I move amendment No. 24:
In page 19, to delete line 32.
These amendments arise from contacts and consultations that both Senator Henry and I have had with the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations. I am aware that the council has also been in contact with the Minister and us concerning previous legislation. In dealing with issues such as national records the advice of the council has been very helpful. We have also been contacted by the secretary to the Law Reform Commission. In the consultation process we should take into consideration advice given by such august bodies with good track records on practical matters. We are not discussing a matter of principle, but one of practice. As amendments Nos. 24 to 28, inclusive, all deal with the same issue, I propose to speak to them as a group.
The net effect of the proposed amendments would be to require that, as well as the information referred to in the Schedule, death certificates should include additional information. Amendment No. 25 reads:
to search any legible or non-legible register book of births, deaths or marriages, as the case may be, that, by statutory instrument the Minister for Health and Children has declared any legible open to public searching. In this section, non-legible includes reproduction of the certified copies of the entries in the registers by means of microfilm, microfiche, magnetic tape, diskette, compact disc or any other legible form (by electronic means or otherwise) which is capable of reproducing the registers in a permanent form.
What would be provided for by the amendments is the possibility of including in death certificates the date and place of birth, rather than just the age and maiden name of a married, widowed or divorced woman.
In its representations to us the Irish Genealogical Research Society has shown us a copy of a Northern Ireland death certificate in order to compare it with one from the Republic. I know the Minister has also seen this material. The sample death certificate in Northern Ireland refers to the death of a woman on 12 January 1999, giving her married name as Ina Gibson. It goes on to state her maiden name was Coleman and that she was born in Monaghan. That is useful information, as anyone who has had to conduct searches in dusty archives will know. I contrast this with the information contained in a death certificate issued in the Republic, with which many of us will be familiar. It simply provides the person's name, their marital status, age and cause of death, but does not give a woman's maiden name. That makes research very difficult.
There are two issues at stake. The first is that in dealing with such matters information may be found in other places. Second, pension regulations and other matters require the production of original death certificates. The format of death certificates is creating a variety of problems. For example, it is creating difficulties for those trying to trace their ancestors or who need to produce certification for private or personal purposes.
The Law Reform Commission has indicated that this matter has a particular relevance in family law. The Minister should examine the issue. Certificates of birth, death and marriage can be essential documents in establishing title to property and succession rights. Difficulties are arising because the form of the death certificate does not always contain enough detail to identify the deceased as the same person mentioned on the birth certificate which may clearly state, for example, that a Mary Murphy was born in Cork in 1910. It is clear because her address and the names of her parents are included. However, it could be a major problem to establish that she was the Mary O'Reilly who died in Dundalk in 2002. This means that ordinary people must pay huge amounts of money to solicitors and researchers to collect all the necessary documentation in order to prove that the person called Mary Murphy born in Cork in 1910 was the Mrs. Mary O'Reilly who died in Dundalk in 2002. A practical approach should be taken to the matter.
I agreed with the point made in the last amendment that the Minister should have the authority to make regulations for public service numbers. I understand, however, that while the PPS number will be included in all death registrations in future – that may go some way towards solving the problem – it will not solve all the difficulties. For instance, it will not be necessary in dealings with the State but will be necessary in dealing with other groups for other purposes. In addition, it will not be available to those born before the date of application of the new public service number.
The date and place of birth of the deceased should also be included in the death certificate, as well as his or her original surname if different, for whatever reason, to that used at the time of death. This information is even more important in cases where people establish themselves in different relationships. People could very well use a number of different names during the course of their lives.
I hope the Minister of State will accept that my argument does not create an issue of principle; it is a practical problem in the courts, including the family law courts, to establish issues such as succession and family rights. It is also crucially important to the work being undertaken by the Irish Genealogical Research Society, much of which is commercial and focused at tourists and others whose ancestors may have emigrated many years ago. The Minister of State should consider seriously the proposals I have outlined and accept the amendments.