Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014: Committee Stage

The purpose of this meeting is our Committee Stage deliberations on the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014. The Bill was amended on Committee Stage in the Seanad and was referred to the select sub-committee by order of the Dáil on 9 October last. The Bill will amend the Civil Registration Act 2004 in order to address a range of issues identified since the passage into law of that Act and streamline the service available to the public. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, who has special responsibility for activation, and his officials. As this is the Minister of State's first appearance before the select sub-committee, I take the opportunity to congratulate him on his appointment.

My intention is that we will conclude our Committee Stage deliberations at this meeting. If needs be, however, we can extend our deliberations because the room is booked for tomorrow. Is that agreed? Agreed.

For the purposes of the debate, it is proposed to group amendments Nos. 2 and 3, Nos. 5 and 6 and Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive. All other amendments will be discussed individually. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SECTION 3

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

“ “stillborn child” means a child who, at birth, weighs not less than 500 grammes or has a gestational age of not less than 24 weeks and shows no sign of life, and “stillbirth” shall be construed accordingly. These also include an unborn child who dies in the womb of the mother due to death of the mother but otherwise meets the weight or age criteria herein;”,”.

On Second Stage I made reference to a particular case involving an unborn child, Mollie Enright. I stated that she was killed as a result of a road accident in which her mother committed suicide. I very much regret that what I said did not reflect the actual situation. Apparently, she was killed as a result of injuries sustained by her mother, Mary Enright, née Walsh, in a road collision with another motorist, Robert Stoker. The Garda was seeking Mr. Stoker at the time as it was believed he was suicidal and a danger to himself and others. I apologise to the family of Mollie Enright for any distress caused and I wish to have the record corrected in respect of this matter.

There was a very brief discussion on the matter to which amendment No. 1 relates on Second Stage. The essential purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the births of children such as the late Mollie Enright can be registered. I recall the Minister of State indicating that the Government would bring forward its own amendment on either Committee Stage or Report Stage - I am not quite sure which - and perhaps he will outline where matters currently stand.

I am delighted Deputy O'Dea corrected the record. There have been occasions when I have also got names and facts a little mixed up.

The position with regard to the matter in question is that we have taken the advice of the Attorney General, who has stated that there is no need for an amendment. We have since contacted the family's solicitor and contacted the relevant Department. The advice of the Attorney General indicates that where a baby dies in utero as a result of the death of its mother and where it meets either the required weight or gestational age criteria, it comes within the current definition of "stillborn child" contained in section 2(1) of the Civil Registration Act 2004.

The current definition of the stillborn child allows that where an unborn baby dies in the womb of a mother, due to the death of the mother, a stillbirth may be registered in accordance with section 28 of the 2004 Act. I hope this will give some comfort to families bereaved in such circumstances. The clarification we have received from the Attorney General is that it can be registered. There is a case before the court, so I am acting on the advice of the Attorney General.

It would appear that what has happened in this case is that the certificate has issued - I presume based on the Attorney General's interpretation of the section that the Ard-Chláraitheoir was entitled to issue the certificate.

The Department of Justice and Equality has been informed of the advice received from the Attorney General in regard to this matter.

What the Attorney General is saying is that it is legal under the Act, as it stands, to issue the certificate.

That is correct.

Has that been done?

The coroner must certify it. We have asked for a letter to be sent to all the coroners outlining the position.

I bring to the Minister of State's attention that a short time ago my attention was brought to an opinion from a senior counsel which runs directly contrary to the opinion expressed by the Attorney General. He states that the crucial words in section 2(1) of the 2004 Act are undoubtedly that the term stillborn means a child who "at birth" and that with all due respect to the learned Attorney General's view, he cannot agree that the use of the words "at birth" can include the removal of the remains of a child in the course of a post mortem autopsy, as occurred here, and that the procedure is not even to be equated with a surgical procedure, as might occur at a birth by caesarean section. The conclusion of his opinion is that he is aware the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill is currently on Committee Stage in the Dáil and that it seems to him to that the present lacuna in the registration system can only be cured by a statutory amendment to the definition of "stillborn child" to expressly include an unborn child of a given weight and age who dies in the womb of the mother as a result of the mother's death or, alternatively, that such an unborn child in such circumstances must be provided for in a separate category.

I know the Minister of State has received the advice of the Attorney General but this is the advice of a very respected senior counsel who practises extensively in this particular area of law and which runs directly counter to it. Did the Minister of State say there was a case before the courts?

I believe the Deputy just read out the legal opinion from that case.

Right. This is the case about which the Minister of State is talking.

I am acting on the advice of the Attorney General. The definition of a stillborn child is contained in section 2(1) of the 2004 Act that provides that a stillborn child means a child who at birth weighs not less than 500 grams or who has a gestation age of not less than 24 weeks and shows no sign of life. The advice from the Attorney General is quite clear. In regard to the particular case about which the Deputy is talking, we are in correspondence with-----

I will not press the amendment. We will come back to it on Report Stage but it seems a bit peculiar in that no further damage would be done to the system by accepting the amendment. It would put the matter beyond any shadow of a doubt. Simply because the Attorney General takes one statutory interpretation and a senior counsel takes another view that a bit extra is needed, it seems very flaithulach to say the least to be going to court with taxpayers' money paying the costs.

I welcome the Attorney General's advice and although there is a case before the court, I had hoped that would have been an end to it because it would have addressed what families have asked to be addressed. If it does not stand the test of the court, I urge the Minister of State to look at it again to ensure there will not be a difficulty in the future. The Bill does not address it and the Attorney General's advice is that we do not need to address it because it is, in some way, covered. It obviously has not been covered to date and that is the problem. The advice was not available in that certificates were not issued, otherwise families would not have gone to court to try to ensure their child was included on the stillbirth register.

I am happy there is some progress and that some discussion has taken place on this but we need a commitment that if the findings of the court are contrary to the advice from the Attorney General, we will come back to this quite quickly and look at the proposal Deputy O'Dea and others have. There is a range of ways to tackle this. It would require a single paragraph in legislation if the court does not accept the Attorney General's advice.

I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh. Everybody is trying to do the same thing here for families going through the trauma of a stillbirth. The case Deputy O'Dea mentioned is particularly unfortunate. There can be unforeseen consequences of amending the legislation. Stillbirth registrations have taken place. There seems to be a particular problem here. The coroners have been written to notifying them of the Attorney General's advice. I hope this will resolve the matter. I thank Deputy O'Dea for being constructive and not pressing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

I can raise it in a later section but since we are dealing with definitions, part of this Bill concerns marriages of convenience. If the Minister of State prefers, I will deal with it when the section comes up.

I would prefer that because amendments have been tabled by Deputy O'Dea in that regard.

That is fine.

Sections 4 and 5 agreed to.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 6

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 9, line 23, after “child” to insert the following:

"and in those circumstances an tArd-Chláraitheoir shall register the name of the father and his last known address".

Section 6 provides that it is the duty of both parents to comply with the registration of the birth of a child, notwithstanding that they are not married to each other. It goes on to provide that if the mother attends alone, she must provide information as to the father's name and contact details. There are a number of exceptions to that. The first exception is that she does not know who the father is. Nemo dat quod non habet - if one does not know the identity of the father, obviously one cannot provide that information.

The second exception is where she does not know the whereabouts of the father. In that case, nothing at all about the father appears on the certificate. It seems only reasonable and fair that, at a minimum, the father's name appears, even if she does not know his whereabouts, and that the last known address be put on the certificate, as provided for in the amendment. If that is a bridge too far, at a minimum, his name should appear on the certificate.

On the basis of the information, the Registrar will make all reasonable attempts to contact the man named as the father and request him to provide particulars in regard to the birth. That is the key. There is an element of natural justice here. Before somebody's name appears on the birth certificate, he must be contacted and confirmation, information and evidence must be given. For somebody not to be informed or contacted, and for it not to be ascertained whether he agrees he is the father, is questionable.

If the mother of the child attends with the Registrar, and she gives the last known address, telephone number, e-mail address, etc., the Registrar will do his absolute best to identify and contact the father and ensure that the father's name is on the birth certificate. Were somebody to arrive into the Lombard Street office, as it would be in Dublin, stating, "Kevin Humphreys is the father of the child", with no contact made with Kevin Humphreys to ask is he the father of the child or had he any contact, there has to be some sense of natural justice that the person would be contacted and told that his name is going on the birth certificate to state he is the father. Unless such contact is made, it would be difficult to sustain in natural justice. We must ensure that the register is robust and that the father is contacted, if at all possible, to ascertain whether or not he is the father of the child.

In circumstances where a mother attends alone and she knows the whereabouts of the father but the father is not going along with it, surely the father's name and address can be registered. What is the difference? He might not be willing to talk to the Registrar either.

The Registrar will contact him. In the instance in the Deputy's example, the Registrar will be provided with the name and contact details of the father.

If the Registrar contacts him and he does not respond, is that the end of it?

The Registrar will do all in his power to contact and ascertain, but I will come back to Deputy O'Dea with the detail on how that would be dealt with. To be clear, Deputy O'Dea asked if the father's name plus contact details is given and the father will not engage, what are the steps that the Registrar can take.

Yes. Essentially, what happens?

We will come back directly to Deputy O'Dea on that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 6 stand part of the Bill."

Although I am in sympathy with this section, it is a major change in society and there has not been enough discussion. However, I will not hold up the passage of the Bill.

Given the substantial change, it is interesting that those who would normally lobby us in terms of human rights and changes to the law, such as the Law Society of Ireland, have not been in contact on this. There is a degree of compulsion, albeit in some ways welcome because in a small society in Ireland there are elements of genetics, elements of the rights of a child to know his or her father and a range of issues on which everybody is exercised, but there are also the rights of the mother on occasion as well, for instance, in the case of rape. Will there be a compulsion, if the woman has not reported it?

In the case of young people, for instance, there is a consequence, if a 15 year old who got pregnant declares on the birth certificate of the child a 15 or 16 year old father, that the father could be charged. We had this debate not so long ago where one is dealing with a child in one sense, but also with a criminal offence which now is reportable. In such a case, any official, doctor, nurse or registrar would have to report it immediately to social services and An Garda Síochána, and rightly so, but it is in some ways the unknown consequence. I am not saying that we necessarily create a loophole, but we must be aware that sometimes when we try to do right there can be instances where the outcome is not favourable. Perhaps that is covered in part of the Bill which allows the Registrar not to register if there is compelling reason and in that case, it might be that the Registrar would say to leave it a few years. The problem is that if the Registrar said that, he would be breaking the law.

There are many instances where the mother will not register the father, maybe because at the time of birth he is abusive or for one or more of a range of issues, and there is a retrospective registering of the father. Similar to Deputy O'Dea's last request, in a case where a father challenges this and says "No", will the State pay for the DNA tests at that stage if he refuses to acknowledge or be named on a birth certificate if he has no role in the life of the mother or child? I ask this because it will be a challenge. There are a lot of fathers who are aware of their responsibilities, have denied them for years and will not take it easily that they are being named on birth certificates. Somebody must foot the bill to ensure, if they are the father, that such is recognised through a DNA test or some mechanism. In that instance one is getting into compulsion.

I am not opposed to the section but am striking a note of caution. The system has worked quite well up until now. For many years there has been a problem where for beneficial financial reasons some might have signed the birth certificate with the father's name on it. I might come back to the matter to see whether I can tighten it up a little at Report Stage or I might leave it to the Minister. We have at least raised those concerns. Perhaps the Registrar, when this is passed, can have a detailed note on what to do in specific instances, but I would be interested in those complex cases involving the teenage years of 15 and 16.

I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh. This is a reforming Bill. To his credit the Deputy recognised in the House the benefits to the father of the inclusion of the father's name on the birth certificate. It is progress. We are making technical amendments to ensure that the register is robust.

I will try to answer some of the questions the Deputy raised. On the child safety element of not including the father's name, on receipt of a statutory declaration from the mother that it would not be in the best interests of the child to have the name of the father included, the Registrar, taking into account the evidence available to him or her, may decide not to include the father's name on the birth record. In the case of the safety or best interest of the child, that allows for the mother to give a statutory declaration.

On the case of those underage, we cannot deal with everything within the register. In the cases the Deputy outlined, that would have come to notice at a stage much earlier than the issue of a birth certificate. The question of whether or not to prosecute an individual is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. All matters relevant to the DPP are proper to my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. We have liaised with the Department of Justice and Equality to ascertain the current statutory powers of the DPP in prosecution of minors which is covered under section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006. There is an element of discretion within that Act. We will forward that section of the Act to the Deputy afterwards or, if he wishes, I can read through it now.

I debated it. Some of these consequences were debated at the time.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh is probably more aware of them than I am.

At the time we found it difficult to understand why there were two different ages of consent.

It is extremely difficult to get a balance at that age.

We have all co-operated in an attempt to get the best outcome in this area.

I ask Deputy Ryan to take the Chair for a moment because I would like to make a point on this section that I cannot make if I am in the Chair.

Deputy Brendan Ryan took the Chair.

I have to express my delight at my elevation to the Chair for 30 seconds to allow the Chairman of the sub-committee to make a point.

While I welcome this section of the Bill, I would like to mention something that I think is missing from it. I appreciate that this does not fall under the remit of the Minister of State or the Department of Social Protection. The corresponding rights should be given to the fathers. Obviously, fathers have rights and responsibilities. As far as I am aware, in Scotland and the other jurisdictions in the UK, if one's name is on the birth certificate one gets automatic guardianship rights. I am sure that is qualified in a manner like that outlined by the Minister of State, for example, when issues arise regarding the best interests of the child. The proposal made by the Department of Justice and Equality in a forthcoming Bill does not nearly go far enough. It continues the discrimination against unmarried fathers. To be honest, it does this in a kind of moral or judgmental way. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said things have worked well, but I do not think they really have. In addition to my anecdotal knowledge of cases, I have some family law experience from my time as an apprentice solicitor. I was not involved in this area when I worked as a solicitor. When I was dealing with cases, I felt that many unmarried fathers, or even fathers who were married, were pushed away from playing a part in their children's lives. It is the law that does that as much as anything else. I suggest that if they were given more rights, they would take more responsibility. As I recall it, a finding along these lines was contained in a study that was carried out at one stage by an academic at Waterford Institute of Technology. The study basically suggested that the rules and regulations of our society, and the manner in which things operate, are pushing unmarried fathers away from playing an active part as parents. While I welcome this legislation as a start, I think the corresponding legislation should be used to follow the example of other jurisdictions that give full guardianship rights to unmarried fathers whose names are on birth certificates. I just wanted to make that point.

I thank the Deputy for her contribution. She will appreciate that her suggestion cannot be contained in this Bill, which deals with the register only. I understand what she is saying. I do not think there is a Deputy in the House who has not dealt with a case in his or her constituency involving a man who is not getting an opportunity to participate in the rearing of his own son or daughter. That full participation is often blocked by legislation. There is quite a campaign in this regard. I would have great sympathy for it. A children and family relationships Bill, the general scheme of which was published last month, is currently being drafted by the Department of Justice and Equality. I think the ideas expressed in the Deputy's comments would fit very well into that legislation. I am not sure whether that Bill will come before this committee. On a personal basis, I will be very interested in the progress of that Bill through the Oireachtas. I am sure every Deputy who is present has encountered on many occasions the scenario outlined by Deputy Tuffy. It is not just the father who is affected - there is also an impact on the grandparents and the wider family. I hope the forthcoming children and family relationships Bill can capture this in some way. When one is drafting legislation, it is very difficult to use it as a blunt instrument where families are concerned. I hope the Bill in question will make a good effort to deal with some of the points raised by Deputy Tuffy.

I am happy with that.

Question put and agreed to.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy resumed the Chair.
SECTION 7

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 16, line 22, after "(3E)(b)" to insert "and the provisions of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 shall be available for such proceedings".

The Minister of State will be aware that the appropriate subsection makes provision for an appeal to the Circuit Court. I presume what I am proposing here is superfluous because legal aid will be available anyway.

If I can get an assurance from the Minister of State in that regard, I will be happy to withdraw the amendment.

Legal aid is available for all civil matters before the Circuit Court, except those that are specifically excluded. The matter that is the subject of the Deputy's amendment is not one of the excluded matters.

I thank the Deputy.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 agreed to.
Sections 8 to 17, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 18
Question proposed: "That section 18 stand part of the Bill."

I raised some queries about this section of the Bill, which relates to marriages of convenience, on Second Stage. What is the relevant level here? The major change we are being asked to agree will make it quite difficult for non-EU citizens to marry. At the very least, it will make them jump through an extra loop through which Irish citizens do not have to jump. Due to the level of emigration in recent years, many young Irish citizens have travelled abroad. In the coming years, some of them might come back to Ireland with a fiancé in order to marry here. We need to be careful to ensure what we provide for here does not restrict a loving couple in any way. Is the problem of marriages of convenience of such a scale that it requires a substantial change in law? We have heard about it in the newspapers, especially in the tabloids that love to run with stories suggesting that problems like this are rampant. The number of marriages involving EU or non-EU citizens in Ireland is not that high. I think it was higher in 2009. Some of the criteria that will be considered are quite interesting. They show how much we have moved. One of the factors to be considered is whether "the parties to the intended marriage have lived together in the past or if they currently live together". I can imagine Archbishop McQuaid looking at that many moons ago.

The questions on where they have lived are interesting, particularly if it was abroad. There is always the test with regard to how they know each other. Many years ago I was on a television programme similar to "Mr & Mrs" on Teilifís na Gaeilge when it was in its infancy; that is how far back it was. I do not think between us my wife and I got any of the questions right.

That could have led to the divorce courts.

I cannot say it was a marriage of convenience. One must be careful not to make it difficult for people who intend to get married while, at the same time, protecting the State and our society from people abusing the marriage registration system. This is a concern, but it is not something on which I will divide the committee. It probably was taken on board when this provision was being considered. I will leave it at that.

I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. Section 4(C) mentions the Registrar forming an opinion and these are guidelines to help him or her do so. I reassure the Deputy that the Registrar will be trained on this through an extensive programme. In no way does it undermine the important element of marriage. It reinforces the institution. Anecdotal evidence exists that there is a problem and a concern has been highlighted with regard to protecting women against trafficking. It is an important element of the Bill, which is a preventive measure before it gets too problematic. As information and data is collected during the period, it will show it is necessary.

One of the problems is that the evidence is anecdotal.

Perhaps the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality would be best placed to give us a read on the aspects concerning the trafficking of women. We are aware of it but statistics-----

Without legislation in the area, it is difficult to collect information. Based on conversations I have had outside the House, and the Deputy has probably had similar conversations, it is better to introduce this legislation to prevent an abuse.

I understand this, which is why I will not oppose it.

I know. I am not arguing because both of us are making the same point.

It is a pity we do not have the statistics as they would show approximately 3,000 Irish citizens married non-EU citizens per year at the height, and one could find out very quickly how many of these were marriages of convenience by seeing how many divorced at the earliest possible time. It would give a read on the situation, although it may not be any better than what we have anecdotally.

There is data which shows potential abuse in recent years. I emphasise it is potential because neither the Garda nor the Registrar has the facility to examine the data further. These figures can be sent to the Deputy if he wishes.

It would be useful to have them prior to Report Stage.

I am in broad agreement with Deputy Ó Snodaigh's viewpoint. There is a difficulty because every case depends on its own facts. The legislation will give the registrar discretion, but in exercising this discretion he or she must examine various issues and obviously this list is not exhaustive. If one does not pass the test on one or two of the issues, it does not necessarily mean there will be a conclusion against one. The balance is difficult to achieve. The Minister of State has probably done the best job he could in trying to find a balance because an individual decision will be made in each individual case.

If a registrar forms the view an attempt is being made to have a marriage of convenience, is he or she required to inform the Garda Síochána immediately? It is the equivalent of an attempt at fraud. If this is the case and it happens on a number of occasions, it will dissuade others from attempting it. This would be the quickest way to ensure this provision in the legislation would not have to be used.

The registrar is supposed to do so as soon as practicable.

Does that mean while the couple is on site?

He or she should inform the Minister for Justice and Equality

If a registrar forms such an opinion, he or she will inform the Department of Justice and Equality.

The problem with this, if one goes by the anecdotal evidence, is that the characters involved would be an immediate flight risk and may carry out the marriage elsewhere, whereas if the registrar forms an opinion he or she should not bother the Department of Justice and Equality but inform the Garda Síochána because it is a criminal act. The couple is sending a form to the registrar and swearing.

What Deputy Ó Snodaigh has stated is probably correct, but I believe laying out the criteria will act as a deterrent. At present what we have is not sufficient, so we will introduce a slightly higher bar. Registrars are extremely experienced in this area and will also have support and training. The Deputy is absolutely correct, as once someone attempting a marriage of convenience is challenged, he or she will take flight. I hope the introduction of the legislation will prevent an abuse taking place. I thank Deputy O'Dea for his remarks. It is a difficult area in which to draft legislation. This is an extremely good attempt to do so but it needs to be kept under review.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 19 and 20 agreed to.
SECTION 21

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 28, line 38, after "59F(4C)" to insert the following:

"and in deciding what documents and information to seek, an tArd-Chláraitheoir shall take into account the particular circumstances of the individual in question".

This is an attempt to prevent a situation whereby a superintendent registrar or chief registrar would seek certain information or documents from people proposing to get married at least one of whom is a foreign national. The registrar should decide what documentation and information to seek in respect of immigration status. Some foreigners who present here left their own countries with just the clothes on their backs. Some of them had to flee in very extenuating circumstances. I would like a provision whereby this can be taken into account when the chief registrar is seeking information.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 deal with the section of the Bill relating to a suite of measures on combating civil partnerships of convenience. These measures are mirrored elsewhere in the Bill in provisions combating marriages of convenience. There is some concern that a link potentially exists between the trafficking of women, particularly young women, and taking part in a marriage or civil partnership of convenience. It is crucial these women are protected against these forms of exploitation.

Section 21 of the Bill provides that where one or both of the people notifying a registrar of their intention to enter into a civil partnership is a foreign national, they must provide documents and information regarding migration status as specified by the Registrar General.

Section 25 introduces a number of provisions to combat civil partnerships of convenience to make such civil partnerships more difficult to contract in the future. A list of criteria that the registrar will consider when forming an opinion that a proposed civil marriage is one of convenience is set out in this section.
The section also allows for the registrar to receive an objection stating that the proposed civil partnership consists of a civil partnership of convenience and in forming the opinion there are grounds for the objections to refer the matter to the superintendent registrar for a decision. The request to produce documented evidence will assist the registrar in forming an opinion as to whether a proposed marriage or civil partnership is one of convenience. We are concerned about the entering into a marriage or a civil partnership solely for the purpose of securing migration advantage. That is an important element of the Bill.
The Deputy's amendment No. 5 to section 21 proposes that when deciding which documents and information to seek, the Registrar General shall take into account the particular circumstances of the individual in question. That relates to the point the Deputy was making. The registrar who will be operating those procedures is very experienced and deals with persons from a diverse range of cultures and circumstances on a daily basis. The policy in regard to seeking documentary evidence will be operated in line with the principles of natural justice. Does that reassure the Deputy?

I will withdraw the amendment based on the Minister of State's response.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 21 agreed to.
Sections 22 to 24, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.
Section 25 agreed to.
SECTION 26

Amendments Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, in the name of Deputy O'Dea are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 32, to delete lines 3 to 22.

The Minister of State obviously has a response and I will await it.

Section 26 amends the principal Act by inserting a new section 59IA which provides for the validation of certain civil partnerships which were carried out at a foreign embassy of the State. As required procedures under the principal Act were not followed, these civil partnerships are not valid under Irish law and would generally not be recognised anywhere but the assenting country. The Bill provides that the civil partnerships are validated on a one-off basis.

The Deputy's amendment No. 7 proposes the deletion of subsection (4) in the new section 59IA. He is proposing the deletion of the provision covering the validating of a marriage that took place within an embassy.

The section provides in the case of embassy marriages that the couple are deemed to have been married from the moment of solemnisation in the embassy but from point of view of intestacy, inheritance rights, etc., such provisions do not come into effect until the legislation comes into place. Am I correct? I thought that was a bit of a contradiction.

No. The Deputy is not right about that.

That explains it. What is the position exactly?

Is that with regard to civil partnerships or marriages?

Civil partnerships and marriages.

The proposal under section 59IA(4) is intended to ensure that the validation of a civil partnership does not adversely interfere with a person's entitlement under a will or a bequest or entitlement to a benefit, allowance, pension or other payment. The duration of this safeguard is for a period commencing on 1 January 2011 and ending on the day before the commencement of this section. The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations under the Cohabitants Act 2010 came into effect on 1 January 2011. I do not propose to accept the amendment. I am not clear exactly what the Deputy is seeking to do in this respect.

The section states that if one of those embassy marriages is solemnised it is deemed to have existed as a legal marriage from the moment of solemnisation and yet the implications of the parties being married from the point of view intestacy and other legal provisions do not kick in until the commencement of this Act.

It is only a minor point.

-----where the marriage is deemed to have been valid from the date of solemnisation. The advice of the Attorney General on this matter is that a provision should be included in this Bill to minimise any difficulties which might arise relating to the succession tax and contracts on the family home under the Family Home Protection Act 1976.

It is only a minor point. I will not press the amendment but it seems unusual in that the law is stating that marriage has taken place from a certain date. As far as the law is concerned, people are married from that date, from the moment of solemnisation, but there are no legal implications in respect of tax, inheritance, etc., until such time as this Act comes into force.

Is about civil partnerships. We must make sure that there is no question in this respect after legislation is passed. It is from the civil partners legislation from January 2011. It is to ensure that we are disadvantaging anybody in this regard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 not moved.
Section 26 agreed to.
Sections 27 to 36, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, and his officials for attending and the members for their attendance and participation.

I thank the Deputies for their constructive engagement on Committee Stage and on Second Stage and I look forward to the debate on the next Stage in the Dáil. I thank the staff present for the work that they have put into the Bill. It is quite technical in nature and it has taken a number of months to get it to this stage. The co-operation of Members in the Seanad and on Committee Stage has been constructive. I thank them for their engagement.

Bill reported without amendment.