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 Header Item Civil Defence Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages (Continued)
 Header Item Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl] I am sure the Minister of State means no offence to local authority members but implicit in his response is the view that the mayor or cathaoirleach of a county or city council cannot be trusted. That is basically what is being said. It seems to be fine for any number of directors of service to have access to the information but it is not fine for an elected member who is the official face of the local authority to have access to the information where necessary. That is where we have a fundamental disagreement on the matter and I ask the Minister of State to reconsider the position.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe This is not about trusting a cathaoirleach or mayor. We are talking about volunteers in an organisation that give freely of medical records, for example, or other personal details. As I have outlined, the advice of the Data Protection Commissioner is that this information should not be freely available. The Deputy is well aware that a county or city manager will appoint a person with specific responsibility for the Civil Defence board in his or her own city or council. That person will, on occasions, access the personal records of any volunteer member. We should recognise that this affects the volunteers currently in the organisation and those which we hope will join.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The county manager may appoint anybody to do that from within his or her staff. There is no limit in the legislation on the number of people allowed to access this information. I am simply advocating that the mayor or cathaoirleach of the local authority should, if necessary, have access to the information. The status of the people in question as volunteers has no bearing whatever on who may access this information.

I do not accept the Minister of State's point that allowing the mayor or cathaoirleach to have access to this information is in some way throwing the doors open to widely publishing the information. I cannot see any reason for the Data Protection Commissioner to have any difficulty with a mayor or cathaoirleach having that information if the need arose.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I understand the Deputy's persistence with this amendment and how strongly he feels about it. Unfortunately, I will not accept the amendment.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That is not surprising.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

  Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.

  Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I thank Deputies and Senators for their comments during the debate as the Bill went through the Houses. There were some very good contributions in both Houses and I appreciate them. I thank the officials for the work put into the Bill and everybody recognises the importance of the work done by the Civil Defence. I wish a happy Christmas and a peaceful new year to all the Civil Defence members across the country.

  Question put and agreed to.

Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I realise that we four Deputies are probably alone in the Dáil at this point but as Christmas is coming, it is an appropriate time to debate a Bill which proposes to extend the celebration of marriage. Although we may not have Christmas humanist weddings this year, subject to the enactment of the Bill, we may get Whitsun weddings celebrated by humanist celebrants or solemnisers.

I will outline the context for the Bill. The Civil Registration Act 2004 provides for the notification, registration and solemnisation of marriage. Only the Health Service Executive and religious bodies can apply for registration in the Register of Solemnisers established under the Act. The Bill will amend the Act by providing for an extension to the type of organisation that can nominate marriage solemnisers to include secular bodies.

In Ireland marriage and the family unit are central to the Constitution and part of our social fabric. When two people make a public commitment to each other by way of marriage, it is a cause of great celebration and an occasion on which not only do the two people wish to have their families and friends around them but also to celebrate in the belief system they hold dear. The Bill aims to extend the scope of marriage solemnisers across the spectrum of belief systems and formally acknowledge this in the registration system.

I propose to offer some general observations on the rationale and general principles informing the content of this amending legislation and then proceed to summarise the provisions of the Bill. The marriage provisions of the Civil Registration Act 2004 arose from recommendations of the interdepartmental committee on the reform of the marriage laws. The need for a universally applicable framework of clear and simple procedures to underpin the solemnity of the marriage contract was among the issues identified by the committee as requiring examination.


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