Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Civil Registration Act, 2004 represented a significant development in the provisions governing civil registration of life events in Ireland and was a major overhaul of legislation dating back to 1844. The ten years since its enactment have seen significant changes in Irish society. The aim of the Bill is to allow for the further modernisation of the civil registration service so as to better reflect the needs of society today. I propose to offer some general observations on the rationale and general principles informing the content of this amending legislation and will then proceed to summarise the provisions of the Bill.

While there are many amendments contained in the Bill, the four principal amendments that will be provided for in the Bill are as follows. It provides for the compulsory registration of the father's name on the birth certificate. According to the annual report of the General Register Office, there were 69,209 births registered in Ireland in 2013. Of these, 2,675 were non-marital births when no father's name was registered. The legislation does not require the mother or the father to provide the father's details when registering the birth where the parents of a child are not married to each other. The amendment seeks to address the current position by making the provision of such information compulsory, other than in exceptional circumstances. This will underpin the rights of the child under EU legislation to have access to the details of his or her identity. It will be a step towards ensuring full and accurate particulars are registered at the time of birth which will be of significant benefit to the child and future generations.

The issue of marriages of convenience is complex. EU citizens and their families have the right to move and reside freely within the territories of the member states. These rights also apply to non-EU national spouses of EU nationals. Marriage, as an institution, has particular protection under the Constitution. However, these rules are being abused by individuals who are using marriage to gain an automatic right of residency. Our duty under the Constitution is to protect the institution of marriage and we aim to do this by introducing legislation which makes it more difficult to broker a marriage of convenience in the State.

The legislation will introduce records of the deaths of Irish persons normally resident in the State who die while on short-term absences abroad. Many Senators have raised this issue with me from time to time. The death of a loved one is always a tragic and difficult event. The new legislation will allow families to record the deaths of their loved ones in Ireland and, I hope, bring some comfort and closure to them.

I take this opportunity to thank Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, who has campaigned for this issue to be addressed in legislation and brought forward a motion in the Seanad in that regard. I also thank Deputy Seán Kyne for his work on a Private Members' Bill on the domestic registration of death records, which helped in the drafting of section 13 of this Bill.

Irish society has been enriched by the choices made by people from other countries and cultures to live, work and raise families here. In certain instances, couples got married or had a civil partnership in their country's embassy in Ireland. Unfortunately, these marriages and civil partnerships are not valid. This Bill will, on a once-off basis, validate those marriages and civil partnerships that have already taken place in Ireland and which are still in existence. The Bill also provides for a significant number of amendments to the 2004 Act, which will streamline the procedures of the civil registration service to provide an improved modern service to the public.

I give notice to the House of my intention to bring forward two amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. The first relates to the issue of civil partnerships which took place prior to the enactment of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. The amendment will provide for the retrospective regularisation of those civil partnerships. The second amendment relates to the solemnisation of marriages in a public place. It has been clarified that under the current legislation, marriages can be performed outdoors where the venue is open to the public. However, further clarification is required for solemnisers to ensure such venues are appropriate for marriages to take place.

I will now summarise the main provisions of the Bill. Section 1 establishes the Short Title and collective citation of the Act. It further stipulates that the Act may come into force on such day or days as the Minister for Social Protection, by commencement order, may determine.

Section 2 provides for the definition of the term "Principal Act" used throughout the Bill as the Civil Registration Act 2004.

Section 3 provides for the amendment of section 2 of the 2004 Act by inserting new definitions that are required for this amending legislation. This section also amends section 2 of the principal Act to make a marriage of convenience and civil partnership of convenience an impediment to marriage and civil partnership, respectively.

Section 4 provides for the amendment of section 17 of the 2004 Act to include that a superintendent registrar may designate a registrar to perform his or her functions where an absence such as extended leave or long-term illness occurs.

Section 5 amends section 19 of the principal Act and provides that a person who is a qualified informant must produce to the registrar any evidence, including documentary evidence, relating to a birth, as requested by the registrar. The section further provides that a superintendent registrar may complete the registration of a birth where, in exceptional circumstances, a qualified informant has not signed the register to allow completion of the registration. In addition, the section provides that a child who has attained the age of 18 years may be considered as a qualified informant in regard to the registration or re-registration of his or her own birth entry.

Section 6 amends section 22 of the principal Act and contains a number of amendments relating to the registration of the father's name where the parents are not married.

Section 7 provides for the re-registration of a birth and contains a number of amendments to section 23 of the principal Act.

Section 8 provides for the amendment of the principal Act by insertion of a new section 23A, which will provide for the re-registration of a birth of a child, on foot of a court order, where the parents were not married on the date of the birth. The section provides that a mother or father or the adult child may apply to re-register a birth on foot of a court order granted under section 35 or 45 of the Status of Children Act 1987.

Section 9 provides for the amendment of the principal Act by insertion of a new section 25A, which provides that where the parents of the child cannot agree on a surname, the registrar may complete the registration by leaving the surname blank or, in cases where a surname is already registered, the existing surname shall remain.

Section 10 provides for the amendment of section 28 of the principal Act to allow for a stillbirth to be registered later than 12 months after it occurs.

Section 11 provides that the definition of a qualified informant of a death is extended to include a cohabitant, next of kin, personal representative or religious superior of the deceased, so that such an individual may register the death within three months.

Section 12 provides for the amendment of the principal Act by the insertion of a new section 42A, which provides that early neonatal deaths are notified to the superintendent registrar of the area where the death occurred.

Section 13 provides for the amendment of the principal Act by the insertion of a new Part 5A, which provides for a record of deaths of Irish citizens who die abroad and who were ordinarily resident within the State within five years prior to their death.

Section 14 amends section 46 of the principal Act and provides that couples who produce a court order exempting them from giving three months' notice of intention to marry will be required to pay the marriage notification fee. This section also provides that, where one or both of the people giving notice of intent to marry is a foreign national, he or she must provide to a registrar information and documentary evidence regarding his or her immigration status.

Section 15 amends section 46 of the principal Act and provides for new procedures regarding potential marriages of convenience.

Section 16 amends the principal Act by the insertion of a new section 58A, which provides for the validation of certain marriages carried out at foreign embassies in the State.

Section 17 amends section 59B of the principal Act and provides that couples who produce a court order exempting them from giving three months' notice of their intention to enter into a civil partnership will be required to pay the prescribed fee as set out in regulations. Section 17 also provides that where one or both of the people making a notification of their intention to enter into a civil partnership is a foreign national, he or she must provide documents and information regarding his or her immigration status.

Section 18 provides for the amendment of section 59C of the principal Act by amending the validation period of a civil partnership registration form to six months from the date of the intended ceremony specified in the form.

Section 19 provides for the amendment of section 59D of the principal Act by providing that the registrar is no longer required to issue a copy of the civil partnership registration form.

Section 20 amends section 59F of the principal Act and provides for new procedures regarding potential civil partnerships of convenience.

Section 21 amends the principal Act by the insertion of a new section 59I which provides for the validation of certain civil partnerships carried out at foreign embassies in the State.

Section 22 amends section 61 of the principal Act and provides that where a person is required to provide proof of identity to a Government body in the form of a life event certificate, the Minister may prescribe a reduced-cost certificate for these purposes. This section also provides that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, on application to him or her and on payment of any prescribed fee, shall allow a person to search certain historical registers online.

Section 23 amends section 64 of the principal Act and provides that where an entry in the register of births, stillbirths or deaths is based on false and misleading information, the registrar general may direct a registrar to cancel the entry and, if required, register the details under a new entry. The section further provides that where a court order of nullity is provided for reasons other than an impediment, the entry may be cancelled in the register of marriages or civil partnerships, as required.

Section 24 amends section 66 of the principal Act and provides for sharing of information with Departments and agencies under the relevant Acts for specific purposes, so that the information may be used for policy and planning initiatives.

Section 25 amends section 67 of the principal Act and provides that the Minister for Social Protection may set the fee for certificates at a lesser amount if the certificates are required to prove age, civil status or death to another Government Department or required for official purposes. This section also provides that a fee, if any, shall be payable to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in respect of the performance by that Minister of his or her functions under the principal Act. This is in regard to accessing information about births over 100 years ago, marriages over 75 years ago and deaths over 50 years ago. It will be a significant opening up, allowing people to search the registers for genealogical and other purposes.

Section 26 amends section 68 of the principal Act and provides that where the Registrar General has directed that an entry be registered or re-registered without the register being signed by a qualified informant, the details of that entry shall be deemed to be valid. Section 27 amends section 69 of the principal Act by the insertion of a new subsection 5(a), which provides that a person shall be guilty of an offence if they fail to furnish evidence, including documentary evidence, where it is in their power to do so, when requested by a registrar.

Section 28 amends section 70 of the principal Act and provides that the new subsection 69(5A), referred to in section 27, is added to the sections of the Act under which a person is guilty of an offence. Section 29 amends the First Schedule to the principal Act and provides for the deletion of the "age next birthday" of a deceased person in the register of deaths so that more accurate statistical information can be gathered based on the deceased person's actual date of birth.

Section 30 amends the Immigration Act 2003 to include the Civil Registration Act 2004 in section 8 of that Act to allow the Minister for Social Protection to request information from certain information holders, as defined under that Act, for the purposes of the Civil Registration Act 2004.

This Bill provides for some significant changes to the Civil Registration Act 2004 and it puts the registration service more in tune with the Ireland of today. It provides for having fathers' names on birth certificates and the ability to register the death of somebody who died abroad while ordinarily resident in Ireland, having perhaps gone on a holiday and met with a fatal accident. Hopefully, this may be of some comfort. There is also the further opening up of important historical records for genealogy purposes relating, as I said, to births over 100 years ago, marriages over 75 years ago and deaths over 50 years ago. I look forward to an informed debate and to hearing the views of Senators on the measures contained in the Bill.

I welcome the Tánaiste to the House in her new role. I wish her well in her enhanced responsibilities and in regard to the great honour that has been bestowed on her. I have no doubt she will carry out her responsibilities with her usual efficiency.

I welcome the legislation. Fianna Fáil supports this Bill, which provides for a number of positive changes to civil registration in Ireland, including the compulsory registration of the father's name on birth certificates. The legislation will also make it more difficult to make a marriage or civil partnership of convenience within the State. It will ensure that the death of an Irish person abroad is recorded and allow for the validation of foreign embassy marriages and civil partnerships that have already taken place in Ireland and that are still in existence.

In fact, in looking through the Bill, I have been struck by its human dimension. There is a great deal of humanity in it and, while legislation generally can be dry and dull, and somewhat obtuse and abstract, the impact of some sections of this Bill on people's lives will be quite profound. For example, section 8 provides for the re-registration of a birth of a child, where the parents were not married on the date of the birth, on foot of a court order. While perhaps not important in the current situation or at the time the registration is made, in adult life subsequently it will be very important and relevant to the individual concerned. Section 10, again looking at the human dimension, allows for a stillbirth to be registered later than 12 months after the occurrence of the stillbirth, because it is a very traumatic experience.

Section 14, interestingly, provides that couples who produce a court order exempting them from giving three months' notice of intention to marry will be required to pay a fee. It also provides that, where one or both of the people giving notice of intent to marry is a foreign national, they must provide to a registrar information and documentary evidence regarding their immigration status. The Minister might explain on what grounds a couple would go before a court looking for a three-month exemption, given that is it is not spelled out why that would happen.

I wholeheartedly endorse the sections of the Bill which provide for new procedures regarding potential marriages of convenience. This was a blight on Ireland in the past. The Government got caught on the hop in 1997 or 1998, when the Celtic tiger economy kicked in and Ireland began to have a pull factor for people. Then, of course, in 2004, when we effectively opened the gates to ten new EU countries, the House may remember there was a great deal of controversy over alleged cases of heavily pregnant women coming into Ireland specifically for the purpose of having their children born here so they could automatically claim Irish citizenship and nationality. Those loopholes are being closed off and this is the latest step in that regard.

Citizenship is a very precious gift. For those who might feel that legislation of this sort is somehow bordering on being anti-foreign, it is protecting the integrity of our citizenship. There is no question about this issue. There have been television documentaries, not only in Ireland but also in Britain, demonstrating that quite frankly unscrupulous men and equally unscrupulous women who wanted to avail of the lax laws in this country came here and had marriages of convenience primarily or exclusively for the purpose of becoming Irish citizens. I wholeheartedly welcome this change because not only is it ensuring the integrity of citizenship but, as the Minster said, it is protecting the sanctity of marriage, and marriage is very precious gift as well.

The same could be true of the succeeding sections. Section 16 provides for the validation of certain marriages carried out at foreign embassies in the State. Again, I remember there being some controversy about this some years ago. It became an issue when people who had had their marriage validated in the embassy of their country in this or some other country found when they came to Ireland that the marriage was not recognised. It is interesting that the Minister referred to the fact this was a once-off situation and that the Bill would validate marriages carried out in such a fashion that had already been registered. Does this mean it does not apply from the time the Bill is enacted and is only retrospective? Section 21, which provides for the validation of certain civil partnerships carried out at foreign embassies in the State, is welcome.

Section 24 provides for the sharing of information with Government Departments and agencies under the relevant Acts for specific purposes in order that the information may be used for policy and planning initiatives. I was interested to note that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is included in this section, along with the Department of Education and Skills. The Minister might explain the background to this amendment of section 66 of the principal Act, which refers to:

(i) “the Road Safety Authority and any person, being a person with whom that Authority has an agreement ... to whom the Authority requests the Minister to give the information” for “the Minister for Transport”, and

(ii) “learner permits” for “provisional licences”.

The Minister for Health is involved where the Bill refers to: “the Minister or the Executive, hospital or”, and the Minister for Education and Skills is also involved.

I am sure the Tánaiste will have an opportunity to expand a little on section 24 as to what the purposes of providing this information will be. I can appreciate that the Department of Education and Skills needs it for policy and planning initiatives. I am sure there are valid reasons, but I am curious to know what they are.

Section 29 provides for the deletion of the words "age next birthday" from the register of deaths. I have always been fascinated by the request made on a lot of forms, particularly those used by insurance companies. I could never understand the relevance of the question on one's age and I am sure the Minister will give the background information on why the provision has been included and will put the matter in context. I welcome the provision and the section is a sensible one.

Section 30 allows the Minister for Social Protection to request information from certain information holders, as defined under the Bill, but I could not find anything which expanded on the provision. The amendment of the Immigration 2003 is provided for in Part 3 which contains section 30 and comprises two lines that read: "amended ... by the insertion of "or the Civil Registration Act 2004" after "Social Welfare Acts"." Perhaps the Minister might expand a little on the information she will request and identify the certain information holders from which she will request it.

I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister on bringing it forward. Some of the sections were delayed far too long by the previous Administration and it has taken three and half years to get to this stage. For the vast majority of the population the Bill will not have much relevance. Overall, it is humanely balanced legislation that will have a very positive and profound impact on certain sections of the population. Inclusiveness is what society should be about; it is what the Government is about and what most politicians want.

I, too, welcome the Tánaiste and congratulate her on her new appointment. I wish her every success in the future.

I join the Children's Rights Alliance in describing the Bill as the most important reform in family law for generations and will concentrate on two changes made in it. As Senators know, the name of the non-marital father of a newborn was not required to be registered. Under the old system, if the mother of a child refused to register the father's name, a court order was required for the father to be granted guardianship rights, which was an injustice. This legislation will address the issue by requiring the mother and the father of the child to provide information for the registrar of births, notwithstanding the fact that they are not married. The right of a child to know both of his or her parents is a fundamental one and I am glad that the Government has recognised it in statute by making it compulsory for such information to be provided. The exceptional circumstances where a mother may not give information have been defined as follows:

(a) she does not know the identity of the father of the child;

(b) she does not know the whereabouts of the father of the child;

(c) she believes that providing the information is not in the best interests of the safety of the child and in that case the statutory declaration shall contain and, as necessary, exhibit information, particulars and evidence relating to that belief.

I am given to understand the jurisprudence of the European Court and the courts here has moved towards the provision of much greater clarity in terms of children having the right to know the identities of their parents. Even in a case in which someone is loath to include the birth father's name on the certificate - I am sure we can all think of such cases - it is understandable that it be done if only to provide, in these days of rapid medical advances, information to assist in the identification of genetic abnormalities, for example. I note that the legislation contains quite properly and adequately avenues for a review and-or appeal of a registrar's decision to include the natural father's name on the certificate should the mother not give her consent. I presume that, in the circumstances, the Minister is satisfied that where the mother believes providing the information is not in the best interests of the safety of the child that this wording provides the strongest safeguard that can be included. Notwithstanding this, the amendment is progressive, warranted and welcome.

I welcome the arrangements to ensure marriages of convenience do not occur. We still have a provision that allows for a truncated notice period to marry. However, section 14 ensures the registrar will have adequate legislative provisions to investigate and prevent any marriage of convenience where one of the parties is a national of another state. Additionally, section 15 provides further powers and criteria to assist the registrar in determining whether a proposed marriage would be a marriage of convenience. There is a provision whereby the superintendent registrar is obliged to inform the immigration authorities when the conclusion has been reached that such a marriage is being planned.

I very much welcome the legislation because it is common sense, modern and takes into consideration the varied family forms in Ireland today.

I welcome the Tánaiste. I also welcome Mr. Brian Sheehan from GLEN who is in the Visitors Gallery.

We received the Bill in the latter part of last week and it is exciting to see how it has been changed and cleaned up. It now addresses quite a number of human issues. On each reading of the Bill I found myself asking questions about how I would use my time today. Some questions can be dealt with in the Bill, while others may have to be dealt in other legislation. However, we need to be cognisant of them as we make changes to the Bill.

My first question relates to the proposed amendment on civil registration. I am concerned to ascertain whether a civil partnership ceremony conducted, for example, in the British Embassy in 2008 will be covered by section 21. I understand the amendment covers it.

My colleagues will not be surprised to learn that I want to raise the substantive issues of compulsory joint registration of births and the registration of the father's name. As a keen amateur genealogist, I am aware that the General Register Office comes under the auspices of the Department. I also do not want anybody to believe this is purely a maintenance issue.

I know, which is why I have identified the issue. As a genealogist, I know that the office is under the auspice of the Minister's Department. Some have tried to suggest this is what the Bill is about, but that was not my perception on reading it.

The starting point for me is Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the preservation of identity. It states children have a right to an identity, an official record of who they are and that governments should respect their right to a name, a nationality and family ties. Most days we must deal with competing rights and I find myself questioning some of the issues involved. We all accept that the birth certificate of a child should provide all necessary available and accurate information on his or her origins. Today, I have read a publication by Treoir that claims denying information on identify can cause pain, anguish and genealogical bewilderment, a claim with which I fully agree. In an effort to better safeguard a child's right to an identity the Bill seeks to make the provision of such information compulsory, save in exceptional circumstances. We need to explore some of the competing rights and strike the appropriate balance. Section 6(1D) lists compelling reasons that exempt the mother from her legal obligation to provide details of the father. They are as follows:

(a) she does not know the identity of the father of the child;

(b) she does not know the whereabouts of the father of the child;

(c) she believes that providing the information is not in the best interests of the safety of the child...

In circumstances where the mother of the child maintains that she does not know the identity of the father, will the Minister consider establishing a register of men who believe they are a father? It would mean, for example, that if a mother opted to place her child for adoption, the issue of authentication of the potential father's claim could be addressed before the adoption could commence. If a mother says she does not know the identity of the father of her child and the child is placed for adoption, how do we ensure the right of somebody who believes he is the father is upheld?

Another way to deal with the issue is to give effect to the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission in its 2010 report entitled, Legal Aspects of Family Relationships. In section 2.17 it called for a "system for a non-marital father to register his name on the birth certificate of a child in the absence of agreement with the mother". That recommendation led me to be immediately concerned about how the best interests of the child would be defined in such an instance.

Will the Minister explain why the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission of Ireland report in this regard were not brought forward in this Bill? The Law Reform Commission report recommended that exemption should extend to circumstances in which the mother has reason to fear for her safety as well as that of her child. I realise this is one of the competing rights. I strongly believe in a child's right to identity but often we have to deal with familial abuse, domestic violence, rape and incest. How does addressing these cases fit in with the right to identity? How do we ensure we draw the balance in the right place each time?

In some not-so-rare and extremely unfortunate cases, the pregnancy of a child is the result of familial abuse and incest. In circumstances where, for example, a 14-year-old girl registers the birth of a child, regardless of whether she is in the care of the State, known to State agencies or perhaps not known, is there a mechanism for the automatic involvement of the Child and Family Agency to ensure that all child protection and welfare considerations are examined? Let us consider a case where a 14-year-old is asked to register the birth name of the father. Unfortunately the period of pregnancy is not long enough for us to bring these cases to court. How we handle these situations is a matter of concern.

A more peripheral issue is that of surrogacy. I realise this will be dealt with in the Children and Family Relationships Bill but this point is more to do with registration. I have heard of cases in which we do not check the identity of mothers. For example, I could move to a different part of the country, register myself in another woman's name and have the baby. Then, the intended mother could register the birth in her name. In effect this amounts to a surrogacy arrangement without the knowledge of the State. I may go somewhere else in the country because in most cases neither doctors nor hospitals check the identity of the birth mother. This is an issue and I wonder whether we could examine it. I am unsure what the solution is and I am not suggesting we give every woman a DNA test, but perhaps we should consider requiring identification at the time of registering with the doctor or hospital and not only at the time of registering the birth, because I have seen it as a way of getting around surrogacy issues.

The final issue I wish to raise is peer consent. We all agree that the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration in determining the legislative framework to ensure joint registration of births. However, to maximise compliance and thus safeguard the child's right to identity and to be aware of who her parents are, we need to revisit the uncomfortable issue of consensual peer sexual activity. I will not go through the figures but it happens in Ireland. Let us consider the current arrangements under the Children First guidelines relating to withholding information. There is a real danger that women may refuse to name the fathers of their children on the birth register or involve them in the lives of their babies for fear of prosecution of the young father. Young fathers will continue to be advised by solicitors not to enter their name in the register of births or apply to become the child's legal guardian as they have committed a criminal offence. The rights of children to have the name of the father on the birth certificate and to have relationships with their fathers could be seriously affected where young fathers are inhibited from putting their names on birth certificates and applying for joint guardianship rights in respect of their children. I understand the Garda and the DPP use their discretion and tend to overlook the circumstances of a relationship before deciding whether to prosecute. I propose that the discretionary powers of the DPP in respect of such decisions should be placed on a statutory footing. Perhaps we could consider whether no prosecution of a child under 17 years should proceed without the consent of the DPP. This would recalibrate the arrangement.

I was going to bring up the motion we put forward in the House with Senator Bacik and the Labour Party Senators - I had the honour to second it - relating to marriage age and how certain exemptions may apply. Perhaps we can explore that another time.

I welcome the Tánaiste to the House. She was here last week with the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill but it seemed to end so quickly. She disappeared and we did not have a chance to congratulate her on her new position. I am pleased the Tánaiste has chosen to stay on in the Department of Social Protection because she is a very good Minister for Social Protection. Now she has a little help on board but that may mean we might not see her as often.

There are several amendments and welcome changes in the Bill. Like others, I welcome the amendment that will make it the duty of the mother and father to provide information in respect of the birth of a child. I welcome the fact that the father's name is to be registered on the birth certificate for two reasons. In this country there are many single fathers fighting for the right to be involved in their child's life. I know many who are regularly in court fighting for access and visitation rights. When we speak or think of single parents, we immediately think of the mother. However, more and more nowadays fathers are taking over the role and for those who continue to fight for their rights, this is a step in the right direction.

There are fathers who shirk their responsibilities, deny they are a child's father and refuse to pay maintenance. As long as the mother provides the name of the father the registrar can make contact with the father and ask him to attend to register his details. It is only right that the father be named. However, I note that if the father does not bother to turn up at the registry office then the registrar can complete the registration with no details of the father. I wonder whether this is an opt-out for people who simply do not bother turning up with the result that their name will not be on the birth certificate.

One concern I have about the process is that it will be lengthy in some cases and the registration of a birth may be delayed. This can cause problems for child benefit and one-parent family applications given the lack of a birth certificate. I welcome the fact that a provision is being made to omit the father's name. I will not go through these points again because we all know them. My colleagues have outlined the reasons for possible omission. Such a case could arise if the mother does not know the whereabouts of the father. I believe in this case she should still provide the name, even if she does not know the whereabouts. Perhaps the registrar or the Department may be able to track him down.

Children, especially when they become adults, have every right to know who their biological father is. Too often we watch programmes or we read about people trying to find their biological mother or father. They feel incomplete until they know who they are and they cannot know this until such time as they know all about their biological parents, mother and father. At least if the name of the mother and the father appeared on the birth certificate, such people have a starting place. This will be a positive amendment.

I wish to highlight a matter relating to the registration of deaths. I have spoken to the Minister about this previously. The public do not realise or know the procedure for registering a death. They have no idea that they must have photographic identification or a personal public service number when registering. Many people do not even know that they have to register the death and believe that the doctor does it, as in the old days. Then, when they seek a death certificate they find the death is not registered and they must take it upon themselves to do it. Then they may find that they do not have a passport, photographic identification or a PPS number to hand and they have to go away again. Perhaps the Department of Social Protection should prepare a pack to be distributed to undertakers, who could sensitively supply the information to the bereaved or next of kin.

I welcome in particular the setting up of a register to record the death of Irish citizens who die abroad. I appreciate that it will not replace a death certificate issued by the country of death. However, an Irish person who dies abroad either suddenly or who may have spent some of her retirement abroad may wish to have the death registered in her own country because it was her home. I know of people whose relatives have died abroad. They have found it unfinished, for the want of a better expression, that the death of their loved one is not recorded in their homeland. Would this record of death suffice for pensions, insurance policies or legal matters or would the family still need to get a certificate from the country in which the person died? I have met people from several families who were holidaying abroad when a member of the family died suddenly. There is considerable red tape involved in trying to get the body home and then securing a death certificate afterwards, especially if it is not an English-speaking country.

I welcome the amendment that necessitates the production of documents and information regarding immigration status if one of the persons giving intent to marry is a foreign national. This will help to stamp out marriages of convenience. I also welcome section 15, which will allow the registrar to notify the Department of Justice and Equality if he or she believes it to be a marriage of convenience. This will allow immigration authorities to investigate the situation.

Other issues could have been dealt with under this Bill, including forced marriages and child marriages. My colleagues, Senator Bacik and van Turnhout, recently moved a motion in the Seanad on these issues. I believe a golden opportunity was missed by not dealing with these issues.

I also wanted to mention the issue of birth certificates for people who have been adopted, which I know is close to the Minister's heart and mine as my father was adopted. I understand that there are two birth certificates - one which is closed containing the person's original birth details such as the name of the birth mother and the birth name of the baby and one to which they have access and which contains the adoptive name. Does the Minister propose to allow adoptees to have easy access to their original birth certificates? People are entitled to what is rightfully theirs and also have a right to know their biological parents and their medical history. I know that when my children were young and the doctors asked me about my family history, I had no idea about the medical history of my father's side. We could not supply the information because we did not have it. I knew my grandmother but we certainly did not know my grandfather. Most adoptees' birth certificates contain the mother's name and rarely contain the father's name, which makes tracing them very difficult. As Senator Mooney noted, it will be a great help to have fathers' names on birth certificates.

I welcome this Bill. It makes a change to be in here dealing with a social welfare Bill that is not controversial. Again, as other Senators have said, it shows that there is a human side and that the Minister gave much thought and compassion to this Bill.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Tánaiste. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh a gairm léi agus í ina post nua. Cé go bhfáiltímid roimh cuid de na beartais atá i gceist leis an mBille seo, tá an-imní orainn faoin próiseas atá á úsáid chun an reachtaíocht a thabhairt chun cinn. Although we appreciate that there are some very welcome elements in this Bill, we have serious concerns about the way it has been brought forward. I share many of the concerns raised by Senator van Turnhout. This is a very complex Bill with 30 different elements and four general areas. There are some very serious legal, social and ethical questions that should have been teased out more before the Bill even came to us here on Second Stage. We had first sight of this Bill last Thursday and it is already commencing Second Stage. There has been insufficient time to consider properly the Bill's contents in advance of this debate. In its Bills Digest, the Oireachtas Library and Research Service noted that it was not possible to deal at all with 14 sections of the Bill due to the short time between publication and Second Stage. There was no Oireachtas committee pre-legislative scrutiny stage despite the Government's many Dáil reform promises. This Bill requires a pre-legislative stage and today's debate should be adjourned until this has been done.

Proposals to introduce compulsory registration of fathers' names give rise to important ethical questions, some of which have been mentioned here. These should be thoroughly deliberated upon before we even begin to consider the practical content of any associated legislation. The proposed Children and Family Relationships Bill has been the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence. The heads of that Bill raise related matters and ethical questions. The two Bills should be considered together. The Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill should not be rushed through in this way.

Section 6 provides for compulsory registration of all fathers on birth certificates. Ethical questions include the child's right to their identity and information on medical history and genetics. As we all know, Ireland is a very small place and there are many issues that could arise because of that. Other issues include fathers' rights to involvement in their children's lives regardless of marital status and the safety and welfare of the child and its mother, as has been alluded to previously. Practical questions include the suitability of a statutory declaration process which may heap further trauma on some already vulnerable women on the one hand or become an unworkable farce on the other. These are all questions that require very thorough consideration. The Minister's desire to further shrink the one parent family payment scheme cannot justify the rushing through of this legislation with these important ethical questions left insufficiently considered.

Likewise, the proposal to define and ban marriages of convenience gives rise to complex ethical questions of privacy and proportionality. All we need to do is look at the recent scandal over racial profiling relating to Roma children to see how that can happen in a very practical way. Despite having zero concrete knowledge of the scale of so-called marriages of convenience, this Bill proposes to introduce intrusive powers for registrars to examine intimate details of relationships involving a foreign national. Perhaps the Minister could provide us with statistics around so-called marriages of convenience. The registrar's opinion is to be based on a set of value judgments that have not been subjected to public debate or consideration. The potential for racial profiling is very significant. While we were speaking about foreign nationals who might be affected by this Bill, what struck me was the question of how people living in direct provision would be affected by this. These are people who were seeking asylum; who had to flee persecution in their own lands; who were unable to bring documents with them; who might have been in the asylum process in this country for eight, nine, ten or 11 years; and who do not have access to base documents in the country they fled. How would their situation be resolved if they want to enter into a civil partnership?

A very legitimate point was raised about the best interests of the child. While we are on this issue, I take this opportunity to raise the issue of children of asylum seekers who were born here. We have issues with a number of those children who are stateless to some extent. They were born here but, because of the legislation we have here, cannot claim Irish citizenship. It did not strike me until Senator van Turnhout spoke. There are teenagers who have come here, who are now coming to the age of maturity and who may wish to have children, etc. How will their situation be affected if they cannot have an Irish birth certificate or if they are in a stateless position?

This Government promised us openness, transparency, etc. Making this Bill available to us on Thursday and debating it today when it involves some very complex ethical, social and legal issues is simply not good enough. There should have been much more pre-legislative discussion and consultation on this Bill. Although many of the principles the Minister is bringing forward are important and we would agree with many of them, we feel there should have been far more teasing out of these issues before the Bill was brought before the House tonight.

I wish to share my time with Senator Bacik. I think she would like two minutes.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Minister is very welcome to the House. This Bill is very welcome. I think Senator Mooney rightly spoke about its humanity. It is very clear that humanity is at the heart of this Bill. The issue of identity is at the core of much of it. Various people have spoken about the placing of the father's name on the birth certificate. Of course, it is dear to the Minister's heart. I know there will be exceptions and I obviously share some of the concerns about how those exceptions will be made and the matters surround that. While it is very clear that the father's name should be on the birth certificate in respect of the rights of the child, there are moments when that will cause great difficulty. It is something about which we would like more clarity because it is important to get it, which is the purpose of this Bill. We all want to get this right because the fact that we are doing it is very significant and timely.

In respect of marriages of convenience, I recall when living in Greece many moons ago becoming subject to somebody who wished to marry me in order to come to and live in Ireland. Looking back, it makes me smile but it was not a smiling matter at the time. It was rather odd.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh did not think that happened so there is the proof.

In other circumstances where that might arise, people find themselves under incredible pressure and it becomes an extremely difficult matter. I take the point that Senator Ó Clochartaigh is making. It does raise matters concerning the opinion of a particular registrar. I know they are listed in the Bill. Again, I guess it will be down to a huge amount of training and understanding of how that legislation is implemented. Again, I was one of those people mentioned by Senator Mooney in respect of making programmes about matters like this. There have been incredibly appalling stories. They are few but they are particularly significant. I absolutely agree with the purpose of this legislation in order to move against marriages of that kind. It is ironic that as we open up our borders, become more able to travel, welcome people from all around the world and wish for them to make their homes here, it possibly becomes easier for such marriages to occur.

It is something none of us wishes to uphold. I welcome the Bill and there are some human things here.

I welcome the Minister as Tánaiste. This is my first opportunity to do so and I welcome her appointment. I also welcome the Bill and I thank the Minister for starting it in the Seanad. It is a Bill that will benefit from the detailed scrutiny we will give it in the Seanad on Committee Stage. We always appreciate when Ministers initiate Bills in the Seanad. The Bill is about modernising the civil registration service and updating the 2004 Act, which was the major codifying civil registration law. Other Members spoke about significant amendments provided for in the Bill. I thank the Minister for accepting my amending Bill to the Civil Registration Act, which has enabled the Humanist Association of Ireland to conduct legal wedding ceremonies. It has made a huge difference to many couples. I welcome the commitment of the Minister in her speech on Second Stage to introduce an amendment to the Bill on Committee Stage to confirm the legality of conducting weddings outdoors once they conform to the rules on public places. The Humanist Association of Ireland had issues about this and I made representations to the Minister on this point. I am glad the matter has been resolved but it would be good to have an amendment that clarifies it and puts it beyond doubt.

Senators Moloney and van Turnhout referred to child marriage and the motion proposed by Labour Party Senators on 25 June, which was seconded by Senator van Turnhout in a cross-party initiative. The Private Members' motion asked the Government to consider removing or amending the statutory provision allowing minors to marry on the basis of a court exemption. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, dealt with the matter but we are glad the Government committed, on foot of the motion, to setting up an interdepartmental working group with officials from the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Justice and Equality on how best to deal with the issue. The issue concerns section 31 of the Family Law Act 1995, which provides the minimum legal age at which people can get married as 18 years, but section 33 of the Act allows a couple to apply to the court for an exemption to the rule where one or both are aged under 18 years. Section 2(2) of the Civil Registration Act 2004 maintains the facility to apply for this exemption. The new Bill is about amending the Civil Registration Act and it might be appropriate to examine changing the law on child marriage in an amendment to this Bill. The Government has accepted the Labour Party motion and will be examining the matter. We were very concerned about children being coerced into entering marriage and many of us were shocked at the figures produced by the Minister for Justice and Equality on the number of couples applying for exemptions and the number of people marrying who are under 18 years. It deserves a review.

I welcome the Tánaiste to the House. I congratulate her on her new position and particularly on being elected the first female leader of the Leader Party and on promotion to the position of Tánaiste. It is a considerable personal achievement to become the third female Tánaiste of the country. I wish her all the best in her role.

The Bill contains a number of provisions on issues such as marriages of convenience, recording the deaths of Irish people who passed away abroad and the validation of embassy marriages and civil partnerships. Like others, I will focus on the compulsory joint registration of births. Knowing the identity of both parents is an essential human right and one that is recognised under Irish law, the European Convention on the Rights of the Child and international instruments. It is essential that, where at all possible, children should have the opportunity to know and have relationships with both parents. Denying children and continuing to deny adopted adults information on their parents' identity deprives them of their identity. It takes away a part of themselves that they will never know. There is great cruelty in that. We should go out of our way to ensure children have access to the basic information on the names and identities of their parents.

I welcome the fact that the legislation is moving towards ensuring joint registration. Issues must be teased through, as mentioned by Senators, in respect of the best interest of the child. Irish history has treated unmarried fathers dreadfully badly. They have been denied what married fathers automatically have, a right to guardianship and to be involved in the decisions that affect their children. Regardless of their relationship with the mother or the child, unmarried fathers have no automatic right. If the mother is unwilling to sign a declaration adding the father's name to the birth certificate or agreeing to guardianship, a father must fight through the courts to get it. It is incredibly unfair, particularly where the father has been involved and had a relationship with the mother or where he has been emotionally, physically and financially involved in the child's life. He must still prove himself as a parent through the courts. That is wrong and we are so far behind on this issue.

Separate issues include registration of births and guardianship. Some countries provide that once the father's name is registered on the birth certificate, there is an automatic presumption of guardianship, which can then be rebutted if there is a good reason why the man is not fit to be a father. We need to look at the guardianship issue. It would be remiss of me not to raise the right of adopted people to their birth certificates, which I raised with several of the Minister's counterparts. It relates specifically to the brief of the Tánaiste. Adopted people in the UK have had a right to their birth certificates since 1975 yet, 40 years later, Irish adoptees do not have that right. As a result, they are robbed of their identity and basic medical information. For 29 years of my life, when a doctor asked me if there was a genetic illness or whether anyone in the family had cancer or heart disease, I had to tell him I did not know. That question did not involve my thinking of the medical aspects but also made me sad because it made me think about all the other things I did not know about my mother. The Tánaiste has spoken publicly about her experience in that regard and how she found information on her birth family. Every adoptee should have that right. The Tánaiste and I have been fortunate in getting that information. I was one of a handful of people who were matched through the adoption contact preference register, where the matching rate is dismal. It is past time that the State was proactive in giving adoptees the right to their birth certificates, at a minimum, and putting in place a proactive information and tracing service that supports adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents in dealing with these issues. We have pushed the issue under the carpet for far too long.

I implore the Tánaiste to use her position as the Minister for Social Protection with responsibility for the General Registration Office and, as Tánaiste and as someone who cares about this issue, to ensure this injustice is finally put behind us. In the aftermath of the Tuam case the Taoiseach said a referendum might be needed, but many constitutional lawyers argue that that is not the case. Dr. Conor O'Mahony, an expert based in the law department in UCC, pointed out that in the key case of IO'T v. B, the judge said that balancing the right of the adopted person to identity and the right of the birth mother to privacy is a matter for the Oireachtas. He pointed out that legislation introduced, like any other legislation, would benefit from the presumption of constitutionality. We can and should act and I hope the Minister is the one who pushes it.

I welcome the Tánaiste and commend her on her appointment. She is a regular visitor to the Seanad so I am not surprised that she chose to initiate this important legislation in the Seanad. I was confused, as I have the justice portfolio and I think it concerns that area as much as social welfare. It is most certainly a civil rights issue.

The Tánaiste and Senator Power have in the past spoken publicly and very movingly and forcefully on this issue. I am sure we would all wholeheartedly agree with them that this is the right thing to do.

As stated by Senator Ó Clochartaigh, some pre-legislative consultation on this legislation would have been helpful. I do not believe people really understand how important this is. Marriages of convenience have taken place in this State. That is shocking and it continues to happen. I believe this to be an abuse of not only vulnerable Irish citizens but vulnerable people from abroad hoping to obtain citizenship here. I welcome that this issue is being addressed.

I agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh's remarks in regard to people in direct provision. I have previously stated and will reiterate again in the presence of the Tánaiste as deputy Head of Government that what is happening in this regard is a scandal happening on our watch.

As in the case of our having to apologise for what happened in the past in mother and baby homes, future generations of our people will be apologising to people who are now detained in direct provision. It is within our realm as a society to change this. It does not require rocket science to change it. Barriers can be put up and excuses can be made but where there is a will there is a way. There are 18 months left in the lifetime of this Government. As I have said previously to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, and prior to that to the former Minister at that Department, Deputy Shatter, let us do the right thing and make this happen. It is always right to do the right thing.

Another area of the Bill about which I have some concern is the opt-out in terms of registration. Many fathers do not want to be registered because they do not want to own up to their responsibilities. I believe it is appropriate that this registration be mandatory. In regard to the provision of an opt-out in terms of registration of the name of the father, the mother is allowed to give as a reason for doing so that she does not know where the father is or that she does not know the identity of the father. A third reason is that in doing so the child's safety could be compromised. It is sometimes necessary for a third party to determine whether in fact it is a correct proposition to suggest that a child's safety would be compromised if the name of the father was registered. Perhaps, there could be some firming up of this provision. It may be that I am misreading the provision so I would welcome some clarification on the matter and on whether if it requires firming up the issue will be addressed by way of amendment on Committee or Report Stages.

I acknowledge that there is a broad welcome for this important legislation. I do not consider it to be tidying up legislation. I believe it is appropriate, important and necessary. While many people, in particular from outside this House, are not aware of it, very often, there is unanimous agreement in this House on issues, in particular when what is proposed is the right thing to do. I look forward to this legislation progressing through the House and wish the Tánaiste well in her endeavours in that regard.

I welcome the Tánaiste to the House and congratulate her on her election as leader of the Labour Party. Her leadership and judgment as a female marks new territory in this country, particularly for the Labour Party. I wish the Tánaiste well in the future.

I welcome this Bill. I thank the Tánaiste for acknowledging my work in relation to a particular section of this Bill, namely, that dealing with the registration in Ireland of the death abroad of Irish people. This morning, I spoke to a family in Galway for whom this weekend marks the fifth anniversary of the death of a 22 year old son while on a student visa in the USA. It was wonderful to hear the mother, who at a meeting of the committee on social protection during the last term called for this to be addressed, say that this will make his death easier on her. This issue has also been raised by another mother from Galway and the wife of a man who died while abroad in the Middle East. I am particularly close to one of the families affected. I thank the Tánaiste for listening and for introducing me to the registrar. When I first spoke to him, I thought I was knocking my head against a brick wall. However, to be fair to the Tánaiste she did assure me that a memorandum on the matter had been brought to Cabinet and that it was only a matter of time before this issue was addressed. It is not easy to have to repeatedly tell a family something is going to happen when in fact nothing is happening. However, it will now happen under this legislation. This will be of help to many grieving families and will bring closure for them. I am delighted about that.

A great deal of work has been put into the drafting of this Bill, which deals with the registration of important life events and human issues. Much of what is proposed is overdue, in particular compulsory registration of the father's name on birth certificates. I was struck by the fact that in 2013, 2,675 births registered included no father's name. In this regard, the child is the one with no voice. I support of the right of a child to know his or her identity. This legislation provides for that. Other speakers have spoken about how sometimes information in relation to a child's identity may be withheld for the safety of the child. However, the underlying principle of what is proposed is correct. It is time to provide in law that both parents names be listed on a birth certificate and to acknowledge that this is in the best interests of the child. This will be welcomed by many fathers who have fought for their rights in this regard. Equally, many fathers have run away from their responsibility in this regard. Will further legislation be introduced in terms of follow-up of fathers to ensure they meet their duties and responsibilities as fathers? I believe this is an issue that ties in with the Tánaiste's brief in terms of social protection.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh and I have argued for a reversal of the cut in the one-parent allowance, be the parent a mother or father. We would not have to be arguing about this cut if two parents were taking responsibility for their children. I would welcome a response on that issue from the Tánaiste as Minister for Social Protection, a position I compliment her on retaining. It is good to see Ministers, particularly when they become Tánaiste, maintain continuity in Cabinet. Taking over responsibility for a new portfolio can be difficult.

Another issue of concern for me is the right to birth certificates of adopted persons. Perhaps when responding the Tánaiste will clarify the situation highlighted by Senator Moloney in terms of the inclusion on the birth certificate of the father's name. I have a vested interest in this issue in that I have two children who are adopted. I hope that when they pass the age of 18 years they will have a right to their own records. I believe this is a human rights issue. As Senator Power said, it is crucial that a person would know his or her identity and, more important, have access to information such as medical records. In my view - others may not agree with me on this - this information should not be made available to a child until such time as he or she is at least 18 years of age. I say this because one's teenage years are tough. During that time, a child goes through many challenges, including puberty and so on. I am not so sure that making this information available to a child prior to his or her reaching 18 years of age would be a good idea.

I will be very happy to hear the Minister's views on that.

I completely agree with Senators Conway and Ó Clochartaigh on direct provision. Having done work with refugees in a previous role, and knowing that many refugees in direct provision live with their families in the same room, I believe direct provision will be the scandal of the future. We are very naïve if we believe abuse does not happen in such circumstances. It is worth putting this on record, and I am glad I have done so. We should not move forward blindly in this area. I compliment the Minister.

I thank all the Senators who contributed to this very interesting debate. The Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 is the second of three that I intend to introduce to modernise the civil registration services. In December 2012 in this House, we began a discussion on the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012. The legislation was commenced in January 2013 and it added secular bodies to the register of solemnisers. I thank Senator Bacik for her comments on that. A considerable amount of the work was done in this House. The secular bodies were added to the register solemnisers, extending the scope of marriage solemnisers across the spectrum of belief systems. I am aware that very many people have availed themselves of that facility since it came into existence. I am glad to have advised the Senators of an amendment we will bring forward to deal with the issue of marriages being held in the open air.

On 17 June 2014, I published the general scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2014. This Bill will provide transgender persons with legal recognition. The Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and I hope to publish it later this year.

The Bill before the Senators today contains significant new policy provisions, such as the inclusion of the fathers' names on birth certificates for non-marital births and measures to combat marriages of convenience.

With regard to the compulsory registration of fathers' names, it is worth repeating that, according to figures from the General Register Office, 2,675 non-marital births were registered in 2013 without the father's name. In the vast majority of cases, both parents want to register both the mother and the father but there is still a very significant number of cases in which this does not occur. As Members have said, this matter could be extremely important to the child and the descendants of the child. Current legislation does not require the mother or the father to provide the father's details when registering the birth where the parents of a child are not married to each other. Where registration is facilitated very soon after birth, as it often is, those involved in helping at the birth or in another professional capacity and those involved in antenatal classes should be advised that this will be the expected norm. As far as I am aware, it is the norm almost everywhere except in Ireland, save in some exceptional cases to which Senators made reference.

This amendment seeks to address the current position by making the provision of information such as the father's name compulsory other than in exceptional circumstances, such as where the mother does not know who the father is or the whereabouts of the father.

The key, as mentioned by quite a number of Senators, is the right of children to know who their parents are. This amendment will underpin the rights of the child under EU legislation to have access to the details of their identity. Registering the name of the father and the birth certificate actually does not confer any additional rights, per se, on the father of the child, but it may well lead to a cultural change over time such that it will become the expected practice, as it is in most European countries. With regard to the registration of the father's name, the key point is to understand that the exceptions are in regard to the safety of the child and the child's best interests. Obviously, there are issues that arise in this regard, some of which were alluded to, and they have to be taken into account.

Many Senators mentioned marriages of convenience. This is a very complex issue. The right to marry is a basic right. EU citizens and their families had the right to reside and move freely within the territories of the member states. These rights also apply to non-EU-national spouses of EU nationals. Ireland, as a society, has greatly benefited from the free movement of EU citizens across Europe. However, criminal elements are abusing our system by using marriage in Ireland to gain an automatic right of residency in Europe.

Let me outline what constitutes a marriage of convenience. It is a very unusual set of circumstances. Obviously, the vast majority of marriages are by consent and they occur in a public place, usually involving families and many witnesses. A marriage of convenience, however, is defined under section 3 of the legislation as being where one of the parties enters into the marriage solely for the purpose of securing an immigration advantage. This must be properly investigated and reported on by a registrar. It must be determined by a superintendent registrar. In forming his or her opinion, the registrar must take into account such matters as whether the parties speak a common language. If the two parties have no language in common, I suggest it may not be the best basis for a marriage. The question of how often the parties met before the marriage must also be considered. We have heard stories of where parties apparently met a couple of minutes before getting married. They do not share a language and have no apparent knowledge of or familiarity with each other.

Most important, it must be considered whether money has been paid in an inducement to marry. Senator Bacik and Senator van Turnhout talked about young people marrying in this regard. If significant amounts of money change hands, one must be wary. A young woman, who might not be under age or a child, might be persuaded to get married for the purpose of gaining a very large cash advantage. Others might persuade her or have some control over her. This is absolutely illegal. Nothing very good transpires for the women who get involved in such arrangements. It is of serious concern, not only to Ireland but also to countries that have embassies here that may believe this type of action is happening. One should bear in mind that an experienced registrar must form an opinion on whether the couple does not appear to know each other or speak the same language. It may appear that inducements have passed between the parties.

I do not quite know what Senator Ó Clochartaigh was suggesting but the provision does not seek to curtail the free movement of individuals under EU law nor prevent valid marriages from taking place between people of whatever nationality. That is not the purpose. The purpose is to deal with situations where there is a marriage of convenience, in other words, it is a sham and entirely for the purpose of securing an immigration advantage. It is a provision designed to put in place safeguards to stop people using the pretence of getting married solely to gain an immigration advantage and, in the process, make a mockery of the institution of marriage, which is protected in our Constitution.

As in the case of other objections to marriage, the couple can appeal to the Circuit Court, the Family Court, if they do not agree with the decision made. There is a remedy if people feel the marriage has been unfairly refused. It is a matter which has been of grave concern over a number of years. There is also a concern that this may be parallel or in some cases potentially connected with trafficking where women, particularly younger women, are coerced into taking part in this kind of marriage of convenience.

A number of Senators spoke about access to adoption records. I am on the record on this issue and I thank people for sharing their personal and family histories. This matter is being looked at by my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, who is working on legislation in this area. I compliment the former Ministers for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, and in particular, in recent times, Deputy Flanagan, who has done an enormous amount of work on this issue. For those of us who have been involved and interested in this debate over a long number of years, there has been quite a change in public understanding, appreciation and attitudes. That is a very welcome advance as this is a sensitive personal issue for all of the parties involved.

The key issue, which is at the heart of this legislation, is the right of the child to know his or her identity. I look forward to Deputy Reilly following on the very positive work which has been done. He has already commenced that work in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. We in the Department of Social Protection are merely concerned with the regulation of registration.

Senator Bacik and other Senators raised the issue of forced marriages. I thank the Seanad for raising this matter. An interdepartmental group has been set up to look at this matter and the Department of Social Protection is involved. That is a very important issue in the protection of children who could be subject to abuse.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of scrutiny. As the rules regarding the Oireachtas scrutiny were introduced when the Bill was at an advanced stage of drafting it was not brought to the Oireachtas as this would have led to delays in enacting the legislation. When we brought the transgender Bill for scrutiny to the committee, at which some Senators were present, it took seven months to get the report. I am anxious in this regard.

In fairness to the Seanad, there has been a detailed debate on Second Stage alone so I am very confident there will be as much intensive scrutiny and examination which the Senators wish to bring on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take next Stage?

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 22 July 2014.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.