Civil Registration Bill 2003: Committee Stage (Resumed).

SECTION 32.

It is proposed to discuss amendments Nos. 53, 129 and 130 together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 29, subsection (3), line 42, after "The" to insert "place and".

The grouping makes sense because all of these amendments relate to the same proposed change. It is an issue I raised on Second Stage. I noted the fairly immediate reaction of the Minister of State to the mention of adoption during the debate. I was slightly disappointed by the reference at the conclusion of the Second Stage debate that consultations about the wider area of adoption were ongoing. The changes I propose relate specifically to this Bill where they can and should have an influence and have little, if anything, to do with the wider issues involved in the impending adoption legislation.

The documentation on registering an adoption and the short birth certificate which adopted persons subsequently use in seeking further documentation throughout their lifetime is flawed in that it makes the assumption that all adopted persons are born in Dublin. Adoption is obviously an emotional issue in terms of people's right to know their biological history. I see no reason legislation should be in place, and remain in place with the passage of this Bill, that does not take account of the right of an adopted person to his or her geographical history.

The change I seek is a small one in the Bill and in the Schedules relating to both registers for foreign and Irish adoptions to include the place and country of birth as well as the date. I ask the Minister to consider this from the perspective of an adopted person where all subsequent documents that an adopted person receives, including a passport, refer to their place of birth as being Dublin whether or not they were born there. This would be a small technical change but a large acknowledgement of the grey area in which many thousands of adopted people find themselves. An adopted person who subsequently signs forms giving information as to name and date of birth, and the place in which they were actually born, can subsequently to be deemed to have committed perjury because their State documents state something else. This is an area with which we should deal in the Bill. I ask the Minister to give it active consideration.

The Deputy raised this issue at a preliminary meeting and also on Second Stage. The Minister of State with responsibility for children came down in about 30 seconds flat when he discovered that his views had not been reflected in my Second Stage speech.

We have discussed a number of issues regarding adoptions. It is necessary to take account of sensitivities and the registration of the place of birth in the register of adopted children would lead to an unintentional identification of the associated birth entry to third parties. All the relevant information is kept in an index to the register of adoptions which is restricted to the Adoptions Board and An t-Árd Cláraitheoir.

The Minister of State is examining the question of access and a number of other issues appertaining to it. In that context, this issue is of concern. If there is agreement among parties, I will have no problem, if that is the outcome of the deliberations, in facilitating the Minister of State in terms of that or any other type of access. I assume, off the top of my head, that if decisions are made regarding access and so on, they might have repercussions in terms of this legislation and on that basis we may have to amend it. I would have no problem in doing so. However, the current view is as I have outlined.

I have spoken to the Minister of State about this issue. He said he would raise it personally. Perhaps the Deputy will raise it again when the time arises. As matters stand, it would create difficulty for us. However, within the discussions taking place, regarding which the Minister of State was most emphatic that I should re-emphasise his intention to proceed very quickly, I would have no problem, on the basis of the outcome of the deliberations, with changing this or any other part of the legislation on the registration of adoptions. I would prefer to wait until those deliberations have been completed. On that basis we can advise the Minister of State and meet him formally on the specific issue raised by the Deputy in the context of the three amendments he has tabled.

I suspected the Minister would argue in the context of the identification of biological parentage. I do not accept that argument. It depends on how we define "place". If it is defined as a certain adoption society, in a certain hospital on a certain date, that might not be acceptable. However, if it is defined as a city or county region, it is of a different character.

The Minister is not addressing the issue that adopted persons subsequently get State documents which do not tell the truth. They hold passports that record their place of birth as other than it is. Adopted persons who sign documents throughout their lifetime with information that they know and believe to be the truth are in danger of being deemed to be committing perjury in official documents because their State documents state otherwise.

That is only with regard to place of birth.

It is a question regularly asked of people in documents that they are asked to sign. Most of these documents come from the Department of Family and Social Affairs.

It goes beyond the adopted person. The information is for the public record to which third parties have access.

I still do not accept the ongoing argument that it helps identify biological parents if the place of birth is named as a city or county region. That does not make sense.

The collective view is that if a child is born outside Dublin and the date of birth is known, identification is possible, especially in a small circle. In addition, the rights of the natural mother must also be taken into consideration. That is the reason the whole matter is up for discussion to try to achieve a balance between the rights of the natural parents and those of the adopted person.

I still do not accept that argument. The register records the place of birth as the country of birth while the short birth certificate records it as Dublin, Ireland. I cannot see the reason a small technical change should not be facilitated whereby the place of birth could be recorded as Cork, Ireland or Sligo, Ireland or Clonmel, Ireland. I do not know how that would help identify biological parentage. Even if the place of birth was identified in the local register offices in the various counties, it would help with people's sense of identity and not pose any risk.

People want to know from where they came. What is on the short birth certificate is not the place of birth but the place of registration, which is Dublin in the case of the Adoption Board.

There are registry offices all over the country. It is merely a matter of practice that the Adoption Board chooses to register all adopted people in Dublin.

Everybody is registered in Dublin. All adoptions are registered in Dublin through the Adoption Board.

That is what appears on State documents, including people's passports.

The index indicates the place of birth. If the place of birth were made available in the public record it could cause difficulties.

The place need not be defined as the adoption agency or the hospital. It could be a city or a registration area.

On the one hand we are very specific on where we register people. We spoke about that on a previous occasion. A person is registered in a particular townland if, for example, he or she is born on the way to the hospital or in Letterkenny General Hospital or Sligo General Hospital. There is concern that making that information available might lead to identification.

There are 120,000 people in Limerick.

They do not all have the same date of birth. A person could go to a hospital and access a record on a date of birth and find out where a child was born.

What the Minister is saying is that if a person knows his or her date of birth he or she could see the record of all the children who were born there and identify them.

That is correct.

Can that not be done anyway? Can a person not go into every maternity hospital and do that?

It could be done but a person would need to know the hospital in which he or she was born.

How many maternity hospitals are there? It could be reduced fairly fast if one put in a week's work.

One could go to the 16 hospitals and get the names of everybody who was born on a particular date and identify a person. I do not know how many people are born, on average, every day of the year.

It is 60,000 children a year.

That is about 10,000 a week. We are talking about over 1,000 a day.

One thousand five hundred.

It is 500 if the gender is known. The Minister is arguing about how hard it is for people to find out information.

That is right.

The Minister is ignoring the central fact that people are going through life without their correct life information.

Yes, they are, and that is a matter for the adoption legislation and for the Minister of State.

We are perpetrating that untruth in allowing the register to go ahead in the way we are.

No, we are not. It is not an untruth because the record of the child will indicate on the index where the child was born. If that is transferred into a public record to which third parties have access, which is the case with all public records, it could upset many people. If the other Minister is prepared to change it in the adoption legislation following consultation, I will have no problem with that.

I am not so sure that he should. There is much common sense and protection in the current system. The position as far as I know is that all registrations take place in Dublin. Is that correct?

However, there is a record apart from that, which is not available to the public. That is the index. That provides a certain amount of protection to both sides involved in this mostly delicate situation. I do not go along with the argument being presented here. I am not so sure that it is fair to say that somebody in that category is committing perjury. I do not read the situation that way. I do not know that there is any advice from this side of the House or from the departmental advisers to the effect that people are committing perjury on the basis of documents they sign at a later stage of their lives. I do not know what basis Deputy Boyle has for saying that.

I can give real examples. One such example is somebody applying through the CAO who puts in what he or she knows to be his or her place of birth and subsequently it emerges that State documentation states otherwise. Another example is someone who applies for any one of the services offered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs whose documentation shows a different place of birth to what he or she had put on a form. Such people are at risk of being found to have committed perjury. People hold passports, a vital document for travelling in and out of the State, that states their place of birth to be other than what they know to be the truth.

I understand that the birth certificate states where the birth was registered. Is that not correct?

Yes. What the Deputy is talking about is a change of circumstances whereby a child who was adopted either through the Adoption Board or through the courts is given access to his or her original birth certificate, which changes his or her status.

I know this is an isolated case in the whole Bill and I largely support much of what is in the legislation. However, I still cannot accept that this small technical change cannot be made. These are unnecessarily defensive arguments. In many ways they are a smokescreen from the wider arguments on the Adoption Bill. The adoption Bill has been a long time in gestation.

There is no guarantee that an ongoing consultation process will bring us any closer to resolving the wider issues of biological information. This is a small change that would advance the right of people who are adopted to know where they come from rather than who they came from and the circumstances.

I understand where Deputy Boyle is coming from. However, we cannot discuss this without examining the situation where somebody might be exposed as the natural mother when she may not want that information to be disclosed to certain people. That is the other side of the debate that we must examine as well.

That is the problem.

I fully appreciate from where Deputy Boyle is coming and I discussed this with the adoption societies some years ago. I can see the sensitivities and the need a person has to know from where he or she came. However, we have had a culture over the years where unmarried mothers who gave children up for adoption were informed and believed that there would be no exposure without their consent. At the moment about 70 children are born every day. If people wanted to find out where they were born, they could go to every hospital and identify those 70 people, even as matters stand. However, we must also accept that if we now bring it down to a place, we might be talking about ten children. So there are two sides, and I do not know how we are to balance the rights of an adopted person and the rights of the natural mother who has had an understanding for 20, 30 or 40 years.

Things have changed. Deputy Neville is right. So is Deputy Boyle. He is speaking from personal experience and knows what he is talking about. It is easy for us as legislators in terms of the present and attitudinal changes, changes of philosophy and the fact that there are so few adoptions within this country. There are, perhaps, more foreign adoptions than adoptions of our own to be registered. There is greater openness and greater acceptance which, as Deputy Neville said, did not exist 30 or 40 years ago. Getting a balance between the two has been the difficulty.

The legislation should be futuristic. The Bill being introduced could apply to future adoptions rather than historically, so that the natural mother will know that she might be identified in the future.

An tArd-Chláraitheoir told me that is specifically part of the consultation currently taking place on adoption. I appreciate what Deputy Boyle is saying. I believe the debate on the initial draft ended in uproar and people could not arrive at a balanced opinion. That is why it was decided to re-examine the issue. The Minister of State indicated to me that he made a commitment to addressing this matter and that he wanted to assure the House that this commitment still stood. On the basis of an agreement and a recommendation from the Minister of State, we will have no problem. I assume we will have to amend this legislation if we are to facilitate change, but we have no problem with this.

My problem is that we do not know how long that will take.

In fairness, the Minister of State indicated he wants to progress this as quickly as possible. He regards it as very important. It is very sensitive.

There is an assumption that adopted people are totally ignorant of all the circumstances of their birth. This is not true because many adopted people know they were born in a certain place.

They do. Many of them know who their natural parents are and this is facilitated through the rights process.

It is a matter of the balance of rights. The natural parent may well have been given an unequivocal assurance and one cannot ignore that. The sensitivities that surround this must be borne in mind. I know of people for whom it would certainly cause some turmoil.

Deputy Boyle's point is correct. I understand consultations are taking place and it involves a great effort to balance the various rights involved. It would almost require the wisdom of Solomon to do so at this stage.

We have provisions in the Bill that allow people to correct their registration details and details of birth subsequently. If circumstances arise where an adopted person has relevant information and cannot go any further in terms of ascertaining details of biological parents, or does not want to do so, I cannot understand why we do not allow in the legislation the opportunity to make a change.

Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?

I hope for some acceptance of the need for change.

The Adoption Board is the registrar for adoptions. It is the right of the board to make a determination on the type of information being requested.

My understanding is that applications to the Adoption Board concern the right to information about biological parents. They do not allow for limited information. I would like the Bill to have a mechanism to allow people armed with correct information pertaining to their place of birth, for example, to change their life details to the correct ones.

The certificate indicates the country in which one is born, namely, Ireland, and where one has been registered rather than where one was born. The State does not presume anything in the certificate.

It does so in the issuing of passports.

That is a different matter. An adoption certificate is acceptable legally in Ireland in applications for a passport and there are no two ways about it. If those affected had documentation to show they were registered in Dublin it would not involve perjury.

It would be a very serious charge to suggest somebody was committing perjury. I appreciate Deputy Boyle's point but it would be a terrible message to send out that people filling in application forms for passports might be committing perjury.

If somebody filled out an application——

This matter should not go into the public domain without its being clarified or rejected. It should not be left hanging in the air because there are many people in the position alluded to by Deputy Boyle who would be very upset if they believed they had committed perjury by way of completing an application form for a passport.

I have just received a copy of an adoption certificate. It alludes to the following: the date of birth; the country of birth; the child's forename, surname and sex; the forenames and surnames of the adopted father and mother; the date of the adoption; and the date of the entry and the signature of An tArd-Chláraitheoir. It does not indicate a place of birth other than the country of birth. Nobody is committing perjury.

The effect of what people do when armed with the correct information when filling out official forms could be construed as such. A person applying for a passport might know his place of birth is Cork, yet his place of birth has to be considered as Dublin if his State documents state he was registered in Dublin. Is this not an act of perjury?

I am assuming that is a matter of interpretation. I do not know anything about passports and do not look after them. However, a child who is adopted is entitled to a passport on the basis of the information provided under the adoption certificate.

If an applicant was born outside Dublin, he or she must state "Dublin" in any case.

The document would not state the child was born in Dublin; it would only state the child was registered in Dublin.

Yes, but the passport application form asks where one was born.

It does not contradict that.

The place of birth is Ireland.

If an applicant for a passport provided the Passport Office with a birth certificate, the office would accept the details on that certificate.

This amendment has been discussed well. Is Deputy Boyle withdrawing his amendment?

Will the Minister have the Minister of State supply us with some information before Report Stage, which I believe will be on Tuesday? It will not be tomorrow morning.

It will be on Tuesday. Does the Deputy want information on what stage of the process of interaction——

What are the grounds on which the Minister of State feels that the reference to "place of birth" would be compromising in terms of the impending legislation? Could he give some indication of how long the consultation process will be? Many feel the issue will not be addressed in the shorter term and that the inconsistencies and anomalies will continue to exist.

When one is filling out a passport application, does one not put "Ireland" as one's place of birth?

I cannot remember. I do not have a passport with me, but I am advised that one includes one's county of birth.

It requires the date of birth, place of birth and the country.

The Deputy wants to know how long the consultation process will be and the Minister of State's views on this amendment.

I will raise this matter again on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 32 agreed to.
Sections 33 and 34 agreed to.
SECTION 35.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 32, subsection (1), line 3, after "tArd-Chláraitheoir" to insert ", an adopted person, an adopter".

This amendment is as much a query as anything else. I interpreted section 35 as meaning that everyone needs to receive some sanction from An tArd-Chláraitheoir. I would have thought that people with a specified interest in respect of specific entries on the register regarding themselves should be recognised in the legislation by being afforded direct access. I suggest that the wording, "an adopted person, an adopter", be included; otherwise those on the register with a specific interest pertaining to themselves would be treated like everyone else. My amendment provides that those most interested in the maintenance of the register should be recognised as such.

The information contained in an index to the register of adoptions, which makes traceable an entry in the register of births, is restricted to the Adoption Board and An tArd-Chláraitheoir. Section 22(5) of the Adoption Act 1952 precludes An tArd Chláraitheoir from granting access to this index other than by order of the court or the Adoption Board.

The register at the back of the Bill is benign in intent. It does not contain the full details. It deals with the particulars of adoption and information on adopting parents. It does not give any other life information. I cannot understand why this would be seen to be sensitive information to the people involved.

One can access the ordinary index to an adoption, but one cannot access the index that links the two together - the adoption and the natural parents.

Is the Minister saying that section 35 applies to the full index?

What is the difficulty?

The linkage is the difficulty. The index that links the birth record to the adoption record can only be accessed by order of the court or by the adoption board.

I do not believe I am proposing that.

Section 35(1) states:

No person other than an tArd-Chláraitheoir or a person authorised in that behalf by an tArd-Chláraitheoir shall be entitled to search the register or an index relating to the register which makes traceable an entry in the register of births and no information from the register or such an index shall be given to any person except by order of a court or the Board.

The Deputy is seeking to insert that no person other than an tArd-Chláraitheoir, or a person authorised, or an adopted person, an adopter, would be entitled to search the register, the linking index. It would mean than an adopted person, and an adopter, would also have that access to the register.

My understanding is that it only applies to the First Schedule, Part 3. I submit that the information set out seemed benign. I see no reason such people could have direct access to that.

Section 53(3), which clarifies the position, states:

This section does not apply to the register of stillbirths or an index to that register or an index kept under section 22(5) of the Adoption Act 1952.

It is concerned with access and privacy.

Can I be clear on this? Is it the case that the partial index, which has just the basic information, can be accessed directly without going through any——

Yes, anybody can get that. It is the linking register that is——

:I was not asking about that.

That is fine.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 35 agreed to.
Sections 36 and 37 agreed to.
Amendment No. 55 not moved.
Section 38 agreed to.
SECTION 39.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 34, subsection (1), to delete lines 1 and 2 and substitute the following:

"39.—(1) Records shall be kept, in a manner to be prescribed by regulations, of—".

Section 39(1) states: "Regulations may require specified persons to keep specified records..." The word "may" implies a large element of discretion. In our view that is too wide. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the deaths of the persons specified in section 39(1)(a), (b) and (c) would be registered. As the Bill is drafted, it is left entirely to the Minister whether to requires them to be registered. The amendment would ensure the deaths are registered but the manner of registration would be left to the regulations. That is a fair point.

Section 39(1) leaves too much to the discretion of the Minister. I would be surprised if an tArd-Chláraitheoir or anyone else found a difficulty with the amendment. The word "shall" is mandatory, it is an imperative. The word "may" allows discretion. Sometimes the courts read "may" as "shall". It is one of those ingenious ways of interpreting legislation. I do not want to leave anything to chance. Too much discretion is vested in the Minister as it stands. While the regulations can be prescribed, there will be no option in this regard if the words: "Records shall be kept, in a manner to be prescribed by regulations, of", are inserted. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.

The purpose of the section is to record the death of persons on Irish aircraft or ships, the death of Irish citizens on board foreign aircraft or ships coming from or to an airport or sea port and the death of family members of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces while serving abroad. The section provides that the Minister for Health and Children may make regulations to require specified persons to keep specific records of these events. As, by definition, these deaths will occur outside the functional area of the local registration authority, it is essential that a standard of record keeping is maintained to protect the integrity and accuracy of the information to be registered. To ensure this it is necessary that the responsibility of recording and maintaining particulars of these deaths is assigned by the Minister, through regulation, to specific persons. This is what section 39(1) provides for.

The amendment as worded does not assign responsibility to designated persons for the maintenance of the death record. In addition, it does not allow for the keeping of the specific record relating to the deaths in question as provided for within the section.

Where is that set out? To what subsection is the Minister referring? To state that "Records shall be kept..." makes it a mandatory duty. The manner in which they can be kept can be prescribed by regulations. As the section is drafted, "Regulations may require...". I cannot see how there is an inconsistency or incongruity between what I am advocating, which is to impose a mandatory obligation on the Minister, as opposed to the discretionary manner, which is contained within the wide ambit of section 39, as drafted.

I am convinced.

I am not convinced.

I am convinced. I will accept the amendment.

I thank the Minister. I saw a blue-white crow on my way to the House this morning.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 39, as amended, agreed to.
Section 40 agreed to.
SECTION 41.
Question proposed: "That section 41 stand part of the Bill".

I am very interested in the coroner's area of activities. A coroners Bill is to be introduced by the Government.

It will be a huge Bill.

It is important legislation. Difficulties have arisen in applying the existing coroners legislation. When does the Minister expect the Bill will be published?

A great deal of consultation has taken place on this issue. The legislation should be ready soon. I recently spoke to an official dealing with it and it is hoped it will come to fruition fairly quickly.

The courts are also looking forward to its introduction.

When enacted, it will have a massive impact on many people.

Some of the experiences of those with family members who have died has been shocking.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 42 agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 57:

In page 35, before section 43, to insert the following new section:

43.—The date of birth of a dead person shall be recorded on the death certificate.".

Many parties would like the deceased's date of birth, if known, to be registered on the death certificate, as such registration would facilitate the positive identification of diseased persons from birth certificates. The information currently contained on birth and death records is frequently insufficient to positively identify the record of a person referred to on a birth certificate and match it with the record of that person's death certificate. This problem will continue to arise, despite the additional information required to be registered for the next 70 years, if an amendment to this effect is not inserted.

I support the amendment. The Minister indicated that she would be prepared to accept it.

The wording of the amendment does not address what the Deputy seeks. He is referring to a medical certificate indicating the cause of death. Part 5 of the First Schedule provides for the particulars of death to be entered into the register of deaths. At page 55, line 37, it states that one of the particulars to be registered in respect of a death is the date of birth or age last birthday of the deceased.

The primary purpose of the medical certificate of cause of death is to state the cause of death which the registrar is obliged to enter on the register. It also contains other details necessary to identify the deceased including the date of birth or age last birthday of the deceased. The issues raised in the amendment have been accommodated in the legislation.

I thank the Minister for that.

Is the Deputy withdrawing his amendment?

Yes, as it is not required if its objective is already incorporated in the legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SECTION 43.

I move amendment No. 58:

In page 35, between lines 42 and 43, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) Where the place in which the death occurred is not known, the place of death to be registered shall be stated as that in which the body is found.".

I am sure the Minister will not have a problem accepting this amendment. It provides for the insertion of a new subsection (3). It is a reasonable amendment. It addresses a gap in the Bill in terms of where the place of death should be recorded if that fact is unknown at the time the death is recorded. There is a logic to this proposal. It is a belt and braces measure. There is a lacuna in the legislation in this regard, so this provision is worth examining as its insertion would strengthen the Bill.

The section provides for the registration of a death where the place of death is unknown. Responsibility for registering such a death will fall on the registrar of the local registration authority where the body is found or brought ashore. In practice, all such deaths would be referred to a coroner who is required to notify a registrar of all particulars, including the place of death. Therefore, it is the coroner's responsibility to advise the registrar of the place of death.

That is the equivalent of what I am seeking to achieve in the amendment.

The coroner carries out an investigation, makes a determination and then advises the registrar.

The coroner determines the cause the of death.

Yes, including where the deceased died.

If it is the practice in such circumstances that the coroner carries out an investigation and notifies the registrar of all the particulars, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 43 agreed to.
SECTION 44.

I move amendment No. 59:

In page 36, subsection (1)(b), line 11, after “it” to insert “provided that the coroner is of the opinion that there are reasons for the disposal of the body pursuant to this paragraph, which reasons shall be stated by the coroner”.

Section (1)(b) states that a coroner may authorise the disposal of a body, whether it is lying for the time being in or outside his or her district, irrespective of whether he or she has decided that it is, or will become, necessary to hold an inquest on it.

This section gives the coroner complete discretion to allow the burial or cremation of a body even if the coroner has not yet decided whether to hold an inquest. The amendment would require the coroner to give reasons for the disposal of the body under those circumstances. Provided the coroner is of the opinion that there are reasons for the disposal of the body, the amendment would impose on obligation on him or her to state such reasons.

Section 44(1)(b) provides that the coroner may authorise the disposal of a body, regardless of whether he or she has decided to hold an inquest, which is the point to which the Deputy referred. The discretion on authorising the disposal of a body rests with the coroner under the Coroners Act 1962. In those circumstances it would not be appropriate to require the coroner to give reasons for his or her decision to authorise the disposal of a body. This is an issue that will have to be discussed when we debate the new coroners legislation.

It will have to be teased out and it would be appropriate to discuss it when we debate that legislation. In case I am not involved in this area at that time, the Minister might relay this proposal to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, as such a provision should be included in that legislation. I will withdraw my amendment in light of the Minister pointing out that it is more appropriate to the other legislation.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 44 stand part of the Bill."

What is the arrangement for registering the death of a person who has been reported missing and whose body has never been found?

The coroner can hold a inquest and make a determination or the High Court can give a declaration of death.

I take it the death would then be registered.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform can ask the coroner to hold an inquest as well and then the death would be registered.

Such a provision is obviously covered under other legislation.

Yes. We learn something new every day.

Question put and agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I draw the attention of members to an error in amendment No. 60. The reference to subsection (1) should be deleted, as there is no subsection 2. Is it agreed that the reference to subsection (1) be deleted? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 60:

In page 36, before section 45, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

"Amendment of Law relating to Marriages

45. - In this Part -

'body' means an authority or a religious body;

'marriage registration form' means a form prescribed undersection 48;

'the register' means the register of marriages and cognate words shall be construed accordingly;

'the Register' means the register maintained under section 53 and cognate words shall be construed accordingly;

'registered solemniser' means a person standing registered in the Register;

'religious body' means an organised group of people members of which meet regularly for common religious worship.".

The original proposal in the Bill dealt principally with the introduction of new procedures for the notification and registration of marriages, which involved the introduction of new marriage notification and registration forms to be completed by the parties to the intended marriage. The current law relating to marriage is contained in a series of marriage Acts dating from 1844. The system of marriage preliminaries has not developed on a uniform basis and certain privileges in regard to the solemnisation and place of marriage had been granted to certain religious groups while not to others. There is currently a very complex, uneven system in place in regard to an intended marriage which involves obtaining various forms of licences and certificates before a marriage can take place. This has led to confusion among the public and the solemnisers. The current requirements for civil and religious marriage venues are unnecessarily complex and out of date and certain churches are afforded greater autonomy than others.

In September 2002, an interdepartmental committee on the reform of marriage law was established to review current marriage procedures and formalities and to recommend a framework for reform. The committee identified the need for a universally applicable framework of clear and simple procedures to underpin the solemnity of the marriage contract. A public consultation process was undertaken and a number of discussion papers were published in May of last year setting out proposals for reform. In addition, discussions were held with interested parties, including the main churches. Position papers were published in December of last year covering the proposed amendments. The recommendations of the interdepartmental committee form the basis for significant amendments to this Part of the Bill, which refers to the reform of marriage law.

The new section contains definitions of certain terms used in Part 6. The first amendment to the heading of Part 6 is necessary to reflect the broader nature of the proposed changes to marriage law. The second amendment contains definitions of certain terms used in Part 6. I am including a number of additional definitions in this Part to support other amendments I propose to make to marriage law and which I will address later. The term "body" means a local registration authority, a health board, a church or a religious body. "Marriage registration form" means a new marriage registration form. "The register" means the register of marriages, "the Register" means the register of solemnisers and "registered solemniser" means a person whose name is entered in the register of solemnisers. A "religious body" means an organised group of people, members of which meet regularly for common religious worship.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 45 deleted.
SECTION 46.

Amendment No. 61 is an alternative to amendment No. 62 and amendment No. 66 is cognate, therefore, amendments Nos. 61, 62 and 66 may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 61:

In page 36, subsection (1), lines 34 to 41, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following:

"(b) attend at the office of that registrar, or at any other convenient place specified by that registrar, including an Embassy or Consulate of the State, at any time during normal business hours -

(i) not less than 5 days (or such lesser number of days as may be determined by that registrar), or

(ii) in the case of a person who has resided outside of the jurisdiction for at least three months preceding the date of marriage, whose place of residence has no Irish diplomatic representation, not less than 1 day (or such lesser period as may be determined by that registrar), before the date aforesaid and make and sign a declaration in his or her presence that there is no impediment of kindred or alliance or other lawful hindrance to the said marriage.".

The purpose of the amendment is to overcome a difficulty where a person is living abroad and wants to return to marry. I do not refer here to people living in the European Union. I know of people coming home from Australia to marry. The Bill insists that they come five days prior to the marriage. Many people would use their three or four weeks' holidays as an opportunity to return to marry. The amendment proposes that, in such circumstances and with the agreement of the registrar, they could attend a consulate for the declaration.

This is an issue on which we need to ensure we are crystal clear. Provision is being made in the Bill to facilitate couples working or living abroad. They can notify the registrar by post using the prescribed form. They can submit any other required documentation - for example, divorce decrees - by post but they must attend a registrar's office a minimum of five days prior to the date of the intended marriage to produce identification and to sign the declaration of freedom to marry. If a couple is unable to meet this requirement due to exceptional circumstances, special arrangements can be made with the agreement of the registrar.

In addition, it is proposed that designated registration officers will open late one evening each week to provide an expanded service for customers. All marriage notification details, including the couple's signature, will be captured electronically. This can only be done by personal attendance at a registrar's office. The couple's electronic signature will be used for comparison purposes with those on the marriage registration form when the marriage is being registered.

It is a principle of international law that couples wishing to marry outside their country of residence must comply with the marriage laws of the country where the marriage is to take place. Given the significance of marriage to the couple and to society in general, it is not unreasonable to require a couple to attend a registrar's office in person to complete civil preliminaries for their marriage. It is an intrinsic part of making all necessary arrangements for a marriage.

The final two amendments to this provision deletes unnecessarily words such as "impediment" as the term is already provided for in the Bill. I consider that adequate provision has been included in the Bill to cater for couples resident outside the State who wish to marry in Ireland and I am not in a position to accept this amendment.

The Minister said special arrangements can be made.

What are those special arrangements?

Somebody could get sick and may not be able to go to the registrar's office five days before. For example, a person could fall and break his or her leg, somebody related to a person could die or the aeroplane could be late. Certain things could happen which could mean a person could not get to the registrar's office five days before. If the person contacts his or her local registrar and explains his or her predicament, in the main, the registrar will facilitate him or her.

That shows flexibility.

In special circumstances, arrangements can be made.

Could the Minister not extend that?

Could the Minister not define the circumstances?

Section 46(1)(b) provides for that.

That would not apply if somebody had personal difficulties other than an accident.

I think people would be reasonable.

It would take two or three days to travel from Australia, so that would be eight days from a person's holidays.

When the first notification period came in, people had the flowers, the cake, the wedding organised and everything else sorted, but they forgot about the most important thing - the notification. It has taken a long time to get that into people's minds, namely, that they must give three months' notice. The reason for including five days is almost for the same reason. If, for example, it was a bank holiday, somebody had forgotten a document and it was 6 p.m. and the registrar was closing, one would be unable to get the document one needed to register. These things happen, so we set a parameter of five days as being reasonable, but the registrar can facilitate people's personal circumstances. People go to Thailand and other parts of the world to get married and they must conform to the legal position as it applies in these countries.

We are making the law and it is our job to try to accommodate every circumstance that arises.

The section refers to a period of "5 days (or such lesser number of days as may be determined by that registrar)". It would not be unreasonable if the couple could not attend at the office until four days before. People can be facilitated because things can happen. It is on the basis of realising that things can happen that this paragraph provides flexibility.

We have it on record that circumstances such as those I have outlined should be considered sympathetically by the registrar.

That is the intention. Registrars appreciate these matters and deal with them on an ongoing basis.

However, one might come across a registrar who would not be sympathetic. One often meets officials who are accommodating——

That is why I am moving amendment No. 64.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 62:

In page 36, subsection (1)(b), line 40, to delete "of kindred or alliance or other lawful hindrance".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 63:

In page 37, subsection (4), line 5, to delete "hereby".

This amendment is editorial in nature and deletes an unnecessary word.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 37, subsection (4), line 5, after "marriage" to insert the following:

", provided that where a marriage takes place in contravention of those provisions in circumstances where the parties believe in good faith that one or both of them is in danger of death, and the parties or either of them or the person celebrating the marriage proves the existence of such belief to the satisfaction of the Circuit Court, which application may be made after the celebration of the marriage, the said subsection shall not apply".

This amendment takes account of Deputy Boyle's concerns. A river always flows well when there are no impediments. However, all one needs is a big rock and difficulties arise. I am long enough involved in the legal profession to know that people say that if legislators intended that something happen they would have made provision for it in the legislation. I have been faced with that assertion in court situations, most recently within the past six weeks. I refer to major lacunae in legislation that would have been considered in great detail. Courts make strict literal interpretations of Acts and only occasionally take a teleological or schematic approach. They sometimes use what is said in the Houses. I want to put this matter beyond doubt.

This is an important issue. The amendment states that "where a marriage takes place in contravention of those provisions in circumstances where the parties believe in good faith that one or both of them is in danger of death, and the parties or either of them or the person celebrating the marriage proves the existence of such belief to the satisfaction of the Circuit Court, which application may be made after the celebration of the marriage, the said subsection shall not apply". When my party was in government, Mervyn Taylor introduced the three-month notification period in the Family Law Act 1995 and we remain committed to it because it is a good idea in principle. As the Minister stated, people can go to the Circuit Court in pursuit of a shorter period. The three-month notification period is built into the law and I am seeking something similar here.

I attended the funeral in recent weeks of a person in respect of whom circumstances such as those I have outlined arose. In the case of a marriage where one partner is in imminent danger of death, in principle it is possible to obtain an exemption from a Circuit Court judge in advance. However, there may be a limited number of cases where this is not possible. It is fine when a Circuit Court judge is sitting in the town where such a case might arise. However, if that is not the case, the amendment will accommodate that particular circumstance and makes provision accordingly.

We recognise that this is a difficult area. However, it is important that we, the legislators, who are charged with making laws do so in a clear and precise way in order that there will be no ambiguity. If a person is in imminent danger of death, they may not have time to have the period reduced in the Circuit Court. If he or she proceeds to get married, the amendment will allow for retrospective validation provided that the people involved believed there was an imminent danger of death. They will then have to prove that belief to the satisfaction of the Circuit Court. The circumstances would be the same as those in which people might seek to have a Circuit Court judge reduce the three-month notification period. The latter is done in chambers or in camera.

This is a reasonable amendment. I appreciate that it may not be well worded but I ask that the Minister give consideration to it.

I was afraid that the Deputy was going to tell me the true story about a person from his part of the country who died in hospital and before his marriage was registered the person who solemnised it also died. The person's wife is now seeking a pension. I do not know how I am going to deal with that case.

Such difficult cases make the law.

I am familiar with a case where a marriage took place when a person was dying. The priest married the two people but the event was not registered and the marriage is not recognised by the State. The man involved is deeply upset. He does not want a pension, he just wants his marriage to his late wife recognised.

With regard to Deputy Penrose's amendment, section 46 deals with the notification of marriages. The requirements laid out in section 46(1) and (2) are substantive requirements for a valid marriage. Provision is made in the Bill for exemptions to the three-month notification requirement. The parties can arrange with the registrar the place and time for completion of the civil preliminaries for marriage and the issue of the marriage registration form where special or exceptional circumstances arise. Section 46(1)(b) stipulates that the persons concerned must “attend at the office of the registrar, or at any other convenient place specified by that registrar, at any time during normal business hours not less than 5 days (or such lesser number of days as may be determined by that registrar) before the date aforesaid and make and sign a declaration in his or her presence that there is no impediment of kindred or alliance or other lawful hindrance to the said marriage”. However, the phrase “of kindred or alliance or other lawful hindrance” has been removed by amendment No. 62, although those involved do have to go to court.

I suggest that a term other than "of kindred or alliance or other lawful hindrance to the said marriage" be used because the latter is incomplete.

The Bill will read differently when the version of it as amended by the committee is published.

I will withdraw the amendment and assume that the circumstances I have outlined will be covered. What the Minister said is on the record of the House and I will produce it in a court if I ever need to do so.

I will bring all my officials with me.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 37, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following subsection:

"(8) An t-Ard-Chláraitheoir may, if so authorised by the Minister, publish, in such form and manner as the Minister may direct, notice of notifications of intended marriages undersubsection (1), but a notice under this subsection shall not contain the personal public service number of a party to the intended marriage concerned.”.

This section deals with the notification of marriages. The purpose of the amendment is to allow the t-Ard-Chláraitheoir to publish all notifications of marriage. It is being introduced to allow such information to be made available to the public and supports the public and the open nature of marriage.

Where would it be published?

On the web.

It will not be published in the newspapers?

I was wondering about that because I was of the opinion that it would be a gross intrusion. The public have a right to know but marriage is a private event in ways.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 66:

In page 37, subsection (9), lines 31 and 32, to delete "of kindred or alliance or other lawful hindrance".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 75 is related to amendment No. 67 and both may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 67:

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

"(10) A civil marriage may be solemnised in any place in the State, subject to any conditions or exceptions that may be prescribed, with the consent of the registrar concerned.".

We debated this issue on Second Stage. There is a difficulty regarding the venue that might be appropriate for a civil marriage. While Catholic marriages may be celebrated anywhere in Ireland, although they are normally celebrated in churches, civil weddings must take place in a registry office. The Minister amended section 46 regarding the notification process, but I seek that ceremonies can take place in any specified convenient location. Most of the registry offices make few concessions to the needs of large numbers of people. I do not refer to pop stars but few concessions are made to ordinary people who wish to invite large numbers to their ceremony and major liberalisation is required.

A Private Members' Bill was passed in the UK ten years ago, which provided for civil weddings outside registry offices. The Labour Party also made a similar proposal a number of years ago. The Minister's amendment, hopefully, will deal with many of these issues and I am sure it is better.

I do not want the Deputy to feel demoralised because he has put us to the pin of our collars. I agree wholeheartedly with the thrust of the amendment and I have addressed the issue in my amendment.

I have no problem withdrawing my amendment, provided the Minister's amendment addresses the issue. Liberalisation is required because many registry offices are small and compact. They must move with the times.

The current rules and procedures regarding venues for marriages are directly related to the type of licences for marriage. These rules restrict venues to places of public worship such as a chapel or meeting house or a building registered as a place of public worship under the Marriages Act 1995. The exceptions include civil marriages solemnised by a registrar of marriage or a marriage by special licence, which may be solemnised in a place other than a church or a registered building.

The venue for marriages between Roman Catholics is not regulated by statute. As a result, rules regarding venue are not universally applicable to all denominations. A central register of churches and registered buildings where marriages may be solemnised is maintained by the Ard-Chláraitheoir. This register includes all churches, except Roman Catholic churches.

A building may be registered for the purpose of more than one denomination, but multiple registrations are not common. Where a building is registered for the solemnisation of marriage by more than one religious denomination, the ministers concerned are required to hold separate marriage registers and marriage notice books. Care must be taken to ensure the marriages are entered in the appropriate notice books and registers. If two different denominations share the use of a church previously registered for the benefit of a single denomination, without making an application for a change in the registration of the building, this may cause a problem for the registration of the marriage, which cannot be rectified. It may also affect the validity of the marriage.

With regard to civil marriages, a registrar may only solemnise a marriage in his or her office. This means persons wishing to get married in a civil ceremony are restricted to the facilities in each registrar's district. The restriction on civil marriage to the registrar's office gives rise to a considerable number of complaints regarding capacity, to which the Deputy has referred, location and environment. The only registrar's office capable of accommodating large numbers is in Dublin and it has a capacity of 60. This has given rise to demand for civil ceremonies in locations other than the registrar's office. There is a lack of uniformity regarding venues at which marriages may be solemnised and people do not have an equal choice as to the venue for their marriage.

This has given rise to unintended discrimination between different denominations and groups in our society. A number of the Christian churches are moving towards greater co-operation and sharing of facilities. This is required to cater for the needs of other religious denominations and groups not covered by the legislation.

Greater flexibility is needed regarding venues for marriage ceremonies and I am, therefore, removing all current restrictions. A marriage may be solemnised in future at any place and time agreed between the couple and solemniser or the local registration authority. The venue must be a seemly and dignified location for a marriage ceremony. Where a civil ceremony is held outside the registrar's office, the costs incurred by the registrar must be met by the couple. The objective of the section is to provide greater flexibility with regard to venues for marriage ceremonies.

I could not have done it better. That has addressed my objective. I always worry when reference is made to costs and I hope they are prescribed because young people face enough expense. The Minister's amendment is comprehensive and it improves the legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 46, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 47.

I move amendment No. 68:

In page 38, subsection (4), lines 12 to 16, to delete all words from and including "shall" in line 12 down to and including "situate" in line 16 and substitute the following:

"may be exercised by any judge of the Circuit Court".

The purpose of the amendment is to take into account the Family Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997, which conferred jurisdiction on all Circuit Court judges. The provision under section 47(4) may be incorrect because it does not address pre-1997 scenarios.

In granting an exemption to the three month notification requirement, section 47(4) provides that the Circuit Court concerned is that which covers the circuit where the parties to the marriage reside or do business or where the marriage is due to take place. It is reasonable and desirable to provide that there should be a link between the parties to the marriage and the court granting the exemption. The proposal would allow access to all judges of the Circuit Court to grant such an exemption.

Previously, under the Marriage Act 1995, people had to go to the High Court for such exemption. That was amended in 1995 because it was felt that the Circuit Court was more appropriate and the subsection reflects the 1995 Act. The proceedings are heldin camera.

Is the Minister's proposal more appropriate?

Yes, because it was ridiculous to have to apply to the High Court. The Circuit Court is more appropriate. The proceedings take place before the judge in his or her chambers and, therefore, people do not need to feel under pressure.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 47 agreed to.
SECTION 48.

I move amendment No. 69:

In page 38, subsection (1)(a), line 19, to delete “in” and substitute “in,”.

This sections deals with the marriage registration form.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 70:

In page 38, subsection (4), line 44, to delete "3 months" and substitute "2 years".

This amendment proposes to delete "3 months" and substitute "2 years". One might ask why we are seeking to have the period extended to two years. As the Bill currently stands, when a couple gives notice of their intention to marry on a particular date and then change to a new date more than three months later, they are required to go through the bureaucratic rigmarole of giving fresh notice. If it is necessary to change the date, people have to go through the procedure again and the more appropriate date might be five or six months later.

The Bill puts bureaucracy before the needs of individuals. There are many reasons that marriages are delayed, for example, death, health reasons and so on. We propose a more realistic period of two years for a couple who may have to postpone their marriage. We gave this issue some consideration when considering the Bill. If the Minister is prepared to review the situation with a view to extending the time to six months or a year, we would be prepared to consider it.

Three months appears to be a short time. Perhaps two years is the limit but I would support a review of the three month period.

Prior to this, one had to be married within three months of giving notice. Now one must be married within three months of the date of marriage, which amounts to six months.

What is the problem with allowing a one year timeframe?

Where a marriage has not been solemnised within three months of the intended date, the parties are required to submit a new marriage certification form. It is considered that allowing a three month period of grace is reasonable to accommodate any unforeseen circumstances causing a delay of the marriage. Allowing for this period of three months to be extended to two years is considered excessive. Marriage creates a new status that affects both parties in the society to which they belong.

The solemnisation of marriage changes the law that governs the relationship between a husband and wife. The seriousness of the marriage event is reflected in the civil preliminary requirements, which includes a statement of freedom to marry. Extending the shelf life of this undertaking to two years without a need to reaffirm the declaration would risk undermining the integrity of the marriage preparation process.

What about a one year period? Would the same point apply in that case? I am thinking about someone who might have had a serious accident within the three months. People may be in hospital for six months following a serious accident and then recover.

The timeframe is really six months. It is three months from the date——

Yesterday and earlier this afternoon we dealt with very detailed amendments. I understand why the Minister feels she cannot accept some of the amendments because of the technicalities and implications, notwithstanding the fact that she might have seen merit in them. In this case, nothing the Minister has said indicates in any way why a change from three months to, for example, nine months would impinge in any way or cause difficulties in the future.

Certain things can change over a short period. This would have to be concluded before the registrar. The amount of consultation on the issue was unreal. It included the churches and so on.

Has the Minister had serious consultations?

We are not all experts in the field.

This is why Ministers who are not experts in their field are often very successful.

I do not know what way to take that remark.

They have a fresh mind coming in.

I always have an open mind.

Teachers going into education concentrate on primary education because they are primary teachers, as is the case with other professions going into their own area.

What profession have I?

I do not know.

Is six months not adequate?

Can we provide for six months, which gives nine months?

Are we talking about six months from the date of the marriage?

One must give three months notification.

We are not talking about notification. We are talking about a serious accident two or three days prior to a marriage, which happens. The person could end up in hospital which would delay the marriage.

Once they have a declaration that they are free to marry——

They will have that.

Suppose things change? The amendment refers to two years.

We will change it to six months for Report Stage. We will withdraw the amendment on the understanding that the Minister will come back to the issue on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 48, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 49.

I move amendment No. 71:

In page 40, subsection (6), line 1, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

The amendment gives the Minister discretion on whether to allow correction of errors where we believe there must be provision for the correction of errors. The Bill is weak in that regard. The amendment would strengthen the legislation and give the Minister more discretion.

Section 49(6) makes provision for the Minister for Health and Children to make regulations for the correction of errors in the register of marriages. It gives discretion on whether he or she wants to regulate on the matter. In the interests of better regulation, where the need to regulate is carefully analysed to prevent creating unnecessary legislation, it is in keeping with best practice to allow for discretion in the matter.

In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate for the Minister to be obliged to make regulations. The Minister may make them, but does not have to make them. Regulations may be made as they arise. If we insert the word "shall" the Minister would be obliged to make them.

It would mean the Minister shall make them if it is appropriate to do so.

If one is obliged to make regulations one has to do so. Instead of having a regulation one could have a guideline. That is often what is used. That would give guidance to people as opposed to instilling an obligation in secondary legislation.

I believe my recommendation could be accommodated. However, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 72:

In page 40, subsection (7), line 18, to delete "(a)” and substitute “(d)”.

This amendment deals with a drafting error.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 73:

In page 40, subsection (7), line 20, to delete "(b)” and substitute “(e)”.

This also deals with a drafting error.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 49, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I wish to draw an issue to the Minister's attention. The Law Society is concerned about the registration of marriages and the responsibility of the parties to a marriage to ensure that their marriage registration form is forwarded to the registrar, duly completed. The Law Society is concerned that, in some cases, this will not be accomplished smoothly and may result in some marriages having taken place without being registered. Someone acting in bad faith might even deliberately refrain from registering a marriage. Clearly, the lack of registration would affect the couples themselves. It would also, however, undermine the reliability of the register, which would be most undesirable. The solution the Law Society put forward is to require the solemniser of the marriage to register it, as is the case at present.

Under the current system, some 90% of marriages involve the return of a signed marriage form with very little difficulty. All marriage notifications will be captured on the new civil registration system, which is designed to monitor the return of the marriage registration forms and automatically to issue reminders to the couple at various stages. If the form has not been returned there will be an automatic reminder to the couple to send back their form. The system will monitor the information coming in.

What if they fail to send the form?

There is a penalty.

There is a penalty of €2,000 or six months imprisonment.

Yes. I suppose that depends on which would be the more difficult.

The Law Society felt the penalty should be increased, but that is beside the point.

No, I believe it is appropriate.

There will be an onus on the registrar to ensure that this area is addressed.

I thank the Minister for clarifying that point.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 50 agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS.

I move amendment No. 74:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

51.--(1) A marriage may be solemnised by, and only by, a registered solemniser.

(2) A registered solemniser shall not solemnise a marriage unless——

(a) both parties to the marriage are present,

(b) two persons professing to be 18 years or over are present as witnesses,

(c) the place where the solemnisation takes place is open to the public, and

(d) he or she is satisfied that the parties to the marriage understand the nature of the marriage ceremony and the declarations specified in subsection (4).

(3) A registered solemniser shall not solemnise a marriage except in accordance with a form of ceremony which——

(a) has been approved by an tArd-Chláraitheoir,

(b) includes and is in no way inconsistent with the declarations specified in subsection (4) ,

and

(c) in the case of a registered solemniser who is not a registrar, is recognised by the religious body of which he or she is a member.

(4) The declarations referred to insubsection (3) are——

(a) a declaration by the parties to the marriage in the presence of——

(i) each other,

(ii) the registered solemniser who is solemnising the marriage, and

(iii) the two witnesses to the solemnisation,

to the effect that he or she does not know of any impediment to the marriage, and

(b) a declaration by the parties to the marriage in the presence of——

(i) each other,

(ii) the registered solemniser who is solemnising the marriage, and

(iii) the two witnesses to the solemnisation,

to the effect that they accept each other as husband and wife.

(5) The requirements specified insubsections (1) to (3) are declared to be substantive requirements for marriage.

(6)(a) If a person, being one of the parties to a marriage, the registered solemniser concerned or one of the witnesses to the solemnisation, does not have a sufficient knowledge of the language of the ceremony to understand the ceremony and that language, the parties to the marriage shall arrange for the translation during the ceremony of the words of the ceremony into a language known to the person by an interpreter (not being a party or a witness to the marriage) present at the ceremony.

(b) An interpreter who is present at a marriage ceremony pursuant to paragraph (a) shall——

(i) before the ceremony, sign, in the presence of the registered solemniser, a statement to the effect that the interpreter understands, and is able to converse in, any language in respect of which he or she is to act as interpreter at the ceremony, and give the statement to the registered solemniser, and

(ii) immediately after the ceremony, give the registered solemniser a certificate written in the language used by the registered solemniser at the ceremony and signed by the interpreter in the presence of the registered solemniser to the effect that the interpreter has faithfully acted as interpreter at the ceremony.

(7) The parties to a marriage solemnised in accordance with this Act shall be taken to be married to each other when both of them have made a declaration in the presence of each other, the registered solemniser and the two witnesses that they accept each other as husband and wife.

(8) This section shall have effect notwithstanding any statutory provision that conflicts with it.

(9) In this section a reference to a registered solemniser, in relation to a marriage which a person is temporarily authorised undersection 57 to solemnise, includes a reference to that person.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 74:

In the proposed new section 51(2)(b), after “be” to insert “or appearing to the registered solemniser to be”.

Amendment No. 74 replaces section 29 of the Marriages (Ireland) Act 1844. I am introducing this new section to give effect to the recommendations of the interdepartmental committee on reform of marriage law in relation to solemnisation of marriage. The law in relation to marriage is complex, uneven and not easily understood by the public or by those involved in administration.

Procedures are set down in law for the solemnisation of marriage by registrars and some religious bodies. However, there are other churches which are not adequately catered for by current legislation. There is a need to provide a universal framework that recognises and underpins marriage as a solemn contract, streamlines procedures, provides clarity and formalities to be observed and retains the safeguards and strengths of the current system.

I am, therefore, introducing standard rules and procedures for the solemnisation of all marriages to ensure that the important legal significance and obligations of marriage are clearly understood by the couple, the witnesses and by society in general. In future, both parties to the marriage must be present at the ceremony, the marriage must be solemnised by a registered solemniser, two credible witnesses, aged 18 years or over, must be present, the marriage must be open to public witness, the marriage must be solemnised in a formal ceremony which has been approved by An tArd-Chláraitheoir and the marriage may take place at a time agreed between the couple and the solemniser.

If the couple, the witnesses or the solemniser do not have sufficient fluency in the language in which the marriage is to be solemnised, the services of a qualified interpreter must be employed by the couple so as to ensure that all parties to the marriage fully understand the solemn nature of the commitment being made by the couple. The solemniser must ensure that the couple and the witnesses understand the nature and significance of the marriage ceremony and that any required interpretation is provided.

The marriage ceremony must include a public declaration by the couple that there is no legal impediment to their marriage and a declaration by the couple to the effect that they accept each other as husband and wife and calling on others to witness their marriage. A couple are married after this declaration has been made. The marriage registration form must be completed by all parties to the marriage after the ceremony. The couple will be responsible for returning the marriage registration form to a registrar within one month of the marriage ceremony. The objective of this section is to provide for the introduction of universal procedures for the solemnisation of marriage.

With regard to the amendment to the amendment, the requirement for a valid marriage provides that a registered solemniser shall not solemnise a marriage unless two persons professing to be 18 years or over are present as witnesses. The section assigns responsibility to the registered solemniser to ensure that these conditions are fulfilled. In the circumstances, the addition to the amendment is unnecessary.

The Minister's amendment deals with the questions of witnesses to the marriage, the language of the ceremony and registration of the marriage. Having considered the matter I will not proceed with the amendment to the amendment.

Amendment to amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 75:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

52.---(1) Notwithstanding any statutory provision that conflicts with this subsection, a marriage may be solemnised only at a place and time chosen by the parties to the marriage with the agreement of the registered solemniser concerned and (if the registered solemniser is a registrar and the place chosen is not the office of a registrar) the approval of the place by the authority by which the registrar is employed, and the question whether to give or withhold such an approval shall be determined by that authority by reference to such matters as may be specified by the Minister.

(2)(a) Where a registrar who is a registered solemniser solemnises a marriage at a place other than the office of a registrar, a fee of such amount as the authority by whom the registrar is employed may determine shall be paid by the parties to the marriage to the registrar.

(b) Where travel or subsistence expenses are incurred by a registrar who is a registered solemniser in connection with the solemnisation of a marriage by him or her at a place other than his or her office, an amount in respect of the expenses, calculated by reference to a scale drawn up by the authority by which he or she is employed, shall be paid to the registrar by the parties to the marriage.

(c) An amount payable under paragraph (a) or (b) may be recovered by the registrar concerned from the parties to the marriage concerned as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

(3) In this section a reference to a registered solemniser, in relation to a marriage which a person is temporarily authorised under section 57 to solemnise, includes a reference to that person.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 76 to 80, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 76:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

(1) An tArd-Chláraitheoir shall establish and maintain a register (which shall be known as the Register of Solemnisers and is referred to in this Part as 'the Register') of persons empowered, by virtue of their registration in the Register, to solemnise marriages.

(2) The Register shall be open to inspection by members of the public at all reasonable times.

(3) An tArd-Chláraitheoir shall, subject to subsection (4), register a person in respect of whom an application is made undersection

54*.

(4) An tArd-Chláraitheoir shall refuse to register a person if he or she considers that——

(a) the body concerned (not being an authority) is not a religious body,

(b) the form of marriage ceremony used by the body concerned does not include both of the declarations specified in section 51(4)** or is inconsistent with either of them,

(c) the form of marriage ceremony used by the body concerned has not been approved by an tArd-Chláraitheoir, or

(d) the person is not a fit and proper person to solemnise a marriage.

(5) It shall be the duty of the body on the application of whom a person is registered in the Register to notify an tArd-Chláraitheoir as

soon as practicable of——

(a) the death, resignation or retirement of the person from the office by virtue of which he or she became so registered, or

(b) any change in the information provided in the application,

and an tArd-Chláraitheoir shall make such amendments of the Register as he or she considers necessary.

(6) An entry in the Register shall be in such form and contain such particulars as an tArd-Chláraitheoir may determine.

(7) The Minister may provide by regulations for the correction of errors in entries in the Register by causing corrected entries to be entered in the Register and the original entries to be maintained in the Register.".

This is a new provision which arises from the recommendations of the interdepartmental committee on reform of marriage law regarding the solemnisation of marriage. In considering the issues involved in liberalising venues where marriages may be solemnised, it is considered that the current register of buildings would not be the most suitable mechanism to regulate the solemnisation of a valid marriage. I am, therefore, introducing a new register of solemnisers. The register will contain the names of all persons authorised to conduct religious or civil marriage ceremonies.

In future, a marriage may only be solemnised by a person whose name is entered in the register of solemnisers. Provision is also being made to give temporary authorisation to a visiting solemniser. The objective is to provide for the solemnisation of a valid marriage. People wishing to come here from America to get married will be facilitated by this provision.

What about the application by bodies for a registration of persons? We would like the Minister's views on amendment No. 77.

Amendment No. 77 introduces a new provision to provide a procedure for the entry of names in the register of solemnisers. Applications may be made by a religious body or a health board to An tArd-Chláraitheoir.

What specific requirements must be met to become a solemniser?

The person must be nominated by a religious body or a health board.

What is the interpretation of "a religious body"?

We have defined a religious body earlier in the Bill. There are bodies which may not be religious but which are acceptable as solemnisers.

Would the health board have to clear such people?

Yes. The health board is the registrar.

As things stand, the marriage Acts do not regulate who solemnises the marriage of Quakers or Jews. Who would identify, in the context of this provision, who has the authority to solemnise such marriages?

They would be solemnised by the Religious Society of Friends.

Would they be required to register the names?

All persons with authority to solemnise a marriage must be registered.

Yes, their names must be entered in the book.

What about those who are not religious?

Their marriages would be solemnised in a registry office.

We will now deal with the cancellation of registration. This is a new section which is being introduced to provide a procedure for the cancellation of an entry in the register of solemnisers. An entry may be cancelled at the request of a religious body or a solemniser. An tArd-Chláraitheoir may cancel an entry in the register at the request of a person or the religious body or for other specified reasons.

The Minister is again referring to religious bodies which are defined as, an organised group of people, members of which meet regularly for common religious worship.

There are many religious bodies.

I know. Could that provision be misused by unscrupulous people?

They would not be determined a religious body. The registrar makes that determination.

What about the Moonies?

If they do not comply with the law, the tArd-Chláraitheoir has the power not to accept them or to cancel their registration.

I do not know if the provision deals with such situations.

Would religious sects, such as the one in the Minister's county, be regarded as suitable?

Is the Deputy referring to the Screamers?

Yes, they could be registered as solemnisers as long as they comply with the regulations.

That is interesting.

We cannot exclude anybody. The Screamers considers itself to be a religious sect.

They worship the moon.

I do not know. That is the case regarding the Moonies.

I know that, I am not referring to them.

Those wishing to become solemnisers must comply with the law. If not, the tArd-Chláraitheoir will not register them or will remove them from the register. We cannot discriminate against religion.

I understand that but one must consider what is now a religion.

It is hard to determine.

Long ago, we knew what religion was.

That is true.

We even knew what a pagan religion was. Those involved in the mass suicide in America were part of a religious sect.

So long as such sects work within the context of marriage law, they will be permitted to solemnise a marriage.

Amendment No. 79 inserts a new section which provides for procedures for an appeal against the decision of An tArd-Chláraitheoir to refuse to register a person in the register of solemnisers or to remove a person's name from the register. A person may appeal a decision to the Minister for Health and Children within 28 days of the decision.

Provision is also made for the right to appeal a decision through the Minister for Health and Children to the Circuit Court.

Can such a person act as a solemniser while the appeal is ongoing?

What about temporary authorisation to solemnise a marriage?

Amendment No. 80 provides a procedure for the temporary authorisation of a person to solemnise a marriage for a specified period. This is being provided to facilitate a clergyperson who may visit the State for a given period or specifically to solemnise a marriage of a relative. The objective is to make provision for visiting clergy to solemnise marriages.

Does it relate to all solemnisers?

Would such people be cleared by the health board?

No, they would be cleared by the religious bodies. A Catholic priest would have to go through the relevant religious body.

A Screamer would have to be cleared by the head of that sect.

Is there facility for one's solemniser to be a person outside the religious bodies?

It could be somebody nominated by the health boards.

Can the health board accept somebody from abroad on a temporary basis?

No, it must come through An tArd-Chláraitheoir's office. Is the Deputy thinking about some guy who would not have ——

I am talking about somebody from America who wants to bring over a registrar - someone who would do it in America anyway.

That person would have to be registered temporarily with us.

He can be, and that is the point I am making. The man I am talking of is a registrar not a member of a religious order.

It is only religious bodies not state people.

If somebody from the United States wanted his or her local registrar to come over and be a temporary registrar, could that be done?

No, that person would be carrying other laws with him or her. In the same manner, our civil registrar cannot go to the United States and perform as registrar.

Some of them can. A priest can if he is registered.

Yes, but he is a member of a religious body. This provision is only to facilitate religious bodies. It only applies to them and not to a civilian.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

(1) A body may apply to an tArd-Chláraitheoir -

(a) in case the body is an authority, for the registration of a registrar named in the application who is employed by the authority and is aged 18 years or more, and

(b) in case the body is a religious body, for the registration of a member named in the application who is aged 18 years or more.

(2) An application undersubsection (1) shall be in such form and contain particulars in relation to such matters as an tArd-Chláraitheoir may determine.

(3) Where one or more members of a religious body stand registered in the Register, the body shall not make a further application undersubsection (1) unless it is satisfied that there is a need for a larger number of its members to be so registered.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 78:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

55. - (1) An tArd-Chláraitheoir may cancel the registration of a person on the ground that -

(a) the person or the body concerned has requested him or her to cancel it,

(b) the marriage ceremony used by the body no longer includes both of the declarations specified in section 51(4) or is inconsistent with one or both of them,

(c) the person -

(i) has, while registered, been convicted of an offence under this Act,

(ii) for the purpose of profit or gain has carried on a business of solemnising marriages,

(iii) is not a fit and proper person to solemnise marriages, or

(iv) for any other reason, should not continue to be registered.

(2) Where an tArd-Chláraitheoir intends to cancel the registration of a person on a ground mentioned insubsection (1)(c), he or she shall, give notice in writing of his or her intention to the person and the body concerned and shall specify the ground in the notice and the notice shall, if practicable, be of at least 21 days.

(3) After a person receives a notice undersubsection (2), he or she shall not solemnise a marriage unless -

(a) an tArd-Chláraitheoir notifies the person that he or she has decided not to cancel the registration, or

(b) the Minister notifies the person that an appeal under section 56(2) in respect of his or her registration has been successful,

and, where an tArd-Chláraitheoir gives a notification pursuant toparagraph (a), he or she shall also notify the body concerned of his or her decision.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 79:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

56. - (1) If an tArd-Chláraitheoir refuses to register a person named in an application by a body undersection 54(1) -

(a) an tArd-Chláraitheoir shall notify the person and the body, by notice in writing, of the refusal and of his or her reasons for the refusal, and

(b) the person or the body or both of them may appeal against the cancellation to the Minister, by notice in writing delivered to the Minister not later than 28 days from the day on which the notice under paragraph (a) is received by the person or the body, as may be appropriate.

(2) If an tArd-Chláraitheoir cancels the registration of a person under section 55 -

(a) he or she shall notify the person and the body concerned, by notice in writing, of the cancellation and of his or her reasons for the cancellation, and

(b) the person or the body or both of them may appeal against the cancellation to the Minister, by notice in writing delivered to the Minister not later than 28 days from the day on which the notice under paragraph (a) is received by the person or the body, as may be appropriate.

(3) On an appeal under this section, the Minister shall receive and consider such submissions as the parties to the appeal may make to him or her, either orally or in writing, as the Minister may determine.

(4) On an appeal under this section, the Minister shall -

(a) notify the person and the body concerned of his or her decision,

(b) give an tArd-Chláraitheoir such directions (if any) as he or she considers appropriate.

(5)(a)If the Minister dismisses an appeal under this section solely on the ground that the body concerned (not being an authority) is not or has ceased to be a religious body, the body may appeal against the dismissal to the Circuit Court.

(b) If the Minister dismisses an appeal under this section on any other ground, a party to the appeal may appeal against the dismissal on a point of law to the Circuit Court.

(c) The jurisdiction conferred on the Circuit Court by this subsection shall be exercised -

(i) in case the appeal is by an authority or a religious body, by a judge of the circuit in which the authority or the religious body has its principal place of business or its principal office,

(ii) in case the appeal is by a person (other than an authority or a religious body), by a judge of the circuit in which the person ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation,

(iii) in case the appeal is by a person (other than an authority or a religious body) and an authority or a religious body, by a judge of the circuit in which the authority or the body has its principal place of business or its principal office.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 80:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

57. - (1) An tArd-Chláraitheoir may, on application in writing to him or her by a religious body, grant to a member of the body named in the application who is aged 18 years or more a temporary authorisation to solemnise -

(a) one or more marriages specified in the authorisation, or

(b) marriages during a specified period so specified.

(2) An application undersubsection (1) shall be in such form and contain such particulars as an tArd-Chláraitheoir may determine.

(3) An authorisation under this section may be made subject to such conditions as are specified therein.".

Amendment agreed to.

There are three additional amendments to amendment No. 81. They will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 81:

In page 41, before section 51, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

58. - (1) A person may at any time before the solemnisation of a marriage lodge an objection in writing with any registrar and the objection shall state the reasons for the objection.

(2) Where the registrar who receives an objection undersubsection (1) is not employed by the authority by which is employed the registrar to whom was given the notification in relation to the marriage referred to in section 46, or a copy of the court order in relation to the marriage referred to in that section -

(a) the first-mentioned registrar shall refer the objection to the Superintendent Registrar of the authority by which the second-mentioned registrar is employed, and

(b) the Superintendent Registrar shall direct a registrar employed by the last-mentioned authority to perform the function conferred by this section on the first-mentioned registrar,

(c) the registrar who receives the direction shall comply with it, and

(d) references in subsections (3) to (7) to the registrar who receives an objection shall be construed as references to the registrar who receives the direction aforesaid, and this section shall apply and have effect accordingly.

(3) If the registrar who receives an objection undersubsection (1) is satisfied that the objection relates to a minor error or misdescription in the relevant notification under section 46 which would not constitute an impediment to the marriage, the registrar shall -

(a) notify the parties to the intended marriage of the objection,

(b) make such enquiries as he or she thinks fit,

(c) if the marriage registration form has been given to one of those parties, request its return to the registrar and correct it and the notification and make any necessary corrections to any other records relating to the marriage, and

(d) give the corrected marriage registration form to one of the parties to the marriage.

(4) If the registrar who receives an objection undersubsection (1) believes that more than a minor error or misdescription exists in the relevant notification under section 46 and that the possibility of the existence of an impediment to the intended marriage concerned needs to be investigated, he or she shall refer the objection to an tArd-Chláraitheoir for consideration and, pending the decision of an tArd-Chláraitheoir, he or she shall -

(a) notify the parties to the intended marriage that -

(i) an objection has been lodged and of the grounds on which it is based,

(ii) the objection is being investigated,

(iii) the solemnisation of the marriage will not proceed until the investigation is completed,

(b) if the relevant marriage registration form has not been issued, suspend its issue,

(c) if the marriage registration form has been issued, request the party to the marriage to whom it was given to return it to the registrar,

(d) notify the solemniser of the marriage that an objection is being investigated, and

(e) direct him or her not to solemnise the marriage until the investigation is completed, and the solemniser shall comply with the direction.

(5) In a case referred to insubsection (4), if an tArd-Chláraitheoir decides that no impediment to the intended marriage concerned exists, he or she shall advise the registrar concerned to that effect and the registrar shall -

(a) notify the parties to the marriage that no impediment to the marriage exists,

(b) issue or re-issue the marriage registration form to one of those parties,

(c) notify the person who lodged the objection that no impediment to the marriage exists.

(6) In a case referred to insubsection (4), if an tArd-Chláraitheoir decides that there is an impediment to the intended marriage, he or she shall advise the registrar concerned to that effect and of the reasons for the decision and the registrar shall -

(a) notify the parties to the marriage -

(i) that the solemnisation of the marriage will not proceed, and

(ii) of the decision of an tArd-Chláraitheoir and of the reasons therefor,

and

(b) take all reasonable steps to ensure that the solemnisation does not proceed.

(7) If, notwithstanding the steps taken by the registrar concerned pursuant tosubsection (6)(b), the marriage concerned is solemnised, the marriage shall not be registered.

(8)(a) A party to a proposed marriage may appeal to the Circuit Family Court against the decision of an tArd-Chláraitheoir in relation to the marriage undersubsection (6).

(b) The jurisdiction conferred on the Circuit Family Court by paragraph (a) may be exercised by a judge of the circuit in which either of the parties to the intended marriage concerned ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation or where the place at which the marriage concerned had been intended to be solemnised is situated.

(9) A person who has lodged an objection undersubsection (1) may withdraw the objection, but an tArd-Chláraitheoir may, if he or she considers it appropriate to do so, investigate, or complete his or her investigation of, the objection and issue any directions to the registrar concerned in relation to the matter that he or she considers necessary.

(10) An objection on the ground that the marriage would be void by virtue of the Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811 shall be accompanied by a certificate of a registered medical practitioner supporting the objection.".

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 81:

In the proposed new section 58, aftersubsection (4), to insert the following subsection:

"(5) Where an objection is referred to an tArd-Chláraitheoir pursuant to subsection (4), he or she shall make a decision on the objection as soon as practicable.".

We do not want to complicate the matter; it should be kept straightforward. The tramlines are laid out. Therefore, inserting the words "as soon as practicable" is being fair. It does not impose a time limit of 24 or 48 hours. We do not want it dragged out but nevertheless the obligation should be there. The words "shall make a decision" provide the imperative or mandatory nature of what we wish to achieve. This is just a tightening up process. It sets out more for the benefit of the Ard-Chláraitheoir that it should take place without any undue delay on his or her part.

I support that amendment. In any event a decision would be forthcoming within a reasonable period. However, there could be a situation where, for particular reasons, it could be left on the long finger. We suggest that the Ard-Chláraitheoir, "shall make a decision on the objection as soon as practicable". This will not interfere in any way with the Bill. I hope the Minister will accept it.

The section replaces sections 11, 19 and 23 of the Marriage (Ireland) Act 1844. There is provision in current legislation to enter an objection with the registrar against the marriage of a named person or persons on stated grounds. Provision is being made in this section for the lodging of an objection to an intended marriage and for the processing of such an objection. This includes a new right of appeal to the Circuit Court.

With regard to amendment No. 1 to the amendment, where an objection to a marriage is referred to an tArd-Chláraitheoir under this section, legal and/or other advice may be necessary. However, the Ard-Chláraitheoir will be conscious of the need for a timely response in such cases. In line with best customer practice, this will form part of published customer service standards in the Civil Registration Service customer service charter. That will be part of the ethos of the organisation.

With regard to amendment No. 2 to the amendment, 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 a legislative drafting service. My Department seeks and abides by the advice of that office, in particular, that of its parliamentary counsel. I am satisfied that the drafting of the provision of this section complies with best practice.

With regard to amendment No. 3, the Circuit Court may determine the appeal and issue such direction to an tArd-Chláraitheoir as it deems appropriate, either upholding or overturning the decision of an tArd-Chláraitheoir. Therefore I feel these amendments are not necessary in the context of what is provided for in the legislation.

I welcome the Minister's outline in the context of amendment No. 1 to the amendment. However, we feel to include this amendment would not take from the Bill but would complement what the Minister has outlined. There is no reason the Minister should not incorporate it.

It reinforces what the Minister is saying with regard to customer use and satisfaction. If there is a possible gap in legislation, we should fill it. The courts are telling us clearly, particularly since their new make up, that they do not want to get involved. There is a clear division of responsibility between the Legislature and the Judiciary. The courts are saying that if we want something on this it should be put in the legislation. They are not willing to interpret it for us. We have an obligation to respond to those urgings of the courts. It is not their duty to fill in legislation. If we have an objective, we have plenty of ways of ensuring it is achieved. Our amendment would not diminish in any way that of the Minister. It would only tell the Ard-Chláraitheoir that there was a mandatory obligation on him to ensure the decision is given as soon as practicable. The other amendments are more or less the same.

The legal advice we received was that it was adequately covered in the legislation that the matter would be dealt with expeditiously. We are conscious of the necessity for that.

Where is that in the legislation?

It would be part of our customer service objectives. We discussed it before.

That is the point. If the Minister is not willing to accept this we will have to call a vote. Customer service is all very well but we want it set out that the Ard-Chláraitheoir will act in this way. This will give a person the right to judicial review of a decision that is not taken as soon as practicable. "As soon as practicable" then becomes a definition the court can evaluate and determine. Customer service objectives are just customs, they are like ——

Something hanging up on the wall, and they are disregarded in many Departments.

Our amendment is important. The Minister's amendment is very substantial. We appreciate that she did signal it on Second Stage and gave some forewarning of it. We did not include this amendment for the hell of it. We believe it does effect an improvement in so far as it provides guidance. It is in that context we are eager it is accepted.

Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to amendment No. 81 not moved.
Amendment No. 81, as amended, agreed to.

I beg the indulgence of the committee for a few minutes' break.

The Minister is more than welcome. We are also feeling the pressure.

Sitting suspended at 4.40 p.m. and resumed at 4.50 p.m.
SECTION 51.
Amendment No. 82 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 83, 85 and 87 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 83:

In page 41, subsection (1), line 29, after "divorce," to insert "or makes an order recognising a foreign decree of divorce as being valid in the State,".

After considering the Bill, the Labour Party felt it necessary to make this amendment to provide a comprehensive registration of decrees of divorce to cover circumstances where courts recognise the validity of a foreign order in this jurisdiction. It may seem simple, but it is probably complicated. This amendment would enhance the Bill.

Section 51 provides for the registration of decrees of divorce, annullity and marriage granted in the State. Currently, each court holds its own record of decrees of divorce and civil nullity of marriage. There is no central database of repository of decrees of divorce and nullity within the court system. Persons wishing to remarry following the granting of such decrees must provide a copy of the decree to the registrar from the relevant court. The Courts Service will act as a registrar where these are considered vital events with serious legal and social implications for the status of individuals. The provision will facilitate persons granted a divorce in the State who wish to remarry. The provision in respect of all decrees of divorce and annullity granted by the courts will provide a complete record of all such events from a future date. To include a provision to allow parties granted such decrees in the past to apply to the Courts Service for the decrees to be entered in the register would mean the register would not be a complete record of these events from a certain date.

Except in specific cases of birth and death, the Civil Registration Service records actual vital events occurring to persons within the State. It is not the purpose of the service to record vital events occurring in foreign jurisdictions. In the circumstances, it is not appropriate to accept the amendment.

The Minister is saying that pre-existing orders will not be registered. Therefore, the register will be incomplete.

As this is a new measure, the provision will provide for a complete record from a future date upon the enactment of the legislation.

It will be from the date of the enactment of the legislation.

It will be from the date of commencement of the sections of the Act.

All that has gone on from 1997 is by the way. It will not be registered.

The events are recorded in the courts.

I suppose it would be a painstaking job to collect the information.

One would have to move from one to the other.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 84, 86 and 88 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 84:

In page 41, subsection (1), line 31, after "enter" to insert "or cause to be entered".

The section under discussion provides for the registration of decrees of divorce and civil nullity by the Courts Service. The amendments being proposed are editorial in nature and are designed to reflect operational procedures.

Amendment agreed to
Amendment No. 85 not moved.

I move Amendment No 86:

In page 41, subsection (2), line 36, after "enter" to insert "or cause to be entered".

Amendment agreed to

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 41, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) A person who was party to a marriage in respect of which a decree of divorce or nullity was granted prior to the commencement of this section, may apply to the Courts Service for the entry of the decree in the appropriate register.".

If our amendments are not accepted, the register will be incomplete.

We looked at the amendments and had discussions with the Courts Service. We were advised that one could not extract items one at a time from the Family Court records. There are all sorts of other elements such as maintenance and custody provisions. One part of the information cannot be extracted and placed on a register. That is the problem. We tried to do what the Deputy is asking, but it cannot be done.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 41, subsection (3), line 40, after "cancel" to insert "or cause to be amended or cancelled".

Amendment agreed to

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 41, after line 43, to insert the following subsection:

"(5) This section shall have effect notwithstanding any statutory provision that conflicts with it.".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 51, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 52.

Amendments Nos. 90, 92 and 94 to 96, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 90:

In page 42, subsection (1), between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"(a) any dispute arises between a person and a registrar in relation to matters to which this Act relates, or”.

The purpose of this amendment is simply to broaden the very narrow basis for appeals under section 52. I am concerned about appeals. I made the point to the Minister on Second Stage that I am worried about the rigidity of the system that would be imposed. I am certainly not in favour of prolonging litigation. A bureaucratic approach is being taken to disputes, particularly concerning the right to appeal, and we feel that the narrowest forms of appeal have been provided. One stipulation is that one can only appeal on a point of law and this is highly inappropriate in any proper appeal system. It is of critical importance that questions of fact can always be reviewed.

Amendment No. 94 seeks to allow an extension of the time in which one can appeal if the 28 days run out. At present, there is no provision in the Bill for the extension of time. The amendment states: "In page 42, subsection (3), line 33, after "decision" to insert "or such longer time as may be allowed"." This achieves the same objective as amendment No. 90.

The purpose of amendment No. 95 is to delete "and, subject tosubsections (6) to (8) the decision shall be final”. Under the Bill as it stands, only a question of law rather than a question of fact may be appealed to the High Court and there is no further right of appeal to the Supreme Court. It is extremely restrictive and we wish to provide a more open-ended power of appeal.

Amendment No. 96 seeks the deletion in subsection (8) of the phrase, "on a point of law to the High Court whose decision shall be final" and the substitution of "to the High Court". This amendment achieves two objectives: first, it allows appeals to the High Court on questions of fact as well as law; and second, it restores implicitly the right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which the Bill, almost unwittingly, seeks to remove. I would be surprised if the Bill were to lightly remove the right of appeal to the Supreme Court. I reiterate that I am not into the prolongation of litigation, but there has been a worrying and inappropriate trend in this direction. The right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which was prohibited in 1997, was restored in the Freedom of Information Act 2003. Therefore, it would be desirable, for the sake of consistency, if all Ministers took note and followed the same practice.

This legislation reflects the legislation pertaining to the social welfare appeals office. It is similar in that it is in respect of points of law that matters can be referred to the High Court. There is nothing in this legislation to suggest that if the High Court makes a determination on a point of law the case cannot go to the Supreme Court. It can be referred thereto from the High Court.

I understand that point but having an amalgam of facts at an appeals office is a different matter. However, in this instance, a significant dispute regarding facts would have already occurred. I refer to cases in which the registrar, in applying a law to the particular facts, has misinterpreted the law. Furthermore, a person's right to appeal the facts laid before the registrar is being restricted.

The amendments we have tabled are simple amendments to improve the legislation. I do not believe the Minister will create a major difficulty in that not too many people will go to the High Court - I would be surprised if there was more than a handful over two, three or more years. To go to the Supreme Court would be a pretty daunting task and leaving the option open would respect people's entitlements. I would not be surprised if the Supreme Court stepped in pretty soon, under Article 34 of the Constitution, and indicated that parts of this legislation curtail one's right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

We should tread carefully because this is a sensitive area. This legislation looked simple originally but it is inherently complex for every one of us, and Deputies on both sides of the Chamber have paid much attention to it. I am prepared to withdraw my amendments if the Minister considers my points on Report Stage and asks her draftspersons to mull over them. They will have more time to consider the points I am making than they did last night.

How to advise the Minister not to do——

When Deputy Neville was out, I got another amendment so——

Will I go out again?

Perhaps the Minister should consider my amendments. I have a tremendous aversion to restricting people's rights. In technical, bureaucratic and administrative terms, the Bill streamlines everything, but ultimately people have rights and we must never circumscribe these rights in the interest of administrative ease.

Is the Deputy's main bone of contention amendment No. 96, which seeks to allow the appeal of a point of fact as well as a point of law to the High Court?

The Minister's wording is, "on a point of law to the High Court" whereas I am suggesting that we delete, "on a point of law to the High Court whose decision shall be final" and substitute, "to the High Court". That would be open to interpretation. Not everybody would go to the Supreme Court. It might say, in respect of a preliminary matter, that there is no bona fides.

I would not want to make a determination at this time of the evening on something like this.

I take the Minister's point but she has until Tuesday. I urge that she asks the parliamentary draftspersons to examine the matter. I am prepared not to move amendment No. 96 but I have a particular, insistent view on the issue. I spoke to Deputy Seán Ryan about it some days ago. I am concerned that there is a legislative trend to exclude the right of appeal to the Supreme Court.

That would not be our intention. If the Deputy does not mind, I would prefer not to say "Yah" or "Nay".

I appreciate that and I will not move the amendment on that basis.

On the basis that we consider it on Report Stage.

I will not move amendment No. 96 to allow the Minister consider it further.

Is amendment No. 90 withdrawn?

The Minister has not replied on amendment No. 90 which involves the insertion of the words "any dispute arises between a person and a registrar in relation to matters to which this Act relates, or".

Section 52 provides an introduction to the new appeals system which enables people to appeal decisions on registration of life events. In future, the person registering the event must be notified of the reason for the refusal by a registrar to register an event or correct an error in an entry of the register. An appeal may be made where a registrar fails or refuses to register an event or where an tArd-Chláraitheoir or an authorised officer fails to or refuses to correct an error in a register of births, stillbirths or deaths. It is both desirable and reasonable that an appeals mechanism is formally included in the Bill and it underpins the civil registration system, which we feel is fair and open. It also addresses grievances in a timely, structured and impartial manner and supports the principle of good customer service.

In respect of the first proposed amendment to section 52(1), the current drafting provides that the person mentioned is the person affected by the refusal of a registrar to register an event or the failure of an tArd-Chláraitheoir or an authorised officer to correct an error in the register. The additional wording suggested is considered unnecessary and may confuse rather than clarify the matter.

The 28 days allowed for lodging an appeal is considered reasonable and is in keeping with other service appeal procedures, such as lodging an appeal with the social welfare office. The decision of tArd-Chláraitheoir, except in certain circumstances, in respect of an appeal or the decision of an appeals officer is final. It is reasonable that there is a final stage in the appeals process. As an appeal to tArd-Chláraitheoir is final, any further appeal may only be made to the High Court on a point of law. However, we will discuss this.

I accept the Minister's point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 91:

In page 42, subsection (1), line 16, after "person" to insert "concerned, as the case may be,".

This is to improve the drafting of the Bill.

The additional wording suggested is considered unnecessary and may confuse rather than further clarify the matter.

I do not think that is the case.

As somebody who reads many Bills and Acts, I have sometimes had great difficulty in interpreting provisions. I am doing this for insurance. This is a belt-and-braces approach to legislation, which I have learned through the harshness of having to deal with it. However, the Minister has assured me the matter is already covered.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 92 not moved.

I move amendment No. 93:

In page 42, subsection (3), line 28, to delete "applicant" and substitute "appellant".

This is a drafting amendment to correct the text.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 94 not moved.

I will not move amendments Nos. 95 and 96 on condition that the Minister considers them for Report Stage. I must be quite insistent in this matter. Experience has taught me this. I am not doing this to be obstinate. They deal with rights which I would like to see preserved. I ask the Minister to bring them to her draftsperson for consideration.

Amendments Nos. 95 and 96 not moved.
Section 52, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 53.

Amendments Nos. 96a, 96b and 112a are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 96a:

In page 43, subsection (1)(a), line 32, to delete “may” and substitute “shall be entitled to”.

Were these amendments ruled out of order yesterday?

Were they debated yesterday?

Nos. 14a, 96a, 96b and 112a is what is written here. When we discussed 14a I indicated, even though the amendment was out of order, that we would keep the search facility in Dublin and that other search facilities would be provided in the regions. I also accepted that the completion of the computerisation system in Roscommon by the end of the year would allow for us to find a more appropriate place for the search facility. Do the Deputies remember that conversation?

Yes; that was a long time ago.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 96b not moved.

Amendment No. 97 is out of order.

Amendment No. 97 not moved.

I move amendment No. 98:

In page 44, subsection (4), lines 11 and 12, to delete "(within the meaning of section 223 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993)".

As my amendment to section 2 now provides for this, it is no longer necessary to repeat the provision in this section.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 99 is out of order.

Amendment No. 99 not moved.
Section 53, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 54.
Question proposed: "That section 54 stand part of the Bill."

In the matter of the stillbirth register, consideration should be given to allowing a search of the stillbirth register of ancestors and other family members. That is a medical consideration. A history of miscarriage could be important to a member of a family. At present only parents may request a particular entry; there is no provision for allowing searches in general. This is something that can be examined.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 55.

I move amendment No. 100:

In page 45, subsection (3), line 16, after "oath" to insert "or affirmation".

The word "affirmation" should be included for the sake of completeness. Affirmations are accepted in court.

Section 55 provides for the correction of errors in the register of births, stillbirths and deaths following a request by any person with an interest in the matter. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel advises that Schedule to the Interpretation Act 1937 states: "The word 'oath', in the case of persons for the time being allowed by law to affirm instead of swearing, includes affirmation". As this provision in the Interpretation Act allows for affirmation, it is not necessary to qualify "oath" any further for civil registration purposes.

I hope that interpretation is correct.

So do I. I am relying on it being correct.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 55 agreed to.
SECTION 56.

I move amendment No. 101:

In page 46, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following subsection:

"(7) Where an tArd-Chláraitheoir is satisfied that an entry in the register of marriages relates to——

(a) a marriage, one or both of the parties to which was or were under the age of 18 years at the time of the solemnisation of the marriage,

(b) a marriage, as respects which one or more of the requirements specified in subsections (1) and (2) of section 46 and subsections (1) to (3) of section 51 were not complied with, or

(c) a marriage to which there was an impediment,

an tArd-Chláraitheoir shall——

(i) direct a registrar to cancel the entry and the direction shall be complied with and the cancelled entry shall be retained in the register, and

(ii) notify the parties to the marriage, and the registered solemniser (within the meaning ofPart 6), or the person temporarily authorised under section 57, who solemnised the marriage of the direction.”.

This section provides for the correction or cancellation of entries in the register of births or deaths at the request of an tArd-Chláraitheoir. The amendment provides for the cancellation of entries in the register of marriages and for the parties to the marriage to be notified.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 56, as amended, agreed to.
Section 57 agreed to.
SECTION 58.

Amendment No. 103 is an alternative to amendment No. 102 and they will be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No 102:

In page 48, subsection (1)(j), to delete lines 8 and 9 and substitute the following:

"(i) the determination of entitlement to houses or grants under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2002,".

This section provides for an tArd-Chláraitheoir to share civil registration data with specified Departments and agencies for specific purposes. This amendment corrects a drafting error.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 103 not moved.
Section 58, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 59.

I move amendment No. 104:

In page 48, subsection (1), line 18, after "registrar" to insert

", within the meaning ofsection 17 ”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 105:

In page 48, subsection (1)(a), line 21, after “registrar” to insert

", within the meaning ofsection 17,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 106:

In page 48, subsection (1)(b), line 23, to delete “prescribed.” and substitute the following:

"prescribed,

and the references aforesaid to registrar, within the meaning ofsection 17, include references to such a registrar acting as a registered solemniser (within the meaning of Part 6).”.

This amendment provides for the definition of registrar to include a registered solemniser.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 59, as amended, agreed to.
Section 60 agreed to.
SECTION 61.

I move amendment No. 107:

In page 49, subsection (2)(a), line 30, to delete “, of” and substitute “of,”.

This is a technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 108:

In page 50, subsection (8), line 11, to delete "requirement in a notice" and substitute the following:

"direction given to him or her undersection 13(6) or a requirement in a notice given to or”.

This amendment arises from the insertion of a new subsection (6) in section 13, dealing with the return of old registers.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 109:

In page 50, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following subsection:

"(10) A person who——

(a) contravenes subsection (2) or (3) of section 51,

(b) not being a registered solemniser (within the meaning of Part 6), or the holder of a temporary authorisation under section 57, conducts a marriage ceremony in such a way as to lead the parties to the marriage to believe that he or she is solemnising a valid marriage,

(c) being a registered solemniser (within the meaning aforesaid) or such a holder as aforesaid, solemnises a marriage without a marriage registration form having been given to him or her before the solemnisation for examination by him or her,

(d) contravenes paragraph (a) or (b) of section 55(3),

(e) solemnises a marriage other than at a place chosen in accordance with section 52,

(f) solemnises or is a party to a marriage in relation to which, to his or her knowledge, subsection (1) or (2) of section 46 is not complied with,

(g) being the holder of a temporary authorisation under section 57, solemnises a marriage not specified in the authorisation or solemnises a marriage during a period not so specified,

(h) lodges an objection under section 58 that he or she knows to be without foundation,

(i) makes and signs a declaration under section 46(1)(b) or a declaration specified in section 51(4)(a) which he or she knows to be false or misleading, or

(j) not being a registrar, deletes or alters information in relation to the parties to a marriage on a marriage registration form,

shall be guilty of an offence.".

This amendment arises from the insertion of the new sections relating to marriage law and offences under the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 110:

In page 50, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following subsection:

"(12) In this section 'register' means a register maintained undersection 13.”.

This amendment defines a register for the purposes of the section.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 61, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 62.

I move amendment No. 111:

In page 50, subsection (2), line 32, to delete "(10) or (11)” and substitute “(10), (11) or (12)”.

This amendment results from the inclusion in section 61 of provisions relating to offences in respect of the amendments to marriage law.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 62, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 63 and 64 agreed to.
SECTION 65.

I move amendment No. 112:

In page 52, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following subsection:

"(5) Information referred to insubsection (4) may be disclosed to persons engaged in medical or social research or to medical officers of health boards if the Minister consents in writing to the disclosure and the disclosure complies with such conditions (if any) as are attached to the consent; and the Minister is hereby authorised to attach such conditions as he or she considers appropriate to a consent under this subsection.”.

The section provides for the compilation and publication of statistics relating to events registered under the Bill and this amendment provides that information relating to these events can be made available for medical and social research purposes.

Are these not public documents?

This just deals with the statistics. If someone was conducting research into cancer and wanted to determine how many people died from cancer, he can apply to the Minister for Health and Children for the information.

Will he be given raw data in that case?

He will given details but not the names of the people who died.

Where does it state that people's names will not be given out?

A person carrying out research would have to apply to the Minister for Health and Children and outline to him or her the nature of the research. If the Minister agrees to the research taking place, the person will be given all the details with an undertaking that, as part of the research, no personal identifiable information will be used.

Will he be given the names of the people?

Yes, but anyone could get Éamon de Valera's date of death and find out how he died as a matter of public record.

In compiling statistics on suicide, the name of the person is not released by the Central Statistics Office. I know how it works.

That is different. The cause of death will be released.

On most occasions, those who die by suicide do not have that registered on their death certificates. Before 1993 it was illegal to do so and there are still doubts about its legality. In Cork, there was recently an upsetting case where the coroner put "hanging" on the death certificate and that caused much upset for the family. No one ever asks the coroner to bring in a verdict of suicide. The statistics are compiled by the gardaí on a confidential basis and sent to the Central Statistics Office.

When researchers examine causes of death, they may examine the life expectancy of a group of people who died of kidney failure and they will be given all the raw details. Suicide, however, would not be on the death certificate.

It can be.

I am sure it could be but I am notau fait with that. One must state the medical cause of the death.

Coroners have brought in verdicts of suicide but not always. There is sensitivity about releasing that information.

That is why one must obtain permission from the Minister and one cannot use the information.

People need clarity on this for when they hear that information on somebody's death has been given to third parties.

It cannot be used for notoriety in any way or under any circumstances.

The Minister knows what can happen.

This has been going on for years and nothing has happened. People have worked within the parameters.

That is true.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 65, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

Did we did discuss amendment No. 112a?

It was discussed in the group of amendments Nos. 14a, 96a and 96b .

Can we still discuss it?

Yes, but we must go back to amendment No. 14a .

Amendment No. 14a was ruled out of order. Amendment No. 112a inserts a new section and was discussed with amendments Nos. 96a and 96b.

I move amendment No. 112a:

In page 52, before the First Schedule, to insert the following new section:

"66.—All registers or register books (or copies of same in microform, digital format or other permanent media) are to be transferred to the National Archives when at least one hundred years has elapsed since the date of creation of the last entry in the said register or register books.".

One hundred years is not sacrosanct; 60 or 70 years might do.

Seventy years would be better.

Yes, 70 years would probably be more appropriate.

All registration records from 1845 have been captured in electronic format. Electronic research facilities will be introduced in the research room in the General Register Office in Joyce House from mid-2004. Once the GRO office moves to Roscommon, it is envisaged that the Dublin research facility can be moved to a more suitable location. The income generated from searches and the production of copies of entries forms part of the income necessary for the administration of the service. The next phase of the development of the civil registration system will incorporate an Internet research facility. Consideration will be given to the level and type of access to registration data which will be provided to users of the service. This matter is under consideration and I am not in a position to accept the amendment. I am considering it.

I take the Minister's point, but under what legislation is she considering it? Deputy Neville and I believe that 60 or 70 years might be the more appropriate timescale, rather than the 100 years set out in the amendment. The Minister can feel free when transferring it to say: "when at least 60 or 70 years have elapsed since the date of creation of the last entry in the said register or register books". We would even amend our amendment because this is an important aspect of this area.

The National Archives already has access to the information. We are examining whether this is possible administratively, although the registrar advises that it is necessary to keep the information. The importance of the original registers in the administration of the civil registration service and the potential for the books to be damaged or entries interfered with if made available to the public would be problematic. People might write in them or damage them in some way.

In the event that it is being considered and based on that assurance, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment, but I hope to see it made a reality. The Minister should consider the time period involved. Deputy Neville is correct; 70 years is a more appropriate period than the 100 years set out in the amendment.

I received a note connected with this. Is it the case that the second copies of non-Catholic civil marriage registers are to remain locally in the hands of the Ministers of the various Protestant denominations?

Yes it is. They are church records.

Is that not slightly discriminatory against Roman Catholic citizens?

There are two marriage registers in the Church of Ireland but only one, and a form, in the Catholic Church.

Will the procedures now be the same for everybody?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
FIRST SCHEDULE.

Amendments Nos. 113 and 121, 114 and 122, and 116 and 124 are cognate. Amendments Nos. 115 and 123 are alternatives to amendments Nos. 114 and 122, respectively. Amendments Nos. 113 to 118, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 121 to 126, inclusive, are related and will be taken together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 113:

In page 53, to delete line 14.

The Labour Party introduced a new form of birth certificate in the Registration of Births Act 1996, the chief innovation of which was that, for the first time in approximately 150 years, the birth certificate was gender neutral and required the same information of both parents.

It is a good idea.

It is, but the spirit of equality has not lasted very long because the Bill removes it. For the first time, the marital status of the mother but not that of the father is required on the birth certificate. This is objectionable because it is discriminatory in requiring the mother's but not the father's marital status and is offensive to someone who must produce this certificate which, for the first time, will show whether the mother was married. This is potentially offensive and inappropriate. We spoke on this provision on Second Stage. Amendment No. 155 in the name of Deputy Seán Ryan proposes to delete the surname of mother's mother and substitute the surname of mother's parents.

For the first time, the birth certificate will record the surname of the mother's mother but not her father's. I accept that in a minority of cases, the father's surname will be different, but this information will now go unrecorded. The Bill introduces a gender discrimination where none exists. Having considered it in great detail, this should be rectified. I do not see why the Minister cannot accept these reasoned amendments.

On the basis of our discussion yesterday on the equal rights of the child to know father and mother, why should there be a difference between the details of the father and mother? It gives the wrong and discriminatory message that there is a different role for both of them. It should be insisted that fathers and mothers are treated alike and that fathers have responsibilities and rights.

And obligations.

These are all for statistical purposes. The information on the birth certificate will be the name, surname, date of birth, sex, place of birth, time of birth, mother's name, surname, birth surname, former surnames, occupations and address. The same information for the father will also be placed on it. Then there are the details of the informant. That is all that will be in the official document of the birth certificate. The other information is being kept for statistical purposes.

Is there some reason why the same information cannot be asked for the mother and the father.

The 1996 Act was gender neutral. Why not maintain that? Why create an inequality where there is no need to?

Would the sky fall if one were to ask for the same information to be required of mothers and fathers?

The civil registration service is required under the Vital Statistics Act 1952 to collect the marital status of the child's mother when registering a birth. It is also used to determine if the presumption of the paternity of the husband applies and also determines whether section 22 of the Bill applies if the parents are not married. The marital status does not appear on the birth certificate.

The civil registration system has been designed to capture information on births and stillbirths using the standard naming conventions of forename and surname which are common usage throughout all Departments and State agencies. The combination of the date of birth and mothers' birth surname uniquely identifies a person in the majority of cases. The mother's birth surname is vital in the validation of the parent's PPS number. As part of the birth registration process, the PPS number is allocated to the child. A parent's PPS number is validated or traced. A relationship is created between the child and the parent, or parents, and a claim for child benefit is automatically triggered in the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There is no requirement to collect the mother's, father's or the father's father's birth surname from a registration or PPS number validation perspective.

Part 1 of the First Schedule, as the Bill is drafted, allows for the assignment of a combination of both parent's surnames or either parent's surname to the child. The parents, or the parent if the other is deceased or cannot be traced, can, if they so wish, apply to assign a surname other than their own or a combination of their names to the child. It is not proposed to extend this provision to any other person other than the parents.

The marital status——

The information is still collected but it is not on the birth certificate.

I do not understand why the marital status of the mother is an important statistic but the father's is not.

The father will not necessarily be present for the registration of the birth under section 22.

He could be.

He could be, but he may not be either.

More couples are now in partnerships rather than marriages. In such circumstances, both parents will go down as unmarried, yet they are both in a relationship. The Minister is referring to a 1952 Act when there were fewer partners than there are now.

Okay, the man's marital status will be included.

It is an important amendment.

It may not be the father on the way into the civil registration office. His marital status may not reflect his parentage. One could be married but not presumed the father of the child. Sorry, Chairman, I am only being facetious.

The Minister is right, but the same could be said for the mother as well.

Raisins for everything and currants for bread. I will introduce an amendment on Report Stage to include the marital status of the father on the birth certificate.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 114 to 118, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 119:

In page 53, line 30, after "either” to insert “or both”.

I referred to this before. The existing law under the 1996 Act allows a child to be given a double-barrelled name with the surname of both parents. We presume this is the intention of the Bill, but the reference to both surnames in the 1996 Act is to be deleted. To avoid doubt, we wish to reinsert that provision by means of this amendment.

There is no doubt on this side of the House. The Bill as drafted allows for the assignment of a combination of both names. Part 1 of the First Schedule allows for the assignment of a combination of both parents' surnames or either parent's surname to the child. The parents or a parent can, if they wish, apply to assign a surname other than their own name or a combination of their names to the child. They can give the double-barrelled name to the child.

Assuming that the thrust of the amendment is covered by the Minister in the context of Part 1 of the First Schedule, we will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 120:

In page 53, line 36, after "contacted” to insert “or by the informant if both parents are dead or cannot be contacted after reasonable efforts to do so have been made”.

This is designed to rectify what we believe is an omission in the Bill. The 1996 Act allows an informant to propose a surname for the child in the event of the parents being dead or uncontactable. In our opinion, this provision has been omitted from the Bill.

It is covered in the same section of Part 1 of the First Schedule.

Is the "informant" someone within the office of an tArd-Chláraitheoir or does it refer to the Superintendent Registrar?

It means someone connected with the family.

I am sorry. I know it is late and we are reaching the end, but how does the legislation permit that?

By means of Part 1 of the First Schedule, where it says:

The surname of the child to be entered shall, subject to any linguistic modifications, be (a) ... or (b) such other name as may be requested by both of the parents or by one of them if the other parent is dead or, after reasonable efforts to do so have been made, cannot be contacted (if an tArd-Chláraitheoir or an officer of an tArd-Chláraitheoir duly authorised by him or her in that behalf or a Superintendent Registrar is satisfied that the circumstances warrant it and he or she agrees to the request).

It is hard to read it into that. I cannot read into that the thrust of our amendment. I do not want to be awkward but I ask for that section to be appropriately amended by the Department to include the right referred to.

A person aged 65 told me recently of going to draw a pension and discovering that no birth certificate had been issued.

That is a different situation. In such a case one has to find proof that the person existed, for example, if he was baptised or if there were school records. The person then goes to the registrar and obtains the birth certificate.

I am concerned about the reference to one or other of the parents being dead or, after reasonable efforts have been made, not being contactable.

The Ard-Chláraitheoir can be requested to instigate an inquiry under section 57 which states:

An tArd-Chláraitheoir may conduct or cause to be conducted such enquiries as he or she considers necessary to ascertain——

(a) whether a birth, stillbirth, death or marriage required to be registered under this Act or the repealed enactments in the register maintained under paragraph (a), (b), (c), (d) ...

whether it has been so registered and, if it has been, whether the particulars in relation to it in the entry in the register concerned are correct and complete.

In Part 3, section 19(1)(b) states: “if the parents are dead or incapable through ill health of complying with this subsection [which relates to the registration of births and stillbirths] each other qualified informant, unless he or she reasonably believes that another qualified informant has complied with it in relation to the birth”.

I am happy now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

In amendment No. 124, the same applies in the registration of stillbirths with regard to the father's marital status. That will be taken care of.

It is all or nothing now.

Amendments Nos. 121 to 126, inclusive, not moved.

I do not intend to move amendment No. 127 on the basis that the Minister will come back on Report Stage with something more appropriate and better.

Amendment No. 127 not moved.

I move amendment No. 128:

In page 55, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"The form of a certificate of an extract from the Register of Adoption shall be as similar as possible to the form of a birth certificate.".

The purpose of this amendment is to minimise difficulties for adopted persons who, when asked to produce a birth certificate, will produce a certificate of an abstract from the register of adoption. We discussed this. The abstract is to be as similar as possible to the form of a birth certificate. The Minister circulated a copy earlier and it is reasonably close.

It does not give the statistics or a clear determination as to the location of the parents.

In the context of the discussion we had earlier, we will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 not moved.

I move amendment No. 131:

In page 55, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

"Place of birth of deceased.".

This is the inclusion of the place of birth of the deceased in registering a death, which is what people wanted.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 132:

In page 55, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

"Date and place of birth.".

We had sought a little more than that - the date and place of birth.

That is already provided for.

In that case I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 133:

In page 56, line 1, after "the" to insert "name,".

It is strange that, on a married person's death certificate, the Bill requires only that the profession or occupation of the spouse be recorded, and not his or her name. That is inappropriate.

Part 5 of the First Schedule provides for the particulars of deaths to be entered in the Register of Deaths. It is not considered necessary for registration purposes to collect the name of the spouse of the deceased person. Such proposals would lead to distress and confusion for the deceased's family in certain circumstances, for example, where the parents are separated or divorced.

Is the Minister saying that the profession or occupation of the spouse is recorded on the form——

For statistical purposes.

——but not his or her name?

Yes, the occupation is recorded, but that is just statistical.

What is recorded for someone who has no profession or occupation?

"Dead", or "home duties", or the former profession of a retired person.

That does not explain why the name is not inserted.

If one dies, there is no necessity for the name of one's spouse to be on the death certificate. One's wife may live for another 30 years. That is time enough to have her name on a death certificate. There is no necessity for the name of the deceased's wife or husband to be on the death certificate. There would not be enough room. Some people would have six or seven names to put on it.

We accept that and withdraw the amendment.

There might not be enough room.

Would the Minister have statistics for divorce?

Where are they compiled?

Initially the statistics are compiled by the Courts Service, and thereafter on our register of divorce.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 134:

In page 56, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

"If deceased was less that 18 years of age on date of death, occupation(s) of his or her parent(s) or guardian(s).".

This amendment provides for the inclusion of the occupation of the parent or guardian's occupational data in the case of deceased children under the age of 18.

Amendment agreed to.
First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
SECOND SCHEDULE.

I move amendment No. 135:

In page 57, to delete lines 7 to 27 and substitute the following:

"

7 & 8 Vict., c.81 Marriages (Ireland) Act 1844 The whole Act.

9 & 10 Vict., c. 72 Marriages (Ireland) Act 1846 The whole Act.

23 & 24 Vict., c. 18 Marriage (Society of Friends) Act 1860 The whole Act.

26 Vict., c. 11 Registration of Births and Deaths (Ireland) Act 1863 The whole Act.

26 Vict., c. 27 Marriage Law (Ireland) Amendment Act 1863 The whole Act.

26 & 27 Vict., c. 90 Registration of Marriages (Ireland) Act 1863 The whole Act other than sections 7, 8, 12, 21 and 25.

33 & 34 Vict., c. 110 Matrimonial Causes and Marriage Law (Ireland) Amendment Act 1870 Sections 32 to 40 and 42.

34 & 35 Vict., c. 49 Matrimonial Causes and Marriage Law (Ireland) Amendment Act 1871 Sections 21 to 29.

35 & 36 Vict., c.10 Marriage (Society of Friends) Act 1872 The whole Act.

36 & 37 Vict., c. 16 Marriage Law (Ireland) Amendment Act 1873 The whole Act.

57 & 58 Vict., c. 60 Merchant Shipping Act 1894 Section 254.

".

This Schedule provides for the repeal of certain provisions of existing Acts governing the registration of births, still births, adoptions, marriages and deaths. The amendments to the Schedule arise from the inclusion of the amendments to marriage law. It is the Schedule to the legislation.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 136:

In page 57, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:

"

No. 34 of 1936 Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1936 The whole Act.

No. 35 of 1936 Registration of Marriages Act 1936 The whole Act.

No. 47 of 1936 Marriages Act 1936 The whole Act.

".

Seo an rud céanna.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 137.

In page 57, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

"

No. 30 of 1972 Marriages Act 1972 The whole Act.

".

Seo an rud céanna arís.

Amendment agreed to.
Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
TITLE.
Question proposed: "That the Title be the Title to the Bill."

Sula dtosnaíonn an Cathaoirleach, caithfidh mé rud éigin a rá. Overnight proof-reading of the Bill has identified two typographical errors. The first concerns a misspelling of the word "Regional" in section 2, on page 8, regarding the definition of "health board". Where the Eastern Regional Health Authority Act 1999 is referred to, the word is misspelt as "Region". The second concerns section 9 on page 13. The word "Sibhialta" in "an tSeirbhís um Chlárú Sibhialta" has also been misspelt; I will not even say how. An amendment here will be consistent with the spelling of this word as it appears elsewhere in the Bill. It appears that it is not possible to bring these amendments up on Committee Stage, as the relevant sections have been passed, so it will be necessary to do so on Report Stage, and I intend to do so.

When will the text be available for perusal?

The Bills Office will contact the member.

For the sake of fullness, it will be important to debate this on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

What happens now is we look at the amendments that have been accepted and show them to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. Then it goes to the Bills Office for printing.

I thank the Minister and her officials for attending today and yesterday. It has been a long session.