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Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 1 Jun 2022

Vol. 285 No. 11

Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 9

Even Homer nods. The Clerk to the Seanad has informed me that Senator Higgins voted in the wrong seat on the vote on amendment No. 42 and the record has been corrected.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 19, lines 2 and 3, to delete “, and an information session has already taken place”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 19, lines 5 and 6, to delete “and no information session has taken place”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 19, lines 9 and 10, to delete “paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 19, to delete lines 18 to 23.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 9 agreed to.
SECTION 10

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 20, line 20, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

The amendment seeks to replace the word "may" with "shall" in page 20, line 20, thus strengthening the language as it relates to the release of a statement by the Adoption Authority of Ireland, AAI, or the Child and Family Agency to a relevant person setting out the birth information contained within the records they hold relating to that person.

Section 10 currently provides for the release of birth information or images by AAI upon the application of a relevant person aged between 16 and 18. The amendment strengthens the language in the subsection by specifying that a relevant body ought to provide a relevant person with a statement setting out birth information obtained within the records it or the Child and Family Agency holds relating to the applicant upon written application. The Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth's report on pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill recommended that the use of the word "may" throughout the heads of the Bill ought to be addressed to strengthen its provisions. This amendment acts on that recommendation.

The Senator has made a very good rationale for the logic of this amendment. I will not repeat what she said, but given what the committee recommended, I fully support and endorse it. I hope the Minister will see fit to support the amendment.

I thank the Senator for proposing the amendment. It is similar to a number of amendments that have been put forward. We debated the issue of the language of "may" versus "shall" on a number of occasions. As we know, the Bill places obligations on relevant bodies to provide a summary of all relevant records they hold, including information to which the application does not relate. This amendment, in my view, is unnecessary as the relevant bodies will already be providing a statement in all cases where it makes sense to do so. As I said, that will be in the vast majority of cases. There may be situations where one document is being released where a statement is not necessary, but otherwise it will always be the case that the supporting statement is forthcoming.

The open approach to the provision of information will be reiterated through the guidelines which will empower the Minister. They will stipulate that an enabling approach should be undertaken, whereby bodies should release any information over and above the categories of information set out in the Bill, except where they would be prohibited by law from doing so. In light of that, I do not believe this amendment is necessary.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 48.

In page 20, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

“(4) Where no birth information is available, the Authority shall seize all records relating to the relevant person’s adoption and/or illegal birth registration and open an investigation into what transpired. The applicant will be kept informed and will beconsulted throughout the course of the investigation.”.

The amendment inserts a new subsection into the Bill, that is, where there is no entry present in the register of births, the authority shall seize all records relating to the relevant adoption and open an investigation into what transpired. The applicant will be kept informed and will be consulted throughout the course of the investigation. Section 6 currently provides that relevant persons may apply for a copy of their birth certificate. This amendment is intended to ensure the State takes responsibility for establishing what transpired if an adopted person's birth was not registered. This could relate, for example, to establishing whether he or she was registered as the natural child of his or her adoptive parents or if that person's birth was not registered at all or if, perhaps, that person was born outside of Ireland. The AAI is the regulator of adoption in this Bill, so it is entirely fitting it should seize all records where there is a suspicion of wrongdoing.

The absence of information in the birth register falls into the realm of illegal adoptions. This amendment aims to strengthen the power of the Oireachtas to legislate to ensure access to birth certificates and protects a large cohort of adopted persons who were subject to illegal birth registrations or adoptions with no records. This was noted in the committee's pre-legislative scrutiny report, with one recommendation highlighting the need for an oversight process or accessible appeal mechanism and a recommendation that the Bill provide for recourse to an ombudsman or other process to ensure oversight of the application process's support for adopted persons and others in using the provisions of the Bill.

I thank the Senators for the amendment. In principle, I support the idea. I can think of nothing worse than to be told there is no information or birth information available. The sentiments of the amendment are too strong, in that the wording presupposes that there might be something to seize, which raises an expectation that cannot be met. That is why I am cautious about the amendment. However, we need some sort of mechanism. We cannot just say there is nothing there. People need to be brought into a process. Therefore there is a need for some mechanism whereby further information can be obtained or sought and the person assisted and not left hanging with nowhere to go. The hurt and devastation of that would be significant. In principle, I support the sentiment of the amendment. It is a little bit too strong. I ask the Minister to respond accordingly.

Like Senator Seery Kearney, I welcome the concept of the amendment. We have worked with many people through pre-legislative scrutiny and all of our work on the Bill. It would be incredible to think there is no step beyond simply saying there is no birth certificate. A process, procedure, advice and somewhere to go to be able to gain more access or increased access to who one is, where one came from and how one's life began is necessary. The wording of the amendment might be too strong for this Bill, but I await the response of the Minister because there are important and beneficial concepts in the amendment.

I understand exactly where Senator Ruane is coming from regarding the amendment. Again, we have to manage people's expectations in a responsible manner. We know that for many years there has simply been no information. That is not to say there was not information originally. Much of the information has been destroyed. Many of the people involved in these illegal acts are in the wrong or the people responsible for them, their sponsors and supporters have run away from the things that were done. The easiest thing was to light a match and do away with it.

There is a lot of denial going on within families and in the institutions of the State, and that needs to be recognised. There are people who deliberately withheld information over many years, but when they were persistently pressed, they handed it over. I know of two people who arrived at a particular institution two years ago and refused to leave, having been told there was no information, and then secured information. The establishment concerned lied through its teeth to them.

It would be foolish of us to think people were co-operating at all times. People deliberately set out to withhold information. It is not a question of there being information versus no information. Information was withheld and deliberately destroyed. That is a terrible thing to do to any individual at any point in his or her life.

I fully understand where the amendment is coming from. In his response, the Minister might touch on the creation of a centralised State repository of records. In time, where people co-operate, this should all come forward. A lot of things we are anticipating will not actually happen. I do not say that as a brushstroke remark. Eventually, those who want to co-operate and be supportive will let the information come forward, subject to the legal checks and balances that are required and the obligations on people. A centralised State repository of records is something the Minister has mentioned. There might be no one to give information to in terms of individuals, but a central repository may be a place that could hold much of this information and assist people in the future. Second and third generations of people may wish to seek this information.

The effect of the amendment, as proposed, is to insert a clause into section 10. The amendment would require that where no birth information is available upon application by an affected person, the authority must seize all records and conduct an investigation into what transpired. We had a fairly significant discussion during the last debate on the Bill on a similar amendment put forward by the Senator and Senator Higgins. We teased out some of the issues. This amendment seeks to provide that the AAI would seize any available records and open an investigation in a scenario where no birth information is found.

The legislation only requires that where a relevant body has no records available, the relevant body must inform the applicant of this fact in writing without delay. The concern in this scenario is that an applicant would be met with a mere letter noting there is no available information and nothing more. Senator Higgins and others have expressed what that would mean to an affected person seeking information.

I cannot accept this amendment, because as I said about the previous amendment, I cannot accept it, as currently drafted. First, section 63 provides for the agency and the authority to provide support to relevant persons, and this support can extend to assisting a person in identifying where their records are held. In addition, the section provides for the agency and the authority to provide support to a person making an application to a contact preference register and the tracing service.

Having reflected on the discussion the previous day and having reflected on what other colleagues have said on this issue, we may be able to look at bringing forward an amendment on Report Stage that would make it clear that where no information is available that it will be explicitly made clear to the relevant person in the letter conveying that how they access the contact preference register in undertaking a search there and how they access the tracing service. Other routes are available and while it might not get them the original documentation, rather than them just receiving a letter saying there is no information, it would clearly signpost the pathways that are already there. I will ask officials to look to see if something can be done that would make that clearer in the direct response that relevant people receive where no information is available.

As Senator Boyhan has made clear, we do have to be careful about expectation management. At the end of this process, there are probably going to be thousands of disappointed adopted people and people who were boarded out and while we cannot overestimate what we can provide in terms of documents, other processes exist. Senator Boyhan is correct: there is a process to bring together records. Part of the legislative provisions allow the AAI to begin the process of bringing records within its custody. My Department is already doing that in respect of getting health records and records from other areas as well. That is why we hired an archivist in my Department.

As Members will be aware, we made an announcement about a national records and memorial centre and work is advancing in that area as well. In the longer term, I hope that is where these documents could be accessed. We made a very clear decision in the context of this legislation that we would not ask people to wait until a national records centre is set up because that is a long-term project. Once the three-month period has passed, people will be able to access information under this legislation. We all recognise that is the priority, namely, quick access to information. I hope that provides some information and perhaps some comfort to the Senators.

I understand and take on board everyone's contribution. I know the Minister and perhaps other Senators as well as me will look at what those next steps can be in the communication. However, even if the next steps are laid out very clearly and something is not just dropped at that point in terms of engagement, there is also the question of whether all avenues have been explored. There is still a question mark at the end of the process for the State as to why. Even if we can clearly outline the support and other avenues that someone can take, what happens when they get to the end of that if there is still no sign of anything? At what point do we ask why is that the case and try to understand why someone's birth would not be registered? Is there still room to discus that very last possible avenue? It is not as harsh and as strong as an investigation into the records, but it is a question the State has to ask itself as to why there are no records anywhere. Between now and Report Stage I wonder if we could figure out what a different wording in that regard might look like that is not as strong as what is outlined in the amendment.

Perhaps we need to look at guidelines or a statutory instrument under the Bill. Perhaps the functioning of the specialist tracing team needs to be spelled out more clearly in terms of how it is going to function. If there is no information and there has clearly been a wrongful registration, be it that whatever happened was done illegally or mistakenly, a specialist tracing team was envisaged by the Minister in his own undertakings and arising from the Conor O'Mahony report, but we also have the possibility of a further undertaking, statutory or otherwise, that looks into all of the illegal registrations. Perhaps such a mechanism would be possible and that it could be done by guidelines or statutory instrument so that it would be one of the things that would trigger the specialist team to act. There could be a means of linking it into the Act. It could be too prescriptive to go into the Act, but the guidelines that flow from the Act could consider that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 20, lines 36 and 37, to delete ", and an information session has already taken place”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 21, lines 1 and 2, to delete "and no information session has taken place”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 21, line 3, to delete "paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 21, to delete lines 7 to 12.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 10 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 21, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"Relevant body to provide all relevant records on application by relevant person

11. (1) A relevant person who has attained the age of 18 years may apply in writing to a relevant body for the provision by the relevant body to him or her of any and all relevant records held by the relevant body and that relates to him or her.

(2) A relevant body, on application to it made under this section, shall, to the extent that it is practicable to do so, provide the relevant person with a copy of all relevant records it holds, which shall include but not be limited to, early life information, care information, incorrect birth registration information and medical information.

(3) Where a relevant body that receives an application made in accordance with subsection (1) does not hold relevant records, it shall, in writing and without delay, inform the relevant person concerned of that fact.".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SECTION 11

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 21, line 23, after "incorrect” to insert "or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 21, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(d) medical information.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 21, line 26, to delete ", to the extent that it is practicable to do so,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 57:

In page 21, line 27, after "contain” to insert "the personal data of the relevant person”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 58:

In page 21, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

“(b) shall provide the relevant person with a summary of all relevant records it holds, including information to which the application does not relate, and shall offer to supply the relevant person with the additional records upon request,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 59:

In page 21, line 30, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 60:

In page 21, line 31, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 11 agreed to.
SECTION 12

I move amendment No. 61:

In page 22, line 14, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 12 agreed to.
Sections 13 and 14 agreed to.
SECTION 15

I move amendment No. 62:

In page 23, line 24, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 63:

In page 23, line 38, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 15 agreed to.
SECTION 16

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 24, line 19, to delete “to which the application relates only” and substitute “without delay”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 24, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

“(4) The adoptive parent of a child who has not attained the age of 16 years may apply in writing to the Authority for the provision by it to him or her of medical information that—

(a) is contained in a record to which this section applies that is held by the Authority or by the Agency,

(b) relates to his or her genetic relative.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 66:

In page 25, line 11, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 67:

In page 25, line 14, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 16 agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

Acting Chairperson

Amendments No. 68 to 70, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 69 and 70 are logical alternatives to amendment No. 68. Amendments Nos. 68 to 70, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 68:

In page 25, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

Information relating to contact preference

17. In every case where an applicant is provided under this Act with a copy of the records that contain the birth information to which the application relates, or with a statement setting out the birth information contained in those records, the Authority shall send to the applicant, by prepaid registered post or other recorded delivery, a statement by the Authority setting out, in so far as it has established in relation to each relevant parent,whether—

(a) he or she has not made a statement under section 38(11),

(b) he or she has made a statement under section 38(11) that either of the following applies:

(i) he or she is seeking to have contact with the applicant;

(ii) he or she is willing to be contacted by the applicant,

(c) he or she has made a statement under section 38(11) that he or she is not willing to be contacted by the applicant,

(d) he or she is deceased,

(e) he or she is not willing to be contacted by the applicant.”.

Amendment No. 68 is the substantive amendment in this group and deals with the issue of the mandatory information session. That issue, which these amendments address, is a big sticking point for us in the Labour Party. We are disappointed we did not see progress made on this issue in the Dáil. I know my colleague, Deputy Bacik, had a full debate with the Minister in committee and on the Dáil floor and we acknowledge how much progress was made on this and other issues on Committee Stage in the Dáil. We all appreciate improvements have been made to the Bill and the Minister is open to making improvements on Report Stage. However, this is still a difficult point for us and for those who are seeking information. It means access to birth information remains conditional in certain cases on the holding of this information session.

We all accept, as the Minister said on Committee Stage in the Dáil, that we need to balance information rights and privacy rights. For us, the retention of the mandatory information session means privacy rights continue to trump identity rights. During pre-legislative scrutiny, the committee put forward a unanimous recommendation that an alternative to mandatory information session as a safeguard to ensure the balance of the rights would be to send an appropriate statement by registered post. In amendment No. 68 and the other amendments in this group, we have crafted a mechanism whereby such a statement could be sent by the authority setting out the relevant matters in writing to a person seeking information. In our view, this would be a sufficient safeguard, along with other safeguards in the legislation, such as the information campaign, to ensure these constitutional rights are balanced. It would be a more practical mechanism because it would also ensure there could be no dispute as to what was said and whether a Zoom call or a meeting had, in fact, taken place. It would also show trust in people seeking the information that they would receive the statement and it would be sufficient.

We have looked at section 17 to see what the Government proposes as a safeguard. The information session need not be in one place but it does require that each participant is able, directly or by means of electronic communications technology, to speak and be heard by the other participants. It sets out in subsection (2) the relevant information about which the designated person is to inform the adopted person seeking the information. Why can this information not simply be set out in a written statement and be sent by registered post so there is proof it has been received? This is particularly relevant when section 17(4) requires the designated person, on completion of the information section, to confirm it has taken place and to provide a notification. There is already in the Government's proposal a mechanism for a written statement. Why not bypass the mandatory information session, bypass this condition on access to information, and proceed as the committee recommended rather than pursuing a paternalistic approach requiring an information session?

Amendment No. 69 seeks to delete section 17 as authored and to substitute it with a new section that replaces the mandatory information session with a registered letter that sets out information regarding the contact preferences of each relevant parent. The suggestion to substitute a register letter was recommended. A considerable amount of discussion and thought went into attempts to find that compromise at the Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. Such an amendment was first tabled in the Dáil by Deputy Bacik with the intention of making access to birth certificates and other relevant information by relevant persons unconditional.

Section 17 currently provides that to access certain information, an applicant or relevant person must first attend an information session with a designated person. This provision is problematic, as the Minister knows, for many people involved as it makes access to certain information, including birth certificates, by a relevant person conditional on his or her attending an information session. This section of the Bill is a red-line issue for stakeholders and survivor groups and its replacement has been debated at length. The Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth recommended during pre-legislative scrutiny that the information session be replaced with an appropriate alternative such as the sending of a registered letter to all applicants irrespective of whether their birth parent had expressed a preference regarding contact which advises of the circumstances surrounding the contact preferences.

The Minister will be aware of the views held by stakeholders and survivor groups in respect of this provision. I encourage him to consider the alternative provided by these amendments.

I should probably begin by taking responsibility. In the course of pre-legislative scrutiny, I first floated the idea of the registered letter because I looked to the courts and the mechanism there. A registered letter is sufficient in any legal proceedings as a demonstration of service of documents, proceedings and summonses. If a registered letter is sufficient to go before a court and a failure to attend a court case regardless of the issues at hand may result in a case being struck out, I did not see why it would be insufficient for a registered letter to be sent where the sender of the letter, Tusla or whatever other authority, adhered to the appropriate protocols and signed off that the register was checked for contact preferences. In that case, all beneficiaries of information would receive exactly the same treatment so there would be no risk of paternalism.

Naturally, I will support the Government although I have personal unease with the proceedings. I will stand over it, regardless.

I have a difficulty with what is being proposed and am a little uneasy with the legal advice that has been given on this because it suggests that a telephone call or some other means of communication represents a discharging of its obligations by the State. I completely agree that there must be some positive action on the part of the State to demonstrate that it has protected the right to privacy of the affected individual. I have spoken with many birth mothers who are frightened for their current circumstances. It has nothing to do with their personal feelings with regard to this. We need to ensure that the State positively acts in the preservation of privacy.

However, in order to prove that a phone call took place, the transcript of that phone call is going to have to be held somewhere. Something like that is necessary. A mere ticking of a box to say that a phone call happened is a lesser burden than a registered letter. If we can go to that light a burden - that a phone call just took place - then what if the person does not answer the phone? What if that does not happen? In the alternative scenario, the person can put in a subject access request. If the person can put in a subject access request and get all the details anyway, then we seem to be undermining this in a circle.

I completely agree with the requirement to proactively do something on what is a constitutional right to privacy. In that hierarchy we are putting privacy below the right to personal identification, which is absolutely the right thing to do. I see that the Minister is shaking his head. I trust he has an answer and I know that this has been well thought through. I know that it is not for the want of trying and action on his part. What is captured? How is the phone call proven? Maybe I need to have an answer to that and then I can come back to the Minister. I need to understand how that is stronger and how we will not have a constitutional challenge anyway in this regard. If registered post suffices in the High Court, in what can be huge commercial proceedings and huge cases, for the striking out of cases then I do not see why it does not suffice here. That said, I am willing to hear the Minister's response. I know he has done a lot of work on it and I am ready to hear what he has to say.

I appreciate the expertise of committee members and of Senator Seery Kearney in this area. I do not have much more to add to what Senators Ruane and Moynihan have said already except to say that Sinn Féin supports their amendments. We oppose this section outright and may do so at the end of this discussion if those amendments are not accepted.

I want to acknowledge that the Minister has moved significantly on this through the various Stages in the Dáil, across the Bill, but section 17 is highly contested. The mandatory information session, as Senator Ruane points out, is highly contentious among stakeholders. We oppose this section outright and entirely and would ask the Minister to revisit the issue with the Attorney General to see if there is a way that the proposed phone call or Zoom call can be removed and replaced with a letter or registered letter.

This is one of the biggest and most contentious issues. Senator Ruane suggested that this is one of the red line issues and I agree. In terms of the needs and wishes of the survivors, their families and advocates, this matter has been raised with me constantly. It has been a consistent concern.

I took the time to read the committee engagement in relation to this and it was interesting to note that the committee was supportive of the idea of the registered letter. Indeed, Senator Seery Kearney has just explained some of that to us, which I found very helpful. There is a real dilemma around this issue. I also looked at the Dáil debates and again, there were issues around that.

I want to acknowledge the enormous amount of work that the leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Bacik, has done on this. She argued strongly on these particular issues in the Dáil. The record speaks for itself. There was clearly a lot of flow and engagement around these issues. Part of the issue is the mandatory information session. I can see some of the reason and logic behind the mandatory information sessions but I can also see why there is genuine concern for people who may have a difficulty engaging with them. It is about having some sort of practical, meaningful and effective alternative for those who have concerns in relation to it.

There has been a lot of debate on this issue. We have committees here but what is the point in having them if we are not going to take on board their recommendations? This was teased out at great length in the committee and it was also teased out in the Dáil. I support these two amendments. The issue is how to bridge the gap between the mandatory information sessions and some alternative.

At the committee we spoke at length about this section and the fact that the information session was going to be mandatory. In a perfect world none of this would be necessary and we would not have to work within the realms of our awful history. I would agree with Senator Seery Kearney about registered letters. In the opinion of most lay people, a registered letter makes common sense. Unfortunately, I cannot slot myself into the Attorney General's brain to see why this had to be mandatory and why a registered letter was not sufficient.

I want to raise an issue related to that phone call or that contact, that is, the legacy of previous trauma that has been inflicted on people by contact from those organisations. Getting another phone call setting out the state of the law could be retraumatising for an individual who has been through the wringer already. That is my big fear. A call from Tusla or one of the other organisations could be retraumatising and we need to make sure those organisations are given every possible instruction on empathy when they make those mandatory phone calls. I have also heard from women who are very comforted by the mandatory information session. When we speak here, we are representing both sides. I have heard from birth mothers who look at the mandatory information session and see it as a comfort blanket, for want of a better description.

I am concerned about retraumatising people and about trust in the organisations. In a perfect world we would not need this but, unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. We have this legacy of an absolutely desperate history but we must balance that against privacy in the Act. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

I thank Senators for their detailed contributions and consideration on this, which is an important issue. It is central to this legislation and central to that balancing of rights that we are seeking to achieve in this Bill and which has eluded previous Oireachtais over the last 22 years. I take what we do here very seriously and I take on board the contributions and concerns raised.

I hope it is accepted that that is the case.

Amendments Nos. 68 and 69 are the same and propose a mechanism of communication of a contact preference through registered post as an alternative to a meeting or phone call. I have noted the suggestion in the pre-legislative scrutiny report that the function of the information session could be fulfilled by registered letter. Amendments to the same effect were brought on Committee and Report Stages in the Dáil. However, I do not believe the use of a registered letter instead of a phone call resolves the central issues. We are trying to balance EU and constitutionally protected rights, namely, the right to identity of the adopted person and the right to privacy of a parent. This legislation gives significant priority and preference to one set of rights over another. It elevates the right to information of adopted people over the right to privacy of their parents. That is right and we all agree with that. It has not been done for too long and has been a deep denial of the right to identity of adopted people. However, when constitutional rights are being balanced, there has to be a balancing mechanism. I think we all accept that. The question is how we do that. For the Government, the central issue is the conveying of the contact preference of the parent. How do we convey that in the best way possible to the adopted person, while recognising that the identity of the parent will now be provided to the adopted person?

In a small number of cases - and I believe it will only be a small number - the identity of the parent will be conveyed to the adopted person against the parent's wishes. We need to achieve that so the adopted person can enjoy their identity rights. How do we convey that in a meaningful way? The idea of the registered letter was considered during the drafting process and rejected as being insufficiently protective of the privacy right because it did not sufficiently guarantee the conveying of the preference. The conveying of the preference is not a tick-box exercise but a genuine effort to protect the privacy right and make sure it is recognised in this process, taking account of the fact that that right has been pared back significantly. With registered post, there is no guarantee that the individual receiving the post will receive or read it. There is every possibility that someone else in the house may receive the registered letter. In that situation, the preference is not directly conveyed. There are wider circumstances about the individual's preference if somebody else in the house receives the registered letter but, putting that aside, is the preference conveyed? Senator Seery Kearney focused on the evidence of the call versus the evidence of the letter. I am focused on the conveying of the information. How do we ensure to the best of our ability that the vital information, which may or may not be difficult information depending on the individual's circumstances, that the parent does not want to be contacted is conveyed to the adopted person? We believe the best way is through a call, an online communication or a meeting, whatever is the view of the adopted person. It cannot be guaranteed through a registered letter.

A point was made about a call and is right. It depends on the circumstances of the adopted person. There may be situations where this call or letter is easy or difficult. We spent time earlier in the session talking about what an adopted person feels like if they get a letter saying, as it were, "No information – full stop". It could be argued that getting a letter saying the parent does not want contact could be regarded as cold and unsatisfactory. At least with a call, there is the opportunity for some engagement and further information about tracing services. I am conscious that adopted people do not want to be spoken about as if they are delicate and need counselling in all situations. Different people's situations are different.

The central concern in the context of this legislation is the conveying of the information concerning contact preference and looking at how to best secure that. I believe a call, meeting or online engagement better guarantees the direct conveying of the information than a registered letter and gives us greater security that the information will be conveyed. The adopted person will do with that information what they decide.

Senator Seery Kearney made a point about the subject access request and she is right that such a request can be made. The difference is that such a request does not guarantee access to all information in every circumstance, whereas the legislation we are bringing forward does. We could have relied on GDPR but we know there is a decision-making process where the data controller reviews the matter and makes a consideration in every case. That does not happen in this legislation. Where the process set out in this legislation is followed, every person will receive all of the information.

On the use of the term "mandatory information session", where someone seeks access to records, be it birth information or early life information, the person make the application and the authority or agency looks at the contact preference register. Where there is a preference for contact expressed by a parent or it is blank and no preference has been expressed, the full information will be provided to the adopted person immediately. That will occur in the vast majority of cases. I am confident of that and will explain why in a moment. In the vast majority of cases, the idea of the phone call or information session will not be relevant to the engagement. The person will make an application and receive in the post all the information unredacted. In a case where the authority or agency identifies that a clear no-contact preference has been made, that means that at some time after this legislation is passed a parent has, for whatever reason, indicated concerns about their privacy right and proactively gone to the effort of contacting the contact preference register and asking that a no-contact preference be recorded. This is someone clearly expressing concern about that issue. Where that is the case, that piece of information the parent has seen as vital for the protection of their privacy rights will be conveyed to the adopted person in a phone call, an online meeting or a physical meeting, whatever is the preference of the adopted person. After that, all the information will be released. That is the essential point. This is a mechanism to ensure that, unlike in all previous efforts to legislate in this area, all information will be released and nobody will be left behind.

A significant focus has been given to how we do this. As Senator Moynihan knows, the mechanism I now propose was proposed by her party previously, in terms of how we get this balance. I know people have concerns but it is about getting this constitutional balance right and, for the first time ever, ensuring the result is always the full release of information. I believe we have got the balance right and we are guaranteeing the vindication of the constitutional right to identity in every situation, while maintaining some protection of the constitutional privacy rights of a parent who has clearly expressed a desire for such protection. I hear the concerns of Senators as I heard the concerns of Deputies but we have gone as far as we can constitutionally to achieve that difficult balance. The outcome will always be, where the processes under this legislation are followed, the full and unredacted release of all information. That is essentially where we want to be.

I have huge respect for the Minister and the task at hand. Usually when I hear people's reasoning and logic I go back and forth in my head exploring the issue and ask if they are right. When I hear the Minister speak, however, I do not feel any confidence that a balance has been struck as regards how communication is received. We are putting a hierarchy on how somebody receives information and communication as a mechanism for balancing constitutional rights. Somewhere in the conversation that happens, a greater value is placed on in-person verbal communication than written communication in conveying something. If all communication is language and the sharing of information, who decides which is more valuable in respect of a constitutional matter? It comes down to how we receive and how we are given information. On the issue of mandatory in-person communication, or whatever we want to call it, anything beyond privacy rights actually hinges on a form of control or a form of removing someone else's agency in how they do or do not wish to receive communication.

When it comes to language, communication and information, I do not understand how a Government or Attorney General decides that the balance between them is a right because it is the same information no matter how it is received. It seems there is a paternalistic aspect to this, where the person on the end of the phone, or the person in the room, somehow has some sort of magic power to know that this message has been better conveyed because it was said verbally than if it was received in written form. It is as if there has to be a burden of proof if someone is on the phone asking, "Do you understand what I am saying?" How do we make an assessment that conveying something verbally is better? It is about the State and the agencies having control over being able to hear someone's voice, witness someone's face, and somehow make the determination that they have better conveyed or better balanced someone's rights rather than basing it on just sending them a letter.

I would love to understand why the hierarchy of how information is communicated, and who decides that something is conveyed, balances a constitutional right based on how information is given. There had to have been a debate on written communication, verbal communication and telephone communication, and why one of them is of more value than the others in balancing constitutional rights.

I get what the Minister is saying about proving the information has been conveyed. I understand this is the motivation and that we need to prove information has actually been conveyed. I depart slightly from Senator Ruane on that, but it could have been done by addressee-signatory only. Making the person the letter is addressed to the only person who can sign for it would discharge the obligation to prove that he or she has received it. What are we saying? The corollary of complete disclosure under the mechanism in the Bill is there will not be complete disclosure if we do not comply with that mechanism. Therein lies a problem. Are we saying there will be a difference between what is released through a subject access request and exercising the mechanism in the legislation? Will we get different types of disclosure? We need to explore what that means. Will people get information that is redacted if they submit a subject access request? Unless the subject access request is in compliance with this law, and it can be proved the telephone call occurred, how will it be proved the telephone call occurred? That will happen through the caller's affidavit. Somewhere along the line, somebody will have to sign a document that states he or she made that telephone call and the information was conveyed. We are already in a realm where documents were falsified or whatever, so we run the risk of a checkbox no matter what we do in all of this. It is probably unfair of me to allude to the fact there are falsified documents in the background of all this.

This could have been split in two. We could send a letter intended for the addressee only that conveys the actual message. I would be interested to know how that was explored. I take the Minister's point that we need to prove the message is conveyed, but we do not know how we prove the message has been conveyed through a telephone call. What would the evidence be for that? If there will not be transcripts and recordings, we are then reliant on an affidavit from the caller. I do not see how that is better than addressee-signatory only through registered post. If there is to be any sort of recording of the telephone call, it will involve the retention of more than just saying there is a contact preference for no contact. It will be more than that. It will be the reaction of that person. It will lead to a storing of personal data, which I am not sure is what we intend or want to intend.

There are a couple of issues. Will a subject access request under GDPR lead to different information compared with the exercise of this mechanism in the legislation? If it does, when we exercise that mechanism, and if a case is taken regarding the State's failure of preservation of privacy on the part of the person who expressed a preference for no contact, how will that burden of proof on the part of the State be discharged? Will it be through an affidavit on the part of the caller? If there is a difference between the subject access request and the disclosure under the mechanism in the legislation, does that not lead to a constitutional issue in and of itself in respect of the right to identity and the right of disclosure? We run a risk of a constitutional challenge, regardless of which route we go down. I do not see why this could not have been done through an addressee signature only.

The Minister's task is unenviable. I understand the point he made about whether the message is conveyed via telephone call, but I have also heard from people who have had to have those conversations with adoption authorities and felt very traumatised by it in terms of the reaction. Equally, letters can be cold. It is a very difficult matter and I really do not envy the Minister in trying to strike that balance.

That said, we will move this amendment. In the interim, and we have heard it from both sides of this House, there is a desire to seek a solution but everybody is a little stumped as to what it is. There is no perfect answer to this and I do not think anybody will argue there is. Perhaps the Minister would agree to meet Members from across the House before Report Stage. I am standing in for Senator Hoey on this but Deputy Bacik would like to engage a little further on this particular aspect of the information. As I said, I do not envy the Minister's task. He has moved very substantially on this previously but I ask him to engage further in advance of Report Stage.

On the question asked regarding a subject access request versus a request under this legislation, subject access requests are individualised and depend on data control around their determination. I cannot, therefore, say that every subject access request will result in the production of all information.

What I can say is that every request for information submitted under this legislation will result in all information being provided. That is as much as I can say there. There may be a difference. The reason for this legislation is a desire to remove that possibility and to remove discretion from individual data controllers who are looking at individual subject access requests. That is essentially what we are doing. The answer will always be "Yes" to giving out the information. With regard to the Senator's question, I cannot speak to any more detail but the disadvantage of subject access requests is that they ultimately come down to a person making a determination having considered a set of facts. That is not the position under this legislation.

I will try to address Senator Ruane's point but I have to look at this from the point of view of the risk of constitutional challenge, which is a genuine risk. I am not trying to raise fears here but the reason all of these issues are before us springs from a constitutional challenge in respect of the release of adoption information, the I. O'T v. B. case. I know there have been plenty of criticisms of how that judgment has been interpreted but the reality is that there is a risk of litigation and constitutional challenge because of the sensitivity of this information. In bringing forward this legislation, in recognising that it could be the subject of constitutional challenge and in preparing to defend the balance the Government has struck by prioritising the right of access to identity information over the right to privacy, we have to show that the State has done its best to convey the parental preference which, at this stage, is at the core of considerations. Parents' right to anonymity has been taken away by this legislation. The adopted person will know their names. The sole remaining part of their privacy rights is their desire not to be contacted. That is what is left of their privacy rights so the State has to demonstrate that it has done its best to convey that preference to the adopted person. The legal advice we have received, and my own belief, is that the best way to convey this is not through a letter, but through that direct contact. That is the best way to ensure the State can show it has done its best to ensure the parental preference was conveyed and the remaining element of parents' privacy rights was respected so that this legislation, although it severely limits the privacy rights of a parent, remains constitutional.

On Senator Moynihan's request, I am always happy to engage with Senators but I do not want to raise expectation that there is still wiggle room here. This has been examined in detail. It has been discussed in both Houses. There has been a real examination of this and the legal advice I have received is that the mechanism put forward is, in the State's view, the best way to vindicate privacy rights while creating a system that will always result in the full release of all information to adopted people, which is, again, the essential aim of this legislation.

The Minister's answer is very comprehensive. I agree with Senator's Moynihan that he has an unenviable task and that, no matter what way things go, there will be hard choices involved in this. Section 70 provides for a review. I know this cannot be put into the Bill and I am not asking the Minister to do so but I wonder whether the terms of reference of the review, when it is being commissioned two years down the road, could include a review of this mechanism to ascertain whether it is effective or too strong and to see how it has worked up to that point. It is really only when we see the different means by which real people seek their information that we will really understand what they will do. As I was saying, I understand the Minister's view but perhaps he could agree to include a review of this mechanism at the point the overall review is carried out. I think it would probably be included anyway.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 24.

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Clonan, Tom.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Moynihan, Rebecca.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Sherlock, Marie.
  • Wall, Mark.

Níl

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crowe, Ollie.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Currie, Emer.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Hackett, Pippa.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGahon, John.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Seery Kearney, Mary.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Rebecca Moynihan and Lynn Ruane; Níl, Senators Seán Kyne and Gerry Horkan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 69:

In page 25, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“Information relating to contact preference

17. In every case where an applicant is provided under this Act with a birth certificate or copy of the records that contain the birth information to which the application relates, or with a statement setting out the birth information contained in those records, the Authority shall send to the applicant, by prepaid registered post or other recorded delivery, a statement by the Authority setting out, in so far as it has established in relation to each relevant parent, whether—

(a) he or she has not made a statement under section 38(11),

(b) he or she has made a statement under section 38(11) that either of the following applies:

(i) he or she is seeking to have contact with the applicant;

(ii) he or she is willing to be contacted by the applicant,

(c) he or she has made a statement under section 38(11) that he or she is not willing to be contacted by the applicant,

(d) he or she is deceased,

(e) he or she is not willing to be contacted by the applicant.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 70:

In page 25, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“Information relating to contact preference

17. In every case where an applicant is provided under this Act with a birth certificate or copy of the records that contain the birth information to which the application relates, or with a statement setting out the birth information contained in those records, the Authority shall specify that such birth information is for information purposes and shall inform the applicant of the mechanisms and processes available to them in respect of contact preference or tracing services.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SECTION 17

It was agreed with the Seanad Office that Senator Moynihan would take the rest of my amendments.

I move amendment No. 71:

In page 26, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“(4) Where the relevant person does not wish to have an information session either by an in-person meeting or an electronic meeting, information in accordance with subsection (2) shall be provided to the relevant person via post or electronically, and an information session will be deemed to have taken place.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question put: "That section 17 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 9.

  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crowe, Ollie.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Currie, Emer.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Hackett, Pippa.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGahon, John.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Seery Kearney, Mary.
  • Ward, Barry.

Níl

  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Clonan, Tom.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Moynihan, Rebecca.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Sherlock, Marie.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Seán Kyne and Gerry Horkan; Níl, Senators Paul Gavan and Lynn Boylan.
Question declared carried.
Section 18 agreed to.
SECTION 19

I move amendment No. 72:

In page 27, line 2, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment No. 72 strengthens the provision in section 19 by specifying that the Minister should issue guidance to the Child and Family Agency, the AAI and the relevant bodies regarding their performance under this section of the Bill. Section 19, a miscellaneous provisions section of Part 2, makes provisions relating to the accessing of birth certificates, birth and other information, and provided items. The relevant subsection provides that the Minister may issue guidelines to the Child and Family Agency, the AAI or the relevant body regarding their performance under this Part. The pre-legislative scrutiny report of the Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth recommended that the use of the word "may" throughout the heads of the Bill ought to be addressed to strengthen its provisions. The amendment acts on this recommendation.

I thank the Senator. We have had a debate on the "may" versus "shall" language on a number of occasions. In legislation there is a distinction between the use of the term "shall" and the use of the term "may". The use of "shall" in legislation creates a compulsion, often on a State body, to act in a certain way in certain circumstances. While this may seem like a good idea on the face of it, as legislators we also need to be mindful of the impact this may have on a State body and the management of its operations. We have engaged with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on whether the use of the term "may" or "shall" should be used in this legislation and I am satisfied that we have the right balance here. In certain circumstances, the word "shall" is used but in the guidelines we are discussing we believe the correct balancing has been achieved.

It is also important to recall that the Minister is given the power under this legislation to issue guidelines to the agencies, authorities and bodies that will be implementing this legislation. Those guidelines can also act to ensure that the agencies and bodies act in a certain way in furtherance of the overall goals of this legislation. We are not just relying on the text of the legislation itself; we are also relying on the power of the Minister to write guidelines for the operation of bodies and agencies.

I omitted in error to ask the House for the authority to discuss a number of amendments together as a grouping. Amendments Nos. 72 and 79 to 81, inclusive, and Nos. 91 and 102, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. I thank Members for their co-operation. Does anyone else wish to address this group?

Can I speak to each of the amendments in the group?

I thought we were only discussing amendment No. 72. Amendment No. 79 seeks to replace the word "may" with "shall" to strengthen the language relating to the issuing of guidelines by the Minister regarding the types of information to be deemed relevant to the health of a qualifying person. Section 24 provides for the release of medical information relating to a genetic relative of a person by a relevant body or the AAI upon the application of a qualifying person. This amendment strengthens the language in the relevant subsection by specifying that the Minister ought to issue guidelines on the type of medical information relating to a relevant parent or genetic relative of a relevant parent that is or likely to be relevant to the health of the qualifying person. The report of the Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth also recommended this change in regard to the use of the word "may" throughout the Bill.

Amendment No. 80 does something similar. Section 24 provides for the release of medical information relating to the genetic relative of a relevant person by a relevant body or the AAI upon the application of a qualifying person. This amendment strengthens the language in the relevant subsection by specifying that in preparing guidelines on the type of information that is or is likely to be relevant to the health of a qualifying person, the Minister shall consult such persons as he or she considers appropriate, including persons with expertise in hereditary or medical conditions.

Amendment No. 81 is similar and also replaces the word "may" with "shall". The amendment strengthens the provision of the subsection by specifying that the Minister should issue guidelines involving the practical guidance to the Child and Family Agency, the AAI and relevant bodies regarding their functions under Part 3. Again, the Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth recommended this change in the language.

Amendment No. 91 is to section 30, a miscellaneous provisions section of Part 4 which makes provisions relating to the accessing of birth and other information and provided items relating to the relevant relative by a qualifying person. The relevant subsection provides that the Minister may issue guidelines to the relevant body regarding the performance of its functions under this Part.

The amendment strengthens the provision of the subsection by specifying that the Minister instead should issue guidelines to the relevant body on the performance of its functions under Part 4.

Amendment No. 102 strengthens the subsection by specifying that the Minister should issue guidelines to the Child and Family Agency or the AAI on the performance of its functions as they relate to the proposed tracing service.

The Minister has addressed each of the points about the language. I just wanted, on behalf of Senators Higgins and Ruane, to read those notes into the record. There is not necessarily a need for the Minister to reply because he has already addressed those issues and points.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 19 agreed to.
Section 20 agreed to.
SECTION 21

Amendments Nos. 73, 74, 77 and 135 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. Amendment No. 135 is consequential on amendment No. 74.

I move amendment No. 73:

In page 28, line 20, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment No. 73 seeks to replace the word "may" with the word "shall" in page 28, line 20, thereby strengthening the language in this section, which provides for the release of a statement by the relevant body to a qualifying person setting out the birth information it holds. Section 21 provides for the release of birth information relating to the relevant parent by a relevant body on application by a qualifying person. This amendment strengthens the language in the subsection by specifying that a relevant body ought to provide the qualifying person with a statement setting out the birth information contained within the records it holds on written request by the qualifying relative. The pre-legislative scrutiny report of the Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth recommended this change.

Amendment No. 74 would insert a new subsection providing for the relevant body to make every effort to locate the data controller holding the relevant parents' records in the event that the records are unavailable. The new subsection would provide assurance to the affected people that the State would make every effort to retrieve their personal data. We know from Tusla's data management strategy for 2019 to 2022 that historical closed paper files will not be digitised at this time due to the scale of the investment involved. In effect, that means that an unknown number of records belonging to affected people are not backed up. The Government must immediately initiate an independent review of the location, status and condition of all records held by Tusla and the relevant data controller.

Amendment No. 77 to section 22 provides for the release of early-life care or incorrect birth information relating to a relevant parent by a relevant body on application by a qualifying person. This amendment strengthens the language in the subsection by specifying that a relevant body ought to provide a qualifying person with a statement setting out the early-life care or incorrect birth information contained within the records it holds relating to the applicant on written request.

Amendment No. 135 seeks to delete the word "certain" and to insert the words "all available" when making provision for the records related to birth adoption and care of relevant persons to be transferred to the adoption authority. This amendment would mean that all available records, instead of just certain records, would be transferred to the AAI, with the intention of making all available records accessible to the applicant. This would also ensure better safeguarding of records when centralising in the one body.

Before I invite other speakers or call on the Minister to respond, I welcome our visitors in the Gallery. It is good to have them in the Houses of democracy. They are very welcome.

I thank the Senator for tabling these amendments. Part of this discussion relates to the issue of the use of the word "may" versus the word "shall". I have made the point that we believe we are using the correct terminology.

In reference to amendments Nos. 73 and 77, the Bill places obligations on relevant bodies to provide a summary of all relevant records it holds, including information to which the application does not relate. As such, the amendments proposed here are not necessary as relevant bodies will already provide a supporting statement in all cases where it makes sense to do so. As I said, there may be a situation where just a single piece of information has been sought or provided. A statement seeking to list all that is being provided is not really relevant in that situation because we are dealing with just one document. However, I made the point during our previous discussion that ministerial guidelines to be made under this legislation will stipulate that an enabling approach should be taken whereby bodies should release information over and above the categories of information set out in this legislation, except where they would be prohibited by law from so doing.

I cannot accept amendment No. 74, which seeks to amend section 27 in order that records to be released would include those held by other data controllers. As I have said when speaking to previous amendments of this nature, to oblige one of the relevant bodies set out under this legislation to search for records held by other data controllers is just not feasible. Tusla cannot be asked to look for records held by another organisation. Such an approach just will not work. As we know, this Bill is carefully constructed in order that applicants apply to the body that holds their particular records. To oblige such bodies to do so, which is what we are talking about by using the word "shall", would be to put a statutory obligation on a relevant body to search for records held by other bodies. It would be resource-intensive and time-consuming and would take the relevant body away from focusing on providing information it does have to applicants who have come forward to it. As we know, the Bill allows for access to records where they are held, and I think an alternative approach would not serve applicants.

I draw the Senator's attention to section 63. Subsection 63(1) states, "The Agency and the Authority shall, insofar as practicable, provide assistance to a relevant person who wishes to". It then sets out a number of categories. Category (b) states, "for the purposes of making such an application, identify a relevant body that may hold the categories of information relating to the relevant person sought by him or her". There is therefore an obligation on both the authority and the agency, where, perhaps, an applicant has come to them and is not able to get information from them, to advise the applicant of other places where the applicant can search for information. That is a "shall". It is an obligation. That is there already in the legislation. That speaks to assisting people to find information, wherever that information might be.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No 74:

In page 28, after line 34, to insert the following:

“(6) Where the records are unavailable, the relevant body shall make every effort to locate the data controller holding the relevant parent’s records.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 21 agreed to.
SECTION 22

I move amendment No. 75:

In page 29, line 9, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 76:

In page 29, line 14, after "incorrect" to insert "or illegal".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 29, line 15, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 78:

In page 29, line 16, after "incorrect" to insert "or illegal".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 22 agreed to.
Section 23 agreed to.
SECTION 24

I move amendment No. 79:

In page 30, line 27, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 80:

In page 30, line 30, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 24 agreed to.
SECTION 25

I move amendment No. 81:

In page 31, line 12, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 25 agreed to.
SECTION 26

Amendments Nos. 82, 83, 133 and 134 are related. Amendments Nos. 133 and 134 are consequential on amendments Nos. 82 and 83. Amendments Nos. 82, 83, 133 and 134 may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 82:

In page 31, line 35, to delete "next of kin" and substitute "relative".

Amendment No. 82 seeks to delete the provision that a qualifying relative in respect of a relevant person must be the next of kin, replacing it with a provision that he or she must only be a relative. Currently the Bill provides that a qualifying relative for the purposes of seeking early life information of a relevant person who died in an institution specified in the Schedule must be a next of kin of that person, rather than just a relative, to seek early life information under section 27. This could lead to scenarios where a relative such as a sibling may not be able to access the early life information of another sibling due to the next of kin not seeking such information.

We are going to withdraw amendment No. 83. Amendment No. 133 seeks to delete the line ", where such persons are deceased," in the Title relating to the release of information. This amends the Preamble, which in its current form is hasty, ambiguous and exclusionary. The Bill currently excludes people in two ways: first, by how it defines people who are eligible to access information; and second, how it defines records that are considered relevant. The Preamble does both. The inclusion of "where such persons are deceased" in certain circumstances defeats the purpose of the legislation, which is to make the information available to affected persons. The use of conditional language and narrow definitions will have a significant impact, not only on the type of information that is available but on those who can access it.

Amendment No. 134 seeks to delete the line "in certain circumstances" in the Title relating to the access to records by a relevant person's relative. This amends the Preamble, which in its current form does both. Where such persons are deceased, the line "in certain circumstances" contradicts the overall purpose of the legislation, which is to make information available to affected persons. The use of conditional language and narrow definitions will have a significant impact not only on the type of information that is available but also on those who can access it.

I thank the Senator for her amendments and for the clarification on the withdrawal of amendment No. 83.

Part 4, which we are discussing here, is very important in terms of providing answers to family members of children who died in an institution. This Part provides for access to records for the family of those children who died in a mother and baby institution or county home institution. The necessity of these provisions featured very heavily during the pre-legislative scrutiny process. They were not referenced in the original draft of this Bill, as published, but having listened to the pre-legislative scrutiny process, having seen the report and having engaged with groups of survivors and relatives of those who died in these institutions, we amended this section to provide for the right of access for the next of kin of the relatives who died in mother and baby and county home institutions.

I have a concern, and as a result of that I am not able to support amendment No. 82, because of the lack of specificity in the language being used. It seeks to include the term "relative" rather than next of kin. Section 26(2) clearly specifies who those people are and provides for parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. This section has been very carefully drafted in accordance with advice from the Office of the Attorney General. The approach being adopted in this legislation in terms of who can access sensitive information is similar to the approach being adopted in other legislation providing for access to information, for example, freedom of information legislation. We have modelled our approach on existing legislative procedures in terms of the definitions used and the hierarchy. I accept that with the withdrawal of amendment No. 83, Senator Moynihan is not trying to remove the hierarchy, but the use of the term "next of kin" is linked to that detailed listing of hierarchy that is set out in the Bill because it gives clarity in terms of who can use this legislation and when.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 83 not moved.
Section 26 agreed to.
SECTION 27

Amendments Nos. 84, 85, 88 and 90 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 84:

In page 32, line 25, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

This is similar to previous amendments and replaces the word "may" with "shall" in section 27, which provides for the release of a relative's birth information by a relevant body upon the application of a qualifying relative. The amendment seeks to strengthen the language in the subsection.

Amendment No. 85 creates a new subsection 27(4)(d) that provides for the release of records created or held by a data controller involved with the relevant relative's adoption, boarding out, nursing out and-or incarceration. Subsection (4) categorises the type of information accessible to the relevant relative.

Section 34 authorises Tusla and the AAI to request information from several data controllers, including a Roman Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland diocese or parish. This information can be sought only for the purpose of facilitating a trace, not to share the records with the affected people concerned, which means that church parishes and dioceses, religious orders and other religious entities have not been named as data controllers under the Bill. It is imperative that such records and data controllers be taken into consideration. Church data controllers cannot be ignored. The amendment to this section seeks to ensure the data subject will have a right of access to personal data concerning him or her that have been collected from all data controllers involved in the relevant relative's adoption.

Amendment No. 88's wording is similar, replacing "may" with "shall", and seeks to strengthen the subsection in section 28, which provides for the release of early life care or incorrect birth registration information relating to relevant relatives by a relevant body upon application by a qualifying relative. Amendment No. 90 replaces "may" with "shall" in section 30, which provides for the release of medical information relating to the relevant relative by a relevant body upon application by a qualifying relative. Each of these words should be used to teach children how to speak their "r's" correctly. The Minister has already stated he cannot accept these amendments for the reasons he outlined, but I wish to move them anyway.

My response will be similar to what I said on amendment No. 74 and relevant amendments. We have examined this matter and feel that the use of "may" rather than "shall" is the appropriate way forward and we do not agree to put an obligation on relevant bodies to search for information that another data controller has. However, they have an obligation under section 63 to assist relevant persons and advise them if there are better places to search for the relevant information.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I welcome the new group of visitors in the Gallery. It is good to have them in these houses of democracy.

I move amendment No. 85:

In page 32, after line 37, to insert the following:

“(d) a record created or held by a data controller involved with the relevant relative’s adoption, boarding out, nursing out and/or incarceration.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 27 agreed to.
SECTION 28

I move amendment No. 86:

In page 33, line 12, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 33, line 17, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 33, line 18, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 33, line 19, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 28 agreed to.
Section 29 agreed to.
SECTION 30

I move amendment No. 90:

In page 34, line 18, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 30 agreed to.
SECTION 31

I move amendment No. 91:

In page 34, line 30, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 31 agreed to.
SECTION 32

I move amendment No. 92:

In page 35, line 14, after “Agency” to insert “or the Authority”.

This amendment would include the Adoption Authority of Ireland as a tracing service body alongside Tusla, the "Agency". The Adoption Authority of Ireland is the regulator of adoptions under the Bill and is the main data controller. This amendment would provide for consistency in the Bill.

I thank the Senator for that succinct presentation.

I hope to address the concerns the Senator raised, although I cannot support this amendment. The decision to specify that the application for the tracing service should be made to Tusla was taken after careful consideration of how the application process for the various services provided under this legislation would work, particularly in respect of the user experience and ease of application. I am also mindful of the resources, systems and existing expertise Tusla has in terms of providing tracing services to individuals. It would be beneficial, therefore, to future applicants that applications be directed to Tusla initially.

The intention of the amendment is to add the ability to apply to the authority for tracing services. The authority will be able to provide tracing services under this section. However, it is not intended that the authority would receive the direct application for the tracing service. Applications for tracing services will go to Tusla and much of that tracing will be undertaken there, but if it is judged that it would be more appropriate for the AAI to undertake a trace, for example, where the majority of files on a particular institution were held by the AAI, it may be decided that the AAI would undertake the trace. Tusla will lead on tracing but the AAI will not be shut out. Rather, the AAI will be asked to trace in circumstances where it is relevant.

I will point out a contrary factor. The national contact preference register being created under this legislation will be held by the AAI, and Tusla will apply to the authority. Different functions under the legislation are being led by different bodies - the agency and the authority - in recognition of where the primary skill sets exist at the moment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 93:

In page 35, line 31, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 94:

In page 35, line 33, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 32 agreed to.
SECTION 33

I move amendment No. 95:

In page 36, line 25, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

This is a similar amendment relating to language, replacing "may" with "shall". The Minister has already spoken to that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 96:

In page 36, line 28, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 97:

In page 36, line 35, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 98:

In page 36, line 37, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 99:

In page 37, line 1, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 33 agreed to.
SECTION 34

I move amendment No. 100:

In page 38, line 1, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 101:

In page 38, line 5, after “incorrect” to insert “or illegal”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 34 agreed to.
Sections 35 and 36 agreed to.
SECTION 37

I move amendment No. 102:

In page 39, line 13, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 37 agreed to.
SECTION 38

I move amendment No. 103:

In page 40, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

“(iv) his or her right to submit a subject access request for all personal data held by the Authority,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 38 agreed to.
Sections 39 to 41, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 42

I move amendment No. 104:

In page 45, to delete lines 10 to 14 and substitute the following:

“(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a preference of a person in relation to contact with any other person that is recorded in the National Adoption Contact Preference Register, shall not be deemed to be, and shall not be recorded in the entry in the register where that person has not personally indicated a preference.”.

Amendment No. 104 provides that, with regard to the transfer of the national adoption contact preference register, where a person has not indicated a preference for the contact it should not be assumed the person has a preference for no contact.

Section 42(2) in the Bill as passed by the Dáil provides a mechanism whereby the preferences recorded by the current national adoption contact preference register will be transferred to the new contact preference register to be established. This amendment deletes the part of section 42 that achieves this necessary function and does not replace it, leaving a subsection that does not actually do anything. All the amended subsection would do is say what will not happen. This may have been an oversight in the drafting of the amendment. I believe the intention of the amendment was to create an exception whereby, if a person has not personally indicated a preference on the existing contact preference register, that will not be taken to mean a no contact preference in the new register. That is what we take was meant to happen here. To provide some reassurance, there is no need to create such an exemption as the existing provision will only transfer an entry from the old register if an entry made by that person exists. Only the person or the solicitor acting on their behalf can record a preference on the existing national adoption contact preference register.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 42 agreed to.
SECTION 43

Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 105:

In page 45, line 20, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

This amendment again relates to the use of "may" instead of "shall". The Minister has addressed that at length.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 106:

In page 45, line 28, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 43 agreed to.
Sections 44 to 46, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 47

I move amendment No. 107:

In page 47, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

“(b) person other than an information source who is in possession of a relevant record is obliged to transfer to the Authority all relevant records in its possession,”.

Amendment No. 107 inserts a new subsection, 47(1)(b), which would oblige a person other than an information source who is in possession of a relevant record to transfer to the authority all relevant records in their possession. The amendment would ensure data subjects have the right access to personal data collected concerning them, from all data controllers involved in the relevant relative's adoption. The amendment deals with the concern that individuals or bodies that facilitated private and illegal adoptions will be able to evade their responsibilities under the legislation. The Bill currently does not go far enough to oblige all relevant record holders to transfer their files to the AAI so they can be made available to affected people.

I cannot accept this amendment, although I understand the spirit of it. Part 7 of the Bill, which relates to the safeguarding of records, has been carefully developed to provide clarity to the adoption authority and to the holders of records. The authority must have the ability to consider whether records are in fact relevant and I believe it is far more sensible and practical for the authority to have control over the type of record being transferred and the timing of that transfer.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 47 agreed to.
Sections 48 to 51, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 108:

In page 50, after line 33, to insert the following:

“Process and complaints procedure

52. (1) The Minister shall create an appeals process and complaints procedure. The appeals and complaints procedure shall take into account concerns in relation to compliance, problems arising from limited definitions and issues arising regarding institutions not listed in this Act. The appointees shall also be responsible for documenting recurring issues and shall issue a report to the Minister.

(2) Notwithstanding Seanad Standing Orders, the Minister shall issue a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Minister shall be required to provide a post enactment report which shall review the functioning of this Act. Such post enactment reports shall be laid in the Oireachtas Library for the information of all Oireachtas Members and shall outline the developments regarding the implementation of this Act.”.

I thank the Minister for his engagement on this Bill. I know it is important to him and I want to acknowledge his engagement, and that of his officials, and thank them for being here. I want to support this Bill and I hope I will be in a position to vote for it. I acknowledge that the Bill will provide unredacted access to birth and early life information for people affected by illegal birth registrations, adopted people and anyone with questions about their origins. That is important. We can lose sight of that in all the debate. We have to stay focused and ask what we are trying to achieve here. This has been going on for years. To be fair to the Minister, he has taken it up and worked within the constraints of the law and his own advisers.

I am not privy to all of that but I take it in good faith that he is acting on the advice of his officials, and I do not doubt for one moment his absolute commitment.

What am I trying to achieve? I am going to keep this short and sweet. The amendment states "In page 50, after line 33, to insert the following" and deals with the process and complaints procedure, which is not a subsection in the Bill as of yet. It continues:

(1) The Minister shall create an appeals process and complaints procedure. The appeals and complaints procedure shall take into account concerns in relation to compliance, problems arising from limited definitions and issues arising regarding institutions not listed in this Act. The appointees shall also be responsible for documenting recurring issues [and there will be many recurring issues] and shall issue a report to the Minister.

(2) Notwithstanding Seanad Standing Orders, the Minister shall issue a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Minister shall be required to provide a post enactment report which shall review the functioning of this Act. [That is a pretty standard thing anyway] Such post enactment reports shall be laid in the Oireachtas Library for the information of all Oireachtas Members and shall outline the developments regarding the implementation of this Act.

That is reasonable, fair, prudent and rational, and I hope that the Minister will be in a position to support what I think is a very reasonable and practical amendment.

I thank the Minister for making himself available this evening, because if we are not making progress, then I understand we may be here for another few hours. I am in the Minister's hands on this amendment and I would appreciate his support.

I thank the Senator for raising these two issues in his amendment relating to an appeals and complaints mechanism and a review of the legislation. I will address both issues.

As regards the first point, I understand, and I think we all know from our engagement on this issue over the past two years, in my case, and for a lot longer in the case of the Senator the level of mistrust that has built up among adopted people regarding their engagement with some of the agencies that have provided information in the past. I understand there is real hurt and disappointment and that the actual experiences have often been very sub par. Part of that has to do with the legislative confines and the lack of clear legislation these agencies and bodies were operating on, but it was not always that. We know that there are examples where just the practice and the personal touch was bad in terms of how information was conveyed in callous ways. This legislation is all about changing that. It is about providing that changed legal basis but, as we have said before, there is more than a change in the legal basis. There has to be a change in mindset. I have spoken about the guidelines whereby the Minister is given power to issue under this legislation to these various bodies in terms of how they carry out their functions under the legislation. I have also spoken about the implementation group my Department is leading with Tusla and the AAI, again talking about how the approach should be release of information unless there is a clear legal reason not to do so rather than the restrictive approach that has happened so far.

As this legislation requires the full and unredacted release of all information, we do not see a situation where an appeals process is needed because, under this legislation, the answer is always "Yes" and the information is released. There is no discretion of the data controller to be appealed because, if these bodies have the information, the relevant person has a right to that information and that information might be released. In terms of freedom of information, FOI, or even a subject access request there is discretion on the data controller who must make a decision and that can be appealed. In this case under discussion, there is no decision to be made. If the information exists, it must be released. That is why I do not believe an appeals mechanism is necessary.

That said, as the Senator will know, we have the power to write guidelines on how the bodies and agencies act under this legislation. We will stipulate that they must operate an internal review process and an internal complaints mechanism. That provision will be set out in guidelines. I do not think that requires a legislative basis and we can do it within a guidelines framework. Of course, all of these bodies and institutions are regulated by the Office of the Ombudsman. If someone is unhappy with how a State agency conducts its tasks, a complaint can be made to the Office of the Ombudsman.

On the matter of issuing a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas, section 70 provides for a review of the Act at two years post enactment. I believe that speaks to the centre of what Senator Boyhan is talking about. Originally in the legislation the term was four years and we shortened it in the Dáil to two years. I believe it is important that some time is given for the processes of this legislation to work and operate in order that we can assess how they do over a period.

That being said, the detail of what the report will look at, which Senator Boyhan has put forward in his amendment, is more significant than the current text of section 70, in particular the idea of laying the review before the Houses of the Oireachtas. That aspect is not referenced in section 70, as I have outlined, so I will take that part of it in terms of putting more detail into the review mechanism. We will take that away and I will look to see if I can bring forward some broadening of the review on Report Stage.

I do not say I am disappointed because it is beyond disappointment for me at this stage. However, I do think it needs to happen and it should happen. The Minister started off mentioning trust, and that is very important but, sadly, many of these people have had a long drawn out experience of trying to ascertain information. They are not trusting too many people at this point and there have been many promises.

The Minister said there is no need for an appeals process. If people have issues with this process, however, to whom do they appeal? If people genuinely have issues, to whom do they appeal? It is always important we have some sort of a third party appeal or recourse to petition - call it what you like. The Minister said there will be complaints, so he acknowledges there will be complaints. He has acknowledged that in his reply to me. There may be complaints about the procedure. Where will those people go to? The legislation is before us and problems emerge with all legislation. For someone who has a difficulty with this legislation when it is enacted, where is his or her port of call? Whom can that person go to? It is simple. The amendment is asking the Minister to create an appeals process. Clearly, he does not want to have an appeals process. That is what I am picking up, but I am open to correction.

The Minister has acknowledged there will be complaints, yet he does not want to put a complaints procedure in place or he is not proposing some mechanism of a complaints procedure that will take into account the concerns about compliance problems arising as a result of the limited definitions. There may be issues of concern, so where can people go with them? I am conscious we do not shut the door and say this is it, and if people's requirements do not fit into it or they have an issue, they have nowhere to go. Where do people go to complain? Many of those involved in this already feel disempowered from processes anyway. Therefore, I do not think my amendment is unreasonable. I take on board what the Minister said about section 70 and laying the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Where does the Minister envisage a situation where people have a complaint about the procedures? What is their recourse? Whom do they go to? Who will listen to them? Who will be empowered in legislation to follow up on their concerns?

I would separate the issue of appeals from the issue of complaints. My belief is there is no need for an appeals mechanism because there is not a decision to be taken in terms of "Yes" or "No" or "Issue information" or "Do not issue information". If a relevant person applies under this legislation, he or she is now legally entitled to all the information on him or her held by the relevant body. There is nothing to be appealed. The information will be released.

In terms of a complaint, complaints are made about all State agencies. There may be complaints made about State agencies that will implement this legislation. I do not think a legislative requirement for a complaints mechanism is necessary.

That can be dealt with under guidelines in the same way that if a complaint is made by a local authority - I am trying to cite other public bodies - there is not necessarily a legislative provision of the Local Government Act that states X has a right to make a complaint, but there are complaints mechanisms there for internal complaints. The question of trust applies, as if the complaints mechanism is internal there is a body like the Ombudsman that, as we know, oversees the application by State bodies of their statutory duties. The Ombudsman is there and these agencies fall within the Ombudsman's remit with respect to the manner in which they undertake their statutory obligations. That is my response on there not being a requirement for an appeal.

A complaints mechanism can and will be set out within the guidelines, as is the case with complaints under most State authorities. On the review, it can, in fairness, ascertain whether the statement I am making now is incorrect and it has not worked out like that. It needs to be a thorough review. That is why we brought forward the timeframe within which the review takes place. However, we are happy to look at greater detail on what the substance of the review of the entire legislation will be like and again making it explicit that review will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. This will allow the Senator and other Members put questions to whoever is Minister then and discuss whether legislative changes to the Act are necessary.

I hear what the Minister is saying. I am left with no option, really. I either disagree with him or I do not disagree with him. I can call a vote and they all bounce up here and we play the numbers game, the old numbers game, again. They all pop into these benches, they are all under a whip and they all vote for the Government. That, unfortunately, is how parliamentary democracy is operated under this arrangement. It is a numbers game and that is the way it is.

That is democracy.

I am speaking. It may be democracy but it is not the true spirit of parliamentary democracy. It does not always quite happen like that. That has triggered me to now call a vote. I thank the Senator because when I get a remark like that across the Chamber then it forces me to put it to people and let us bounce them into the chairs here. I do not accept it, I will call a vote and at least I will be able to go back on the hustings when I have to and do a name check on the people who did not support it. Talking through both sides of their mouths and someone shouting across to me about democracy has provoked me into a response I did not stand on my feet to do. I was actually just going to withdraw the amendment. Now I will not and will pursue the thing to a vote.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 23.

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Clonan, Tom.
  • Flynn, Eileen.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Moynihan, Rebecca.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crowe, Ollie.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Currie, Emer.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Garvey, Róisín.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Seery Kearney, Mary.
  • Ward, Barry.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Victor Boyhan and Rebecca Moynihan; Níl, Senators John Cummins and Robbie Gallagher.
Amendment declared lost.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Barr
Roinn