An tArd-Chláraitheoir, or Registrar General, is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration service in Ireland. I have made inquiries with him and I am informed that the position is as follows.
The provisions relating to births of the Civil Registration Act 2004 were commenced on 5 December 2005. These provisions govern the civil registration of all births occurring within the state and revoke the previous legislation applicable.
Under the old system, the majority of births occurring in maternity hospitals were registered by the occupier, or a staff member authorised to do so by the occupier, of the hospital, unless the parents specifically requested to act as qualified informants or the hospital did not have sufficient knowledge of all required particulars. In acting as qualified informant, the hospital was relying on the presumption of paternity on the part of a man married to a woman who had given birth, as provided for under the Status of Children Act 1987. No such presumption exists in law where the parents are not married and this is the basis on which the hospital would have acted.
Under section 19 of the new Act, there is now a duty on all parents, irrespective of their marital status, to attend before any registrar of births, deaths and marriages, to give to the registrar the particulars required to register the birth and to sign the register of births in the presence of the registrar, within three months of the birth.
The Act provides for a number of qualified informants, that is, persons with a duty to give the required particulars of a birth to a registrar. The primary responsibility to act as qualified informants rests with the parents and it is only if the parents are dead, or incapable of acting through ill-health, or fail or refuse to act within three months of the birth, that other qualified informants, such as the occupier of a maternity hospital, or a medical practitioner or midwife who attended the birth, are required to act. Where a birth has not been registered within three months and the registrar in whose functional area the birth occurred is unable to contact either parent of the child concerned, the registrar may give a notice to another qualified informant to register the birth.
The new arrangements are intended to involve all parents to a much greater extent in the registration process, to simplify and clarify the procedures and to enhance the depth and quality of the information contained in the register of births.