendment No. 28(a) involves a potential charge on the Revenue.
There has been much correspondence about this amendment. It would establish an overseeing body and I cannot understand why there is opposition to the establishment of such a body, particularly in the context of the National Archives Act and other legislation. This is very important. If we can establish a body under the other Acts, I do not see why the Government is against establishing a civil registration advisory body.
The Minister made the point that nothing remains static and there is room for further improvement through the establishment of a body that can make an input into this area. The National Archives Act established such an advisory body made up of those who participate in the areas it encompasses. In this case those participants would be the National Library of Ireland, the National Archive, the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations, the Irish Family History Society, the Law Society, the Genealogical Society of Ireland, Adopted Peoples Association and a public interest nominee. The Ard-Chláraitheoir should be entitled to attend the meetings of the advisory body and the Minister may at any time terminate the appointment of the chairman or other members of the advisory body.
This is a worthwhile amendment and I urge the Minister to reconsider it because the position is clear. There is a similar provision in two other Acts so why is the Minister not prepared to ensure that this aspect of the legislation is as modern and has the same degree of consistency as in those Acts, one of which I cannot recall and the other being the National Archives Act? I urge the Minister to re-examine this matter before Report Stage. This is an important aspect of the Bill and it may well be one of the most important amendments to come before this committee.
I apologise for not being here earlier. This is one aspect of the Bill on which I want to speak because many people have contacted me about it. I fully support the views of Deputies Penrose and Ryan. It is important that before changes are made, those involved in this whole area would have an opportunity, in such an advisory body, to discuss the issues with which they are very much up to date and in which they are deeply involved. For that reason, the advisory body as set out by Deputy Penrose is extremely important.
Those involved in this area are concerned also about the relocation of all the archives to one location. These people have the necessary interest and capabilities to advise and to ensure that mistakes are not made. I ask the Minister to reconsider this amendment or give us a realistic explanation of the reason she cannot accept it. We are not talking about big money. A group of consultants brought in to do some consultancy work would be paid much more than the membership of this board. I read in the newspapers over the weekend that the very careful Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform spent approximately €30 million on consultants. The Minister should not tell us that this cannot be done because of the cost. It can be done and it would be worthwhile.
We should not allow all of the valuable archive material which has been built up over many years to be located in one building because if anything happened to it and all was lost, that would be the end of the records. That is one of the issues people have raised with me.
I ask the Minister to be positive and outgoing in terms of putting forward a Bill with which we can all be happy. When discussing the previous amendment we referred to the 1844 legislation but we are in a different environment now and the Minister and her officials were surprised, as was I, by the level of interest shown in the Bill. Perhaps we misunderstood that interest.
Let us be very clear about what we are saying. When Ministers bring forward legislation on registration it affects every town and village. This Bill encompasses many facets of Irish life. The proposed amendment recommends the setting up of an advisory body to the registrar. We are not recommending something that would have an adverse effect on the Department. We are trying to provide for the establishment of a body that would be complementary to what the Bill wants to achieve, but the Minister says we cannot do that because there might be a secretarial requirement or the members of the body might require travelling expenses. There is nothing in this amendment to indicate that the question of expenses would arise. Some faceless people do not want to be forward looking and encompass representatives of the National Archives of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the Law Society of Ireland, the Adopted Peoples Association and public interest nominees on this body. These representatives should have an input into Ireland going forward in terms of positive legislation.
The reason given for not allowing this amendment is that the question of travelling expenses might arise but we never made the suggestion that the legislation should provide for travelling expenses. The Minister might be pointing to somebody else but for an official to say that this amendment is out of order because of something we do not even refer to is wrong. Where is there a reference to any expenses? This is a positive amendment. We are also giving the Minister the power to terminate the appointment of the chairman or any other member of the advisory body. I am not saying she would do that if they did not go along with her recommendations but we are providing for such a power. We are also recommending that the registrar general shall be entitled to attend meetings of the advisory board and take on the ideas and suggestions of these representatives. It is ridiculous for someone to say that such an amendment is out of order, and it is a cover up.
I support the proposed amendment. It is important that the registrar is properly informed by all the groups who have an interest in ensuring access to this type of information and the way it is presented. Deputy Crawford's point about future projection in terms of the archival importance of many of these records has to be noted also. I come from Cork, which is a black hole in terms of historical research due to the burning of Cork in 1920. My grandmother would have been affected by that in terms of her personal records but a group like the one proposed could put in place measures to examine not only the protection of the material but also how it can be best brought forward for future generations, as well as current use for those who need it. There is an advisory group for the freedom of information legislation, although that may not be a good example. It meets very rarely but the principle is well established in terms of legislation and how State officials can and should be informed by outside bodies. On those grounds, even if the amendment does not appear to be in order in terms of the future expenditure rule, I ask that the Minister re-consider it for Report Stage.
I support the Labour Party's proposed amendment. The Law Society sees the absence of a provision in the Bill for the establishment of such a body as a serious omission, to use its words. The wording of section 53(1) is different from the wording in statutes going back to 1863. The older wording stated that every person shall be entitled to search but the replacement wording states that a person may search.
Furthermore, section 53(1) gives considerable latitude to an tArd-Chláraitheoir to set conditions for searches of the register. The Law Society is seriously concerned that the existing level of access to the register may be restricted as a result of computerisation of the records and the design of the computer interface and search facility. Arbitrary conditions of access to the indexes and register books are a common complaint among users of the service. It will be very important that the design of the user interface does not restrict access to the records and, preferably, should enhance it. The Law Society, therefore, has proposed the creation of a statutory advisory committee as proposed by Deputy Penrose, representing users of the service who would be consulted in the implementation of the proposed changes to the general register service and ongoing developments and user concerns. Representative user groups could include those concerned with adopted persons, academics, genealogists,legal searches, statisticians and consumers. It also suggests a representative of Northern Ireland may be appropriate because of the pre-1922 all-Ireland records which are held. The Law Society has stated that the absence of a provision or such a body from the Bill is a serious omission and that an amendment to provide such a body will be important for the good management, transparency and accountability of the service. I fully support Deputy Penrose's proposal.
I reiterate that Deputies on the far side are Members of the House as long as I am and they know the rules and procedures of the House. On the first day they came in here, they got a little pack containing a copy of all the rules of the House so they know exactly the parameters for working with legislation. Even though it would like to, the Opposition cannot impose a charge on the State within legislative measures, although sometimes in a moment of weakness Ministers can give in. The Minister would then have to introduce appropriate legislation.
I am not introducing a statutory advisory body but I propose to establish a customer consultation framework to facilitate and encourage customer feedback on the provisions of the customer service by the Civil Registration Service. We have had much experience of those in my Department and they have been more than helpful. Listening to customers and understanding their needs and expectations with regard to a public service is important and we have been responsive to practical concerns expressed by our customers. We will do that in the context of this legislation. We would look at feedback on the quality of the service, whether positive or negative, issues of concern, suggested ways of improving the service, provide input to the future development of service and consult with our customer groups. From a customer perspective we will certainly look at the common card. We will also have an opportunity to provide a common page on the website. Initially this will give feedback on the information and the services being provided. We will have customer consultative panels set up which will involve customers meeting with staff from the GRO on an informal basis to express their views on the service's related matters and offer suggestions for improvements. It also offers an opportunity for the GRO to update on developments and consult on a variety issues.
It is proposed to set up two central panels, one catering for general registration and the other focusing on family research. Most of the responses to the consultation document on registration matters are from groups representing specific customer interests. It is proposed that this group will comprise representatives from the groups involved in that customer consultation process. Over time I envisage that the health boards will provide panels representing local customer groups. The family research panel - this may address the legal concerns expressed - will comprise representatives of groups concerned with genealogy, legal and family research.
In the future it is proposed to commission independent customer surveys on the public perception of the service being provided by the Civil Registration Service.Furthermore, we also have work in hand by the interdepartmental committee on marriage which will also address a number of concerns raised recently on the floor of the House and by a number of Deputies here. I do not want three or four different types of committees working within the context of better customer service. I am not prepared to accept a statutory advisory committee but I will introduce a customer service provision where there will be one-to-one independent interaction with the staff of the GRO service and under the family research side a greater input with regard to specific concerns. Equated to that, the Minister will deal with the policy and the legislation, the tArd Chláraitheoir will deal with the implementation of policy. The customer interaction is good. The interaction under the family research will be good. The linking in with the interdepartmental committee on the reform of marriage will be important if we have to introduce legislative changes and measures. At the end of the day we, as politicians, often sell ourselves short in putting forward issues of concern where something may have to be changed from a legislative or an administrative perspective. I always welcome and encourage public representatives' involvement in customer service delivery. On that basis, I would not be in a position to accept the imposition of a statutory advisory authority but I am looking at and will implement the customer consultation framework. Members may not be aware of this but one often hears old-age pensioners say they had a great day with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. They were all invited to give their views on the administration of their pension services. They had a great interaction on a one-to-one level on how they want things to happen and how they want improvements made. That has filtered through the system. That is the type of consultation I would like to have in the public service aspect of the Civil Registration Service.
Half a loaf is better than no bread. An eighth of a loaf is better than no bread. A statutory advisory committee for the Civil Registration Service as we have proposed is in line with what exists for the National Library, as contained in the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 and for the National Archives under the National Archives Act 1986. The Minister is correct in saying it is a necessary mechanism for customer input into the operation of the service. Initially it was the Genealogical Society of Ireland which proposed such a committee in May 2001. It was guided by the principle of public ownership and right of access. That was the underlying principle.
This is an amendment I would have put to a vote but because it is no longer on the agenda I am not in a position to do so. Deputy Neville was also eager to put it to a vote. The floor has been taken out from under our feet but we want to register the point that it is not novel. It is provided for in other Acts and we feel it would be worthwhile to pursue it in the context of this Bill. Our job is to ensure it is consumer and user friendly and that the inputs we make are to the relevant body. Deputies such as me might never come in contact with the service, other than for birth and death certificates. However, a large number of people are involved in research and legal aspects. We only put forward a certain number of people and I am sure the Minister will put forward an equal number to be part of this stand-in advisory committee. We are not in a position to push the amendment as it is out of order and cannot be pursued but it is one I would have pushed to a vote.
I look forward to the Minister giving us an outline for Report Stage of the type of customer consultation network committee, which I think she said she intends to bring into being in two different strands. That can perhaps be set out for us in that context and might be available to us on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 28(a) not moved.
Question put and agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 29 to 31, inclusive, are related and may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 20, subsection (1)(i), line 2, after "registrar" to insert "if required to do so".
After giving due consideration to this amendment, we believe it would be appropriate to strengthen the Bill. Its purpose is to make the Bill more user-friendly and to bring it into line with the realities of the process of registering a birth. In our opinion, the Bill retains the Victorian precepts that persons registering a birth must attend in person at a registrar's office and cannot send the information by post. The amendment seeks to redress that clearly unrealistic situation. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say and hope she will take today's realities on board.
I am very interested in this amendment because it also applies to the registering of deaths. I do not know why when one has a death certificate signed by a doctor with all the necessary information, one should have to present oneself at a registrar's office and why this could not be done by post. I had personal experience of this situation this week when I tried to register a death. I phoned a registrar who I know but was told I would have to present myself to register the death. I would like to hear the Minister's views.
We are discussing birth at this stage. Committee members might wait to discuss death as we will talk about the beginning of life to start with. A number of issues arise in regard to these amendments. First, it is the duty of the parents to register the birth of a child and the Bill provides a three-month period in which the registration of the birth can be effected. To provide the necessary information and to authenticate the identity of the child, whose particulars will already have been provided by the maternity hospital authorities as soon as possible after the birth, it is necessary that a child's parents attend at a registrar's office to provide the necessary information and to sign the register.
The registration of a birth is the most important of the life events. The accuracy and integrity of the data registered in the birth register underpins a person's identity. It is also important for a range of other services which depend on data from the civil registration system. Making this obligation optional for parents, as the amendment suggests, would undermine the importance of the registration of the birth as a key foundation for setting up and maintaining a lifelong personal history.
It should be noted that this Bill also provides that an entry in the register of births or deaths shall not be used as evidence of these life events unless it is signed by the person who provided the information to the registrar. It is absolutely essential that people appear before the registrar when registering a birth. To facilitate cases where, for example, the birth was in Dublin and the parents live in the midlands, parents can now register births locally. I accept that, previously, it was a major inconvenience for people who had to go home and then come back to appear before the registrar. However, there would be serious repercussions if people were simply able to sign something and send it in to the registrar. Issues of falsification could arise which would be detrimental to the entire ethos of this legislation. It is very important for people to appear before the registrar for the registration of a birth.
While we take cognisance of what the Minister says, I draw attention to section 19(1)(b) which includes the following:
(ii) there, to give to the registrar, to the best of his or her knowledge or belief, the required particulars of the birth, and
(iii) there, to sign the register in the presence of the registrar.
Our amendment seeks to add the words, "if required to do so." That makes for the best of all worlds. It facilitates the transmission of information by post while providing a fallback power to the registrar to order or require a person to attend at his or her office if that is thought necessary. Deputy Seán Ryan is correct that the requirement to be present in the registrar's office rather than sending information by post is a Victorian concept. The amendment seeks to address the reality of the situation now pertaining. I ask the Minister to consider particularly the fallback power which we seek to insert in this context because difficult situations may well arise.
I commend the Minister for making the worthwhile change regarding registration in a home locality of a birth elsewhere, which redresses a significant element of difficulty. However, in the context of modernisation, the penny post is as sure a way as any other. Details are easily checked. As to concerns that situations might arise which would challenge the integrity of the system, surely a PPS number would have a particular significance in this context. Why not consider our proposals for a fallback position in the either/or context?
That is in many ways provided for. However, when we discussed the need for this legislation, we spoke about modernising and reflecting reality. The reality of the present situation is that 33% of births are outside of marriage. As the registrar treats all parents equally, it is most important for a number of reasons, as all in this forum would appreciate, that persons would present themselves for the registration of a birth. Anybody who has been in politics for a number of years would appreciate there can be tensions and difficulties and that registration, as a consequence, is paramount. It is not much bother or a significant imposition in this day and age to visit the registration office to fill in a form and appear before the registrar
What of circumstances where a person is not in a position to do so?
What does the Deputy mean?
A person might be injured, disabled or confined to a wheelchair after a birth, when problems can develop. Is there a means to prescribe this would not be required?
The hospital in which the child is being born can provide a fallback position in such circumstances. Registrations take place in a number of hospitals, particularly in the south.
What would happen outside the hospital, say, in the home, before the registration takes place?
In the main, children are born in a hospital. If the birth takes place outside the hospital, the midwife will be able to confirm the birth.
We would like to have seen some movement in this regard. Taking on board the sentiments expressed——
I am introducing amendment No. 33 to facilitate that fallback position.
On the basis of the Minister's commitment to try to provide a fallback, we will not press the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 not moved.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 20, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following subsection:
"(5) 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.".
I hope the Minister will accept this amendment. She has been very reticent about accepting any amendment and, in that context, we must press a number of amendments. We are doing our best to try to improve the legislation. It appears that the Opposition has nothing useful to say because none of our amendments have been accepted, which is unusual in respect of this type of legislation. We hope we are reflecting the wider common good.
The purpose of my amendment is to deal with an unsatisfactory situation where a child might be born in an ambulance and a birth certificate could be produced registering that the child was born on a road between two named destinations, which is unsatisfactory. It was suggested that a townland might be a more appropriate place of birth to be specified in the register. The amendment will ensure that in future persons born in transit will have an identifiable location registered as their place of birth. It is a reasonable amendment. Rather than registering "Gimcrack Road" or whatever, the name of the area should be stated, whether Collinstown, Barronstown or whatever.
It is a reasonable amendment which seeks to ensure that a situation that may have arisen in practice is accommodated in the Bill.
I support Deputy Penrose in this regard. There have been difficulties in the past where births took place in ambulances and parents were not too happy with the situation. This amendment seeks to clarify the situation and I cannot see why the Minister cannot take it on board.
One of the reasons the Opposition's amendments are not being accepted is on the basis of a pre-emptive strike. The Government is including some of the amendments in the legislation.
B'fhéidir go bhfuilimid d'aon ghuth.
On amendment No. 32, when a birth is registered the place of birth recorded is the name and address of the hospital or the address at which the child was born. Such an address would include the townland in which the birth has taken place. This is current practice which will continue.
If a birth takes place in a vehicle in transit from one place to another, the place of birth is the townland where the birth takes place. If a birth takes place in a vessel in transit from one place to another, the place of birth is the name of the vessel.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended at 16.45 p.m. and resumed at 17.20 p.m.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 20, subsection (5)(a), line 31, after “dead” to insert “or incapable through ill health of complying with subsection (1)”.
Molaim an rún. Bhí mé ag caint faoi cheana. This amendment facilitates the registration of the birth of a child where the parent cannot register the birth because of ill health. It will facilitate the concerns expressed by Members of the House.
That certainly goes some way. In that context we have withdrawn our amendments. We accept this amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 19, as amended, agreed to.
.I move amendment No. 34:
In page 21, before section 20, to insert the following new section:
"20.—Parents may opt to have the birth details of their child recorded in the Irish language and may opt to have a birth certificate issued in the Irish language.".
Any event may be registered in either of the official languages and a certificate issued as per the registration. We have had much deliberation about this. The question as to whether we could have two registrations, one as Gaeilge and one in English, was raised on a number of occasions by Members. I have pondered on this topic for some time. The best advice I have is that a person can only have one definite name to determine who he or she is, in either English or Irish. On that basis the choice exists to register in either language, but not in both. It is a means of identification as to who one is. I am not in a position to accept that an option be provided for the issuing of a birth certificate in English and Irish.
I did not have a choice of which language was used when my birth was registered. This is a complex issue. Most people did not have a choice regarding the language used during their registration. There is a great deal of misuse and misspelling of names as Gaelige agus as Béarla. Nuair a lúifear m'ainm anseo as Gaeilge, deirtear an Teachta Dan Neville seachas an Teachta Dónal Ó Niaidh, m'ainm as Gaeilge. There is nowhere I can register that information. As the Irish version of my name is so complex and different for historical reasons dating back centuries, it is regularly misused and misspelled, as are others. I would like to have the opportunity to register a definitive version of my name as Gaelige.
Ní hé seo ceist faoin Ard-Chláireatheoir, ach tá go leor ann ó 1931 nó thart mar sin.
Nuair a bhí mé in oifig mar Aire Stáit roimhe seo, bhíomar ag féachaint ar m'ainm fhéin, agus an difríocht idir Ní Chochlain, Ní Chochlainn agus Ní Cochláin caused difficulties. A book is available whose title I cannot remember; I think it is Woulfe.
Is it a recent publication?
No, it was published in the 1900s. It contains the English and Irish version of names. Deputy Neville had no say in the language used when registering his name because he was too small to tell his mother in what name in wished to be registered.
I would have liked to have had the opportunity to have registered the names of my four children in both languages.
The names can be registered as Gaelige or as Béarla.
I would have liked to have registered them in both languages. The Irish version of my name, Dónal Ó Niaidh, is so different from Neville that it would create confusion for them in the future.
The Deputy wants his family interpretation of his surname to be registered.
No. If I sign official documents in Irish, it is not my registered name.
It is not the Deputy's name as registered on his birth certificate.
Many people registered under particular names are commonly known by another, and that is the name they use to sign documents. No problems arise until they apply for a passport. In that instance, one must use the name registered on the birth certificate.
I cannot have my name registered as Gaelige on my passport.
The Deputy can have his name on his passport registered in two languages.
Can I have this despite that my birth certificate contains the English version of my name?
It is a pity the Minister cannot accept my amendment. It will not change the world.
Cad é an leagan Ghaeilge d'ainm an Theachta Penrose?
Pionrós, which I think means a rose in a garden of weeds. My name would present a major difficulty in this regard. There are different Anglicised variations of the Irish name. I respect the Acting Chairman who is a Gaeilgeoir agus tá an Gaeilge flúirseach aige agus ag an Aire.
Calls for official status to be given to the Irish language at European Union level are justifiable. It is a worthy objective but it overlooks certain facts. We have many Gaeltacht areas and more gaelscoileanna are being developed. I also laud that more attention is being given to the Irish language. It is important that it be taught to people rather than forced upon them as happened in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Thankfully, we now have a more enlightened approach to the subject.
We are overlooking the fact that we have little or no official recognition in the Irish language form of placenames or surnames. The Minister now has the opportunity, as somebody fluent in Irish, to change that. I am sure the Taoiseach, as leader of the Irish Presidency of the European Union, signs his name in Irish. I am sure one would not find any version of that name on our register. A birth certificate would include the name Bartholomew Ahern rather than Parthalán Ó hEachthairn. Our birth records contain only the English version of one's name. The Minister is now saying it can be either-or. I believe the vast majority of people would choose to register their names in the English language. Providing that one can register one's name in both languages would create——
It would provide an opportunity for parents to register their children's names in both languages.
——an opportunity for people to do so. People should have that right automatically. We are a multicultural and multi-ethnic society. Many new religions, beliefs and cultural practices have been introduced here. The civil registration process will have to accommodate the naming practices of minorities, including the possibility of registering a religious or traditional name in addition to the one normally used by the individual. For example, those in the Jewish faith should be permitted to register the English and Hebrew version of their names. This would permit the Registrar General to issue certificates bearing both versions of the forenames and surnames of each individual availing of that right. We could create problems for ourselves if we do not do this.
The Minister should consider this issue not just in the context of the use of the Irish language for placenames and surnames but in the context of our now being a multicultural society.
People should be permitted to make up their own minds.
Many people will have different preferences for registering names bearing in mind their religious beliefs and so on. I am trying to read between the lines on this. Is this a problem of logistics? Is there not ample room on birth certificates to include such information? If the records are to be computerised, there should be no problem registering one's name as Coughlan and Ó Cochláin.
That is not a problem. First, we are facilitating people who wish to register as Gaelige.
That provision has always existed.
Second, the registrar informs me that every child born in this country must be assigned one name, not two.
One is only registering one name in two languages.
The Deputy is referring to the direct translation of one's name. I am registered as Mary Coughlan. The Irish translation of my name is Máire Ní Cochláin. Many people in the Gaeltacht register through Irish and they can use their Irish name, but the English version is a direct translation of their names. It is the other way round. I assume, under common European languages, people could register their names. If a registrar did not understand the language, there would be difficulties without a translation service, but one can only have one name.
We want the European Union to recognise the language.
It does and Irish is available.
At least 95% of names are registered in English. I refer to those who wish to hold dual certificates in Irish and English.
An individual can only hold one birth certificate.
There must be a way round that. Why not put the Irish and English versions on one certificate?
Surely one's parents would know one's name in Irish.
That is not the problem. One would then have two identities instead of one because one would have two certificates in each language.
Why not use both languages on one certificate?
I do not know if that can be done.
Put Ó Muineacháin and Moynihan on the one certificate.
Sitting suspended at 5.40 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.
Is the amendment withdrawn?
No. We are asking that parents have the opportunity to give equal status to both languages. As I said earlier, 95% of names are registered in English because in non-Gaeltacht areas the English name is used. It is natural, therefore, to register it in English. Some people, however, want the opportunity to acknowledge that they have a name as Gaeilge. The Bill should facilitate that. I could offer a long diatribe about the promotion of Irish and so forth, but I will not do so. The Minister understands my reason for asking that both languages be recognised and that people have the opportunity to register in both languages. I am not saying everybody will have to do it, but some people would like to do so.
We will not withdraw this amendment. We are prepared to call a vote on it, as Deputy Neville indicated. This is important. I cannot understand why there is a logistical difficulty. It is a single person and there is a translation from English to Irish or from Irish to English of the same name. I am William Penrose or Liam Ó Pionrós. There is no logistical difficulty. We are agitating in Europe over similar issues. The country will be a laughing stock if it cannot deal with something like this and give official recognition to Irish language surnames or place names. I support the amendment.
If I wanted to be a purist, I would amend the Bill to provide that one can only register trí Ghaeilge.
That is an unfair statement——
——because I have had no choice.
The Deputy can change his name by deed poll if he wishes.
I was born outside the Gaeltacht. I communicate through English and I have a great regard for Irish. I do not speak official Irish but can speak conversational Irish until the cows come home. The reason is the way I was taught Irish grammar in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have an impediment when speaking official Irish although I have been on Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4 a few times recently. I would like to have had the opportunity to have registered my children's names in both Irish and English. I decided to register them in English for obvious reasons. We live in the Galltacht, outside the Gaeltacht, and conduct our everyday business through English. I had to make a decision so I decided to register the names in English. However, I would have liked the opportunity to have also registered them in Irish. Will the Minister consider it for Report Stage?
It is clear from the Minister's body language that she would like to help.
Yes, but my understanding is that if one registers the name in Irish and English, the two names must be used for everything. The two names would have to go to the child benefit and pension services. I would have to set up a new computerised system within the Department to do that, as would all other Departments that use birth certificates.
Surely the Bill can provide that either form may be used.
I thoroughly disagree with the Minister.
That is not a problem. One can register either in Irish or English.
I am not talking about that aspect.
Either form would go to the Department of Social and Family Affairs for child benefit, pensions and so on.
Legislation should permit a person to register both and have the choice to use either.
Some people are purists and awkward and like to annoy the administration to the nth degree.
They will want the register to be in one way, then that will not be right and it will have to be done another way. The members know, in their hearts and souls, that a system cannot be administered in such a way.
It could be left up to the parents.
A facility was provided in passports. That was for a particular reason, which I will not say on the floor of the House but the members all know what I am talking about. Passports in both languages are accepted, if that is what people want.
The registration is an issue for the registrar and the parent registering. To say there will be difficulties with registering names properly is an insult to a bilingual nation. Surely a reference book can be issued to every register office in the State for consultation. People who want to register in Irish will go to the trouble of ensuring it is done correctly. We are only asking that it be optional, not mandatory.
Registration in both languages will cause huge administrative difficulties. When the Deputies are on this side of the House they will discover that administrative difficulties cost millions of euro. I would like to facilitate people and in order to do so I allowed that registration could be i nGaeilge or i mBéarla.
I can register a child in any name I like. I can invent a name.
Yes, and there are many made-up names out there.
The Minister says that, for administrative reasons, she cannot facilitate this move.
Yes, and because an tArd-Chláraitheoir has advised me that one can only have one form of identity.
Surely the fact that one's name is in Irish and in English does not change one's identity. Both are the same name. Is the Minister saying the name in Irish is different from the name in English? It is a different language but it is the same name.
I propose that we park this matter and come back to it later. We are making no progress at present.
Consideration could be given to this on Report Stage. We fundamentally disagree with the advice the Minister is being given.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 20 agreed to.
Section 21 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 35 to 37, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 22, subsection (2), line 2, to delete "person" where it secondly occurs and substitute "father".
Given the delay caused by the Order of Business in the Chamber and our failure to reach agreement on previous amendments, I hope the Minister can accept this simple amendment. Its purpose is to improve the drafting of the Bill. It is inappropriate that the mother is referred to as such in the Bill but the father is referred to as the person. This is offensive to natural fathers and our amendment, therefore, improves the drafting of the Bill.
Section 22 provides for the registration of a child's father's details, where his or her parents are not married. I appreciate the concerns and sensitivities around this issue and there was much debate on the matter during the debate on Second Stage.
In relation to amendments Nos. 35 and 37, the Office of the Attorney General provides assistance to Departments in progressing legislative initiatives. One of the key legal advisory functions of that office is to provide the legislative drafting service. My Department seeks and abides by the advices of that office, particularly of the Parliamentary Counsel. I am satisfied that the drafting of this provision complies with best practice.
The provision in the Bill provides for the registration of the birth by the parents during the time period which is to be extended to three months from 42 days. Facilities for registering a birth in major maternity hospitals are being progressively introduced to facilitate both parents to fulfil the registration obligations and to enable the timely registration of the event.
The emphasis in section 22 is to facilitate the registration of the child's father's details on the birth register through the co-operation of both parents when the parents are not married to each other. The Bill also provides for an application to name the father in the register of births by either the mother or the father acting alone, but this application must be supported by a court order. There is no presumption in law that a man other than the husband of a married woman is the father of her child. There would be practical and legal difficulties for a registrar in requiring a man to register the birth of a child without paternity being conclusively established.
Section 22(3) provides that details of the father of the child cannot be registered in the register of births where the mother was married at the date of birth of the child, or at some time during the ten-month period immediately before the birth of the child, unless the person or persons to whom she was married during the ten month period declares that he is not the father of the child. This section repeats section 49 of the Status of Children Act 1987, which, in turn, amended section 7 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (Ireland) 1880. Paternity cannot be presumed.
A father may not want to have anything to do with the child.
Amendment No. 37 seeks to substitute "each such person" for "he". This corrects an error in the Bill, as Deputy Ryan pointed out in relation to amendment No. 35, by giving due recognition to the natural father. Section 22(3)(a) provides that where a married woman has a child with someone other than her spouse, the father must give a statutory declaration that he is not the father. This is clearly an error. The Bill should provide that the husband should be required to give a statutory declaration that he is not the father.
As currently drafted the Bill requires that "a statutory declaration of the person or each person to whom the mother was married at some time during the period aforesaid, in a form standing approved for the time being by an tArd-Chláraitheoir, that he is not the father of the child" must be produced to a registrar.
This is why legislation must be watertight. There have been many crying matches over these issues.
Are we following that up by proposing to delete "he" in line 45, and substitute "each such person"?
None of this could be simple. On page 22 of the Bill, when one is talking of "person", that person is the father. In subsection 3(a), that person is the person to whom the woman is married. There are situations involving a married couple wherein the woman may have had the baby before she married, and her husband is not the father.
Therefore, she was registered when she was unmarried.
As currently drafted, a woman might be married to me, and have had a child with someone other than me, and as her husband I must then give a statutory declaration.
If the husband is not the father of the child, he must give a declaration to that effect. Otherwise it is presumed that the husband is the father of the child. If the mother had indicated that she was separated——
I looked through this carefully. This may seem silly, but I thought the Bill should provide that the husband would be required to give a statutory declaration that he is not the father.
Our amendment corrects what I see as the error of the Bill.
A husband must give a statutory declaration if he is not the father of the child. Subsections 3(a) and (b) state:
(a) a statutory declaration of the person or each person to whom the mother was married at some time during the period aforesaid, in a form standing approved for the time being by an tArd-Chláraitheoir, that he is not the father of the child, or
(b) a statutory declaration of the mother in a form standing approved for the time being by an tArd-Chláraitheoir that she has been living apart from the person who is or any person who formerly was her husband during the period of ten months ending immediately before the birth of the child, by virtue of a decree of divorce a mensa et thoro, and a decree of nullity or a decree of separation.
If the Minister can guarantee that this is the import of the original Bill, I will withdraw my amendment and consider the matter again. I was of the view that the legislation did not deal with that particular situation. The right way to deal with it is to have the husband give a statutory declaration that he is not the father of the child.
I will withdraw my amendments if that is achieved, but why not insert the phrase "the father"? There is no reason one cannot do so.
It is because he is not necessarily married to the mother. One cannot therefore presume that the person is the father.
He could be the father without being married.
Yes, as long as he signs and says he is the father, and the woman accepts he is the father.
Why then should the husband have to sign a statutory requirement to say he is not the father?
The man is a person until such time as he signs the register, when he becomes the father. Until then he is a person, on the basis that he is not married to the mother, while there is a presumption that the husband is the father of the child, save in exceptional circumstances where the husband decides in the declaration that he is not the father. The committee members are only persons until they sign the register - unless they are married.
I figured that out a good while ago.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 not moved.
Amendments Nos. 38 and 40 may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 38:
In page 23, subsection (3)(b), line 5, after “separation” to insert “accompanied by a copy of the decree or deed”.
The purpose of this amendment is to require the mother to furnish a copy of the court order whereby she is separated or divorced from her husband to whom she was married at the time the child was born or during the ten months previously. It seems appropriate to require that the court order be produced if the provision is compared with the terms of subsection (2)(d) which requires a mother to produce the affiliation order and not simply to make a statutory declaration. Accordingly, our amendment achieves consistency in the Bill.
We are discussing amendment No. 38 with amendment No. 40. By means of amendment No. 38 we are seeking the insertion of the words, "accompanied by a copy of the decree or deed". This would have the same effect as the previous amendment and should be accepted. It would be appropriate to require a court order to be produced, as outlined by Deputy Penrose.
Section 22 provides for the registration of the birth to include the name of the father where the parents are not married to each other. Section 23 provides for the re-registration of a birth to include the father's details where the parents were not married to each other at the date of the birth of the child or during any time in the ten-month period prior to the birth. Both section 22 and section 23 make provision for the rebuttal of the paternity of the husband of a married woman. We discussed that.
Subsection (3)(b) of section 22 and subsection (3)(b) of section 23 provide that where the mother of the child was married at the date of birth of the child, or during the ten months prior to that date, the birth cannot be registered or re-registered to include the father’s details without the following: a statutory declaration by the mother’s husband that he is not the father of the child; or a statutory declaration by the mother that she has been living apart from her husband because of divorce, nullity of marriage or separation during the period of ten months prior to the birth of the child. The wording of this subsection is designed to cover any circumstances where the mother of the child is married either to a person or to more than one person during the period of ten months prior to the birth of her child. It is current practice to require that any statutory declaration made for the purpose of registering an event or the correction of an error is supported by the appropriate documentation. It, therefore, includes what the Deputy is seeking. A married woman who is separated must have the relevant documentation and a statutory declaration before the child can be registered.
It is 6.30 p.m. Do Members believe we should continue or should we conclude our deliberations?
Is there any possibility that we might take a sos and then return?
Would that be acceptable to Members?
Will we finish our deliberations on this amendment?
We should do so and then consider what way to proceed.
What Deputies Penrose and Seán Ryan are seeking is implied within sections 22(3)(b) and 23(3)(b).
We are prepared to withdraw the amendment on the basis of what the Minister has said. It will be interesting to see how this operates in the future.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 22 stand part of the Bill."
I wish to refer to a concern raised by the Law Society of Ireland with regard to section 22 and the practicality of arrangements for the registration of non-marital children where the co-operation of the father is not available. Section 22(1) expressly relieves the father of the obligation to register the birth. This reflects, in one way, the reality of non-marital births in many circumstances. However, it also removes any obligation on a father who is the subject of a declaration of parentage to provide the information necessary to complete the registration of the child. The father could, therefore, declare that he is the parent but give no further information about himself as required under section 22(2)(c)(i) which provides for the registration of a father on foot of finding parentage.
Difficulties may be anticipated in obtaining the necessary information. Under the new provisions, specific information required from parents relates to the father's PPS number, his date of birth and birth surname and the birth surname of his mother. This information will not necessarily be available to the mother. The Law Society is querying how best the information gap can be filled. As matters stand, one scenario is that the mother will have to apply to the court making the finding of parentage order to have the court make an order requiring the father to provide the necessary information. Alternatively, the Department of Social and Family Affairs will be required to supply the PPS number and the General Register Office will be obliged to carry out a search for the remaining information. The Law Society wants to know how it is intended to proceed in circumstances where a father has been registered as a parent but will give no further information.
He would only be registered as the father of the child. He would not be registering on the birth certificate of the child that he was the father, except under a statutory declaration. There is nothing we can do about it.
It is denoted in the Bill that section 22 concerns the registration of the father where the parents not married. The section states that a father is not required to give information. The Law Society is saying that a gap will then exist.
The Law Society should have forwarded its concerns to us approximately six months ago so that we could have attempted to interpret them.
I feel obliged to raise the issue on the basis that——
Section 22(2)(d) states:
If the mother or the person so requests the registrar in writing and produces to him or her a document purporting to be a copy of an order made by a court in proceedings referred to in section 45 of the Status of Children Act 1987 and to be certified by or on behalf of the court to be a true copy of the order, finding that the person is the father of the child.
That provision can be used.
So the person can be registered as——
How will his date of birth, birth surname and the birth surname of his mother be obtained? These are required for his registration under the legislation.
One can only include the details that are available to one.
So it would be an incomplete birth certificate and the Minister is accepting that.
This is where the mother is forcing the father to declare that he is the father of the child where there is proof of paternity.
We suggest that the section should state that people shall not be required to give information under the Act about a birth unless a finding of parentage in respect of the child has been made. A father would then be obliged to provide the information.
In those circumstances, the woman determines that that person is the father of the child. Under the court order, the court would initially determine paternity and then issue a court order which would allow the child's father to be named on the registration document.
Is it not possible to legally oblige the father to provide the information?
We cannot determine what a judge is going to say.
If a person is registered as the father, why not include in the Bill the power to oblige him to provide the information?
We are discussing an adversarial situation. It would, therefore, be in the hands of the courts to make that determination.
The courts are being left out.
They are. It is stated that the person does not have to register and that he is not required to give information under the Act.
The mother can, as a consequence of the court order, register the father.
In order to do that she must go——
——to court under section 35 of the Status of Children Act 1987.
That is on the basis that there is no presumption that a person is a father of a child.
Yes, but there could be a lack of co-operation at that level in respect of DNA samples, etc. The section should make reference to section 35 of the Status of Children Act 1987. I apologise as it should be sections 35 and 28 of the 1987 Act.
Section 22(2)(d) refers to section 45 of the Status of Children Act 1987.
Is that the correct section of the 1987 Act?
Applications are made under section 35 of that Act but perhaps the order is made under section 45. Section 35 seeks a declaration that X or Y is the father.
Is the order then made pursuant to section 45?
Section 45 includes other provisions as well.
Other matters become involved as a result of the declaration being made by the court.
Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 6.40 p.m. and resumed at 7.45 p.m.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 24, subsection (3)(a), line 25, to delete “and of the person”.
I would like to hear the Minister's response.
This section provides for the re-registration of a birth to include the father's details where the parents were not married to each other at the date of the birth of the child or during any time in the ten months period prior to the birth. Section 23(3) provides that, where the mother was married at the date of birth of the child or during the period of ten months prior to this date, the birth cannot be re-registered to include the father's details without a statutory declaration by the mother's husband that he is not the father of the child or a statutory declaration by the mother that she has been living apart from her husband because of divorce, nullity or marriage or separation during the period of ten months prior to the birth of the child.
The wording of this subsection is to cover any circumstance where the mother of the child was married, either to one person or to more than one person during the period of ten months prior to the birth of her child. It is current practice to require that any statutory declaration made for the purpose of registering an event or the correction of an error is supported by appropriate documentation. I am not in a position to accept the amendment.
In the context of the reply I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 40 not moved.
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 24, subsection (5), line 44, after "re-registered" to insert "save under section 24”.
This section provides for the re-registration of a birth to include the father's details where the parents are not married to each other at the date of the birth of the child or during any time in the ten months period prior to the birth. Section 23(5) provides that a birth may only be re-registered once. This is to avoid multiple changes to the birth registration record. Provision is included in the Bill for the correction of errors which may occur. Where a birth has been re-registered under section 23 to include the father's details, any further re-registration would be superfluous.
The purpose of our amendment is to allow a birth to be re-registered if the parents subsequently marry. That is clearly of benefit to a child where, for example, the parents may wish to give him or her the husband's name, following marriage. This is not permitted under the Bill if the birth has already been re-registered under section 23. The provisions of section 23(5), as it stands, are another bureaucratic interference with the needs of individuals who may be subjected to procedures under this Bill. I know an tArd-Chláraitheoir does not want an unwarranted number of re-registrations and I can understand that. However, where the situation referred to in the course of our submission concerning this amendment arises, the parents might wish, following marriage, to give a child the husband's surname. I do not think this is permitted under the Bill.
I cannot understand how I am misreading-——
Is the Deputy taking the case of a natural father marrying a mother or that of the natural mother marrying another man?
In that instance, the person, being the husband but not the father, would have to adopt the child. Then the child can assume the surname of the person who is the husband but not the father. The father remains the father, regardless. In that circumstance, if a woman marries another man who is not the father of her child, the child can assume the surname of the husband only if the child is adopted by that man. This can be facilitated through normal legislation. It can be done, but we are saying that we cannot have——
The child must be adopted because that man is not the child's father. This happens quite often. Equally, there could be circumstances in which the father of the child might not allow such an adoption and object to it taking place. That would be a matter for the court and the adoption board to determine. However, in those circumstances, the child can be adopted and he or she can then assume the surname of the husband.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 23 stand part of the Bill".
Under the Status of Children Act, an application for declaration of paternity is made at Circuit Court level. Perhaps the Minister might consider - it may not be her area of responsibility - that such applications be made at District Court level. That might make the system more accessible. DNA tests could be ordered and the matter could be settled quickly, thereby separating maintenance and paternity issues. That may be a worthwhile suggestion which the Minister could bring back to the consultation committee.
We can advise the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of that on the basis of our deliberations in this committee. That is not a problem.
Question put and agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 are related and may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 25, subsection (1), line 12, after "1931" to insert "as amended by subsection (2)”.
The purpose of this amendment is to correct what appears to be an outdated provision in section 1 of the Legitimacy Act 1931 which provides for illegitimate children whose parents subsequently marry only if the father is domiciled in the State. This is an inappropriate, discriminatory provision. We question the continued relevance of the Legitimacy Act and the terminology of legislation which remains a part of Irish law.
This matter was not fully addressed when the status of illegitimacy was abolished by law in 1987. What we propose may seem a little complex but it is a reasonable request in the context of updating existing legislation and this Bill.
I will first provide some background on this issue. Within common law, no child is legitimate unless his or her parents are married at the time of his or her birth. The Legitimacy Act 1931 modified the common law rules by introducing the principle of legitimisation into Irish law. The original provisions of the Legitimacy Act were modified by section 7(1) of the Status of Children Act so that a child is now automatically legitimised upon his or her parents valid marriage.
The Legitimacy Act 1931 imposes a duty on parents of a child legitimised by their marriage to re-register the birth of their child. The authority is required to re-register births under the Legitimacy Act 1931. The number of authorities issued under the Act for re-registration of a birth has fallen in recent years and now stands at 600 per year. In future, a superintendent may authorise such re-registration.
The section provides for the re-registration of a child legitimised by his or her parents' marriage to each other. Section 1(1) of the Legitimacy Act 1931 provides for the legitimisation of a person where his or her parents marry each other and the father of the illegitimate person is at the date of marriage domiciled in the State.
The proposed amendment requires that either the father or the mother of the child be domiciled in the State at the date of marriage. As this proposal does not relate to the re-registration process covered under this section, it is not proposed to accept the amendment as appropriate for inclusion in the Bill.
Why not? The Minister did not give a reason it is not appropriate,.
There are situations where the concept of illegitimacy is not an acceptable one. It does not exist in some states such as, for example, Algeria. On that basis, the person must be domiciled in the country so as to be secured under Irish law. One might not think that is the case, but it is. In such circumstances, such a child would never be within the confines of this legislation. The person must be domiciled in the State to be covered by existing legislation. The world is such a small place that we now have to facilitate different cultures. Interculturalism can lead to other problems.
The Minister has explained the position well.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 25, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) Section 1(1) of the Legitimacy Act 1931 is hereby amended by the deletion of the words 'the father' and the substitution therefor of 'either of the father or the mother'.".
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure the child is subsequently legitimised by the marriage of his or her parents if either parent is domiciled in the State and not just the father as is the current position. The Minister has explained the situation in that regard.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 24 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 26, before section 25, to insert the following new section:
25.—(1) The State shall endeavour, insofar as is practicable, to ascertain and register the name of the birth father at the time of registration of a birth.
(2) Nothing in sections 23 or 24 shall prejudice or restrict the right of a child to ascertain his or her birth father.”.
This legislation should start from the point that all fathers should be registered, within or outside marriage. I am thinking in this regard of the right of the child to have his or her father's name registered. I have been strongly convinced for years that our society is not child-friendly when it comes to parenting. Fathers are either excluded or they avoid their duties. Such actions deprive children of their right to be parented by both parents.
While I recognise that difficulties arise, this amendment will highlight the fact that it is the view of the State, in registering births, that the father should be registered. I have spoken on this many times in the past and know, if I go into detail on it, that the Minister will tell me it is not covered by the Bill. I want the right of a child to know his or her parents, their extended families and their medical history to be enshrined in law. How many times are people asked, when attending the doctor, about their medical history? Some 31% of children born last year were born outside of marriage. I accept some were born to couples in relationships but 30 years ago a small number of births took place outside marriage whereas the percentage in 2002 was 31.7%.
The family courts exclude fathers to a large extent. It is assumed guardianship should rest with the mother while the father is given visiting rights. It is the right of the child to know and be parented by both parents whose duty it is to ensure the child is parented by both. That would permit fathers who wish to parent to do so. However, the majority do not want to do so and prefer to skip away following a casual relationship, even though they have a duty to their children. Society should reflect this approach.
Providing that the State should endeavour in so far as is practicable to ascertain and register the father following the birth would mean a statement was being made in this regard. I accept the phrase "in so far as is practicable" would provide an opt-out but it must be included. However, this would be a firm statement regarding the way we want society to progress. It is accepted children have better life opportunities when parented by both parents, other than in exceptional circumstances.
This issue goes beyond the remit of the legislation. One could progress that philosophy. While 33% of children are born outside marriage, many of their parents are in long-term, strong partnerships.
I will provide the complete background to this issue. The Deputy referred to the rights of children but this legislation does not deal with such rights. It addresses the registration of specific events in life.
That is not where I am coming from. I did not say it should be included in the Bill.
All of us would encourage both parents to register a child's birth but that does not imply responsibility. Just because one is somebody's mother or father often does not reflect responsibility. This goes beyond the ambit of the legislation. Issues such as maintenance, supports, etc., are dealt with by agreement or through the courts. Every opportunity should be given to facilitate the registration of the child by both parents through provisions such as the extension of the registration period to three months, which is important, and the facilitation of registration within large maternity hospitals, which is progressive, because it provides that a child's birth can be registered quickly.
Section 23 provides a facility for the reregistration of the birth to include the registration of the father's details on the register where there is co-operation between both parties if they are not married. Section 23(1)(c) and (d) provide for the application for the reregistration of the name of the father in the register of births by the mother or father acting alone but supported by a court order.
Section 23(3) provides that the details of the father of the child cannot be registered in the register of births if the mother was married at the date of birth of the child or prior to the ten months immediately before the birth of the child unless the person or persons to whom she was married during that period declare they did not father the child. The section repeats section 49 of the Status of Children Act 1987 which includes the new section 7A of the Births and Deaths Registration Act.
Section 24 also provides for the reregistration of the birth of a child to legitimised parents and imposes a duty on the parent to reregister the birth of the child within three months of their marriage. Every opportunity is being taken to support the parents but there is absolutely no way we can compel people.
The Deputy appreciates that cannot happen and states we should endeavour "in so far as is practicable". The State cannot intervene in a personal relationship but we have——
It has other times. How many courts are we down?
The State provides support services and for accessibility through public service provision to ensure every opportunity is given to two people to register a child. This is being done through modernisation provided for in the legislation. We are trying to support and encourage couples to register their children "in so far as is practicable" but there are circumstances in which this is not feasible, practicable or acceptable.
Society and the State do not encourage involvement in general.
The Deputy is referring to a moral issue while I am referring to access to a public service, not rights based legislation. The only right being conferred is the right to register within the confines of the legislation. Furthermore, sections 23 and 24 provide for a scenario not being determined by the State, which is access to information about adoptions. My non-legalistic perception of the Deputy's comments is that a child has an inherent right to know who is his or her father. This cannot happen. There are unfortunate circumstances but we are providing for localisation, access to registration, extension of deadlines and legitimisation which will facilitate and encourage couples to register a child's birth. The Deputy will be aware this cannot happen in certain circumstances which involve a value judgment by an adult. A child can make another determination when he or she turns 18 years, the age of consent. What the Deputy is trying to determine is enshrined in the legislation - the facilitation of the joint registration of a child's birth. An excellent new service will be provided through registration in maternity hospitals.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment Nos. 46 and 127 are related to amendment No. 45 and all may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 45:
In page 26, subsection (2), lines 22 to 24, to delete all words from and including "and" where it secondly occurs in line 22 down to and including "to" in line 24.
The purpose of the amendment is to provide for greater flexibility to avoid the bureaucratic strait-jacket. Everybody wants modernisation but rights should not be compromised, as Deputy Neville said, for the sake of simplicity in the administrative system. I am worried about this as I mentioned on Second Stage. The amendment suggests the deletion of the term "and the forename or forenames in the register may not be further changed, altered or added to". In the Bill, as it stands, there is no provision to change a forename where it has already been changed. The amendment would provide for greater flexibility. We have already debated this point with the Minister.
The other point I wish to raise is one about which the Minister should be aware. It has already been the subject of litigation and is complex and sensitive. I will not press the amendment relating to it but I am indicating to the Minister and the chief registrar who is undoubtedly aware of this matter something that will happen, not because we are taking steps but because we will be compelled by the European Court of Human Rights to take action.
The purpose of amendment No. 46 is to address a defect in the law for a small number of people who undergo gender reassignment surgery. At present a person who undergoes such surgery is forced to retain their original birth certificate, with the original gender listing intact, for the remainder of their lives. There is no provision for a change to be made.
As stated, this is a complex and sensitive area and I am aware that there are psychological considerations involved. I am acutely aware of a High Court judgment in this area. However, the European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that failure to make provision in law for transsexuals was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is only a matter of time before a similar ruling is made against Ireland. If such rulings are made in respect of one country, they will certainly be made in respect of others.
This is an area of major difficulty. I tabled the amendment to indicate that despite our best efforts - the Minister made the point approximately three hours ago that the position at administrative level was evolving - this Bill may not be the final word in respect of this area. I raise this issue in a non-partisan way. Being involved in the legal profession, I am aware of what might develop. I am not stating I have a huge reservoir of knowledge and I am sure the
t-Árd Chláraitheoir is acutely aware of the difficulties which may arise. I merely wish to signal that this matter may have to be dealt with in the not too distant future.
I appreciate what the Deputy is saying and I am sure the t-Árd Chláraitheoir would accept and acknowledge that the situation is evolving. We will have opportunities in due course to perhaps amend the legislation. That is the nature of life. I am aware of the issues raised by the Deputy and appreciate the fact that he has flagged them. We are acutely aware of them.
With regard to reregistration following gender reassignment surgery, at present the registration of a birth records details as they appertain at the time of the birth. The issue of the amendment of the birth register following gender reassignment arose in an application for a judicial review of the decision of the t-Árd Chláraitheoir not to amend an entry in the register of births following an application from a person who had undergone gender reassignment surgery. The High Court declined to grant the application.
The judgment noted that the application raised many personal, complex, social, ethical and legal issues. I understand the decision of the High Court has been appealed to the Supreme Court. It would, therefore, be inappropriate to make any change or enter into deliberations until the Supreme Court hands down a judgment. As the Deputy stated, there will be other opportunities to progress further.
Amendment No. 45 relates to the alteration of forenames. Section 25 provides for the forename of the child to be changed or altered in the register of birth and for the registration of a forename where no forename has been registered. It allows the forename to be changed once. This facility is designed to allow the parent or guardian of a child a once-off opportunity to either amend or change or complete a birth registration where no forename has been registered or where a name which is not the original registered is in common usage. Parents or guardians will be required to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy a registrar of births that a change to the forename is necessary. To accept the amendment would result in the possibility of multiple changes of forenames which would lead to a degradation of the birth record. People are afforded one opportunity to make changes and, in fairness, the provision is more than adequate.
The new system mirrors current practice for the registration of births and stillbirths which allows parents to assign a name to their child. A birth or stillbirth can be registered in either of the official languages. Accommodating multiple versions of a name would have significant implications, not only for the registration system but also for the wider aspect of public administration. We had a number of prolonged discussions regarding this part of the section and I stated I would return to the Deputy on the particular issue raised.
To what extent have the Minister and her Department considered the fact that people from different cultural backgrounds employ different systems of naming? For example, in certain cultures the family name might be the first or middle name. How will this be incorporated in the new forms?
That is the point I made in respect of a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial society and religious beliefs and practices. Ways of naming in other cultures can sometimes be totally different.
We will try to accommodate the people concerned. We have a common standard of application but we try to accommodate. Linguistic or other modifications are facilitated.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 46 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 25 stand part of the Bill."
The Minister referred on a number of occasions to the ten month period ending immediately before a birth. What are the implications in respect of frozen embryos, etc?
I have absolutely no idea. We are dealing with a natural occurrence, the gestation period preceding which is, according to medical knowledge, ten months.
I am just asking what are the implications for the registration of frozen embryos.
Those are issues which will have to be addressed.
What about the registration of such embryos?
Obviously, that person would have a mother. The birth could be registered if that person knew who the father was and paternity could be determined. That would be a legal issue. Regardless of what people do, they will always have mothers.
Until cloning is made legal, they also have fathers.
We have no intention of going down that road.
I am just making the point. The Minister has stated people will always have mothers. That leads to an assumption that they do not have fathers.
It will be our public duty to deal with those issues in due course, all of which will arise. The issues addressed in the 1844 legislation are totally alien to those we are addressing in the Bill.
That is the reason we are——
That is the reason people will have an opportunity to interact. When there is a necessity to change the legislation, it will have to be done, either through decisions of the courts or ones made by other Departments.
Question put and agreed to.
As amendment No. 55 is related to amendment No. 47, they may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 47:
In page 26, line 28, to delete "domiciled in the State".
There is a shortcoming in the Bill. The purpose of the amendment is to allow an extension of the system of registration of births to places outside the State where there is no system for registration of such births. Under the Bill, an Irish citizen who has a child outside the State can only have the child's birth registered under section 26 if he or she is domiciled in the State. The amendment would remove this restriction.
As Deputy Ryan said, there is no system for registration of births outside the State. The purpose of amendment No. 55 is to allow the deaths of Irish citizens occurring outside the State to be registered where there is no system for registration of deaths in the country in which the death occurred, regardless of whether the citizen was domiciled in the State. Under the Bill, only persons domiciled in the State may have their deaths registered under the section.
We are trying to deal with a situation where there might be no effective system of registration of either the birth or the death of a citizen. Perhaps the Minister's officials will consider these amendments in the spirit in which they were put forward. The problem will arise in just a small number of cases but the amendments are worthy. There cannot be a floodgates argument against them. They deal with a situation where there is no system of registration in the country in which the birth or death occurred, regardless of whether the citizen is domiciled in the State.
The objective of this section is to provide for the registration of a birth which occurred outside the State to an Irish citizen domiciled in the State or the death of an Irish citizen domiciled in the State which would otherwise remain unregistered or where a copy of the registration of the birth or death in the country in which the birth or death occurred is not subsequently available. The registers of births and deaths are essentially concerned with the registration of births and deaths which occur in the State. In circumstances where Irish citizens domiciled in the State give birth or die outside the State, it is reasonable to make provision for such births or deaths to be registered where they cannot be registered in the country of birth or death.
In practice, this provision caters for cases where there is no system of civil registration or where it has broken down, for example, due to civil war. It also applies to countries where the local law does not permit the registration of a birth to persons with temporary resident status. There were 40 births registered in the foreign births register since 1972. This provision is rarely used for deaths. Since 1972 there have been 13 entries in the register of deaths maintained under section 4 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1972. Most related to deaths at sea during the Second World War.
If the birth or death occurs in a country where there is a system of registration and it is possible to obtain copies of the birth or death certificate, it is not reasonable to expect that those births or deaths should also be registered in the State. Where the certification of birth or death is in a foreign language, it may be translated into English by an authorised translation service. Removing the requirement of being domiciled in the State would mean the births of children of Irish citizens or the deaths of Irish citizens domiciled anywhere could be included in the Irish register of births and deaths. This would have fundamental consequences for the integrity of the civil registration system as well as having other implications, for example, for population statistics used for planning and other purposes.
There is in place in the Department of Foreign Affairs a foreign register of births which records births to Irish citizens abroad. This facility is elective and its purpose is to give Irish citizenship to the registered child. This registration is somewhat complex, requiring extensive evidence and supporting documentation. Where somebody is born or dies where there is no civil registration process, they can be registered in this country. Where there is a civil registration process, they must be registered in the place where the life event occurred. However, there is a facility within the Department of Foreign Affairs to register births of Irish citizens abroad.
The Minister says there is a mechanism in the Department of Foreign Affairs to register in the limited number of cases that might occur.
Yes, there is a register.
What is the mechanism for using it?
One applies to the consular section in the country in which one is temporarily resident and makes an application to have one's child's name placed on this register.
Is it then registered in the normal way?
Descendants of Irish citizens can do this. I did not know much about it until recently. That facility is available. One goes to the consular section or the Embassy which will look after the application.
I will take the Minister's word for it. Like her, I needed more information. We were unaware that the facility was available. I am prepared to withdraw the amendment on the basis of the Minister's information.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 48:
In page 26, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) 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.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 26, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 26, subsection (1)(a), line 37, after “child” to insert “, whether before or after the commencement of this section,”.
This section deals with the registration of births that occurred on Irish aircraft, Irish ships or Irish citizens on board foreign ships or aircraft travelling to or from an Irish port or airport. It also provides for the registration of births to members of the Defence Forces or Garda serving abroad. The amendment facilitates the registration of a birth of a child occurring on an Irish aircraft or ship before the commencement of this section. It is an important amendment.
Is the Minister aware of concerns about flags of convenience? Has she talked to her colleague in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources about whether this might cause a problem with the boat provisions of the amendment?
Flags of convenience are mainly issued for fishing vessels.
Apparently, it applies to cargo ships. I heard Deputy Broughan discuss it recently. If it is becoming a widespread practice for foreign owned and foreign crewed vessels to use Irish flags of convenience, the amendment appears to facilitate this.
What would it facilitate?
It would facilitate it in terms of recognising an Irish birth.
The boat would have to be registered in Ireland. The Deputy will be aware, from his part of the country, that there might be many vessels that are registered in Galway but are under flags of convenience, mainly Portuguese, Spanish or British. They would be registered in Ireland in order that they would be Irish registered vessels under maritime legislation. The important point is where the boat is registered. Those boats are mainly registered in Galway. They sail under flags of convenience but that does not entitle them to be registered as anything but Irish vessels. That is a matter of maritime law and takes one into the complicated area of fisheries legislation such as access to quotas and so on. This matter was looked at in the context of passenger ships and aircraft.
The Swansea to Cork ferry is a Greek boat with a Polish crew operating from Irish and Welsh ports.
She is operating from an Irish port and Irish registered. Therefore, she is Irish. I accept there is an issue but we would have bigger issues with flags of convenience under fisheries Acts than under this Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 26, subsection (3), lines 4 and 5, to delete "to which records referred to in subsection (1) relate” and substitute “referred to in subsection (1)”.
Seo rud teicniúil. This is a drafting amendment to facilitate clarification of the measure.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 51:
In page 27, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following subsection:
"(6) Subsections (1) to (5) apply to stillbirth of a child as they apply to the birth of a child and, accordingly, references in those subsections to birth or births shall be construed as including references to stillbirth or stillbirths, respectively.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 27, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 52 not moved.
Section 28 agreed to.
Sections 29 to 31, inclusive, agreed to.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The select committee adjourned at 8.35 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 4 February 2004.