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 Header Item Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Commencement of Legislation

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I have been in regular contact with families waiting for certain provisions of the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act 2018 to take effect. The legislation was enacted in July and families are waiting anxiously due to the dilemma they face regarding the registration of their children at birth. They have been waiting now for six months. I have put down questions on the matter regularly only to receive a standard reply from the Minister for Health to the effect that it is going through a process having regard to Parts 2, 3 and 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. The Minister says he intends to have Parts 2 and 3 of the Act commenced as soon as possible. We are waiting for issues relating to Part 9 to be sorted out also. Just last week, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection said the provisions will not be implemented now until some time in 2019. A lot of people are very frustrated by this as they feel it is being put on the long finger and that there is no real will or urgency to bring the legislation over the line. I have received an email from LGBT Ireland to say its representatives had met a senior civil servant from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to discuss the outstanding matter of Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 and that the outcome of the said meeting had been disappointing and unexpected with officials advising there were technical errors in the provisions as drafted. It is now proposed to correct these errors by way of amendments on Committee Stage of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017. This lengthy process will push the commencement date into 2019.

I have been a Member of the Dáil for seven years and I have seen how there is no problem for the Government when it wants to bring in Bills dealing with technical issues. Given that the errors referred to here are technical, there should be no problem introducing without debate amendments to deal with them by agreement with all parties. That is what I want to hear this evening. Why is there no urgency about this? I ask the Minister of State to explain how technical these issues are and how difficult it will be to bring forward amendments on Committee Stage of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017. Many people are interested to know what the status of the legislation is and how quickly the Government wants to proceed with it.

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Pat Breen): Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen I thank Deputy Joan Collins for raising the matter and acknowledge her special interest in the subject on behalf of her constituents. It is important that she raises these issues. I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, who is attending the Seanad and cannot take the issue herself.

This is a complex issue. Certain sections of Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provide for the registration and re-registration the birth of a donor-conceived child and, in particular, make possible the registration of details of "parent" as well as of "mother" and "father" where required, which is something all Members agree with. The current position is that these sections need to be amended to correct technical errors and have yet to be commenced. It is the Minister's intention to make the necessary amendments on Committee Stage of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017. Commencement of the provisions is also dependent on commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act, which is the responsibility of the Minister for Health.

The Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act 2018 was enacted on 24 July 2018. It was introduced to correct typographical and technical errors in and facilitate the subsequent commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. As such, this is a complex matter with issues overlapping where one Act must move with the other. There are important administrative and operational arrangements to be put in place to facilitate the implementation of Parts 2 and 3, including the establishment of a national donor-conceived persons register and the appointment of authorised persons under the Act. The Minister understands it is the intention of the Minister for Health that Parts 2 and 3 of the 2015 Act will be commenced as soon as possible. While I do not have a date to hand, I will be meeting the Minister for Health later and will ask him to communicate directly with Deputy Joan Collins in this regard. In order to progress the commencement of the relevant Parts, officials from the General Register Office, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department of Health are working together to ensure that the appropriate legislative, regulatory, and operational mechanisms are in put place to allow for the earliest possible commencement of all relevant legislation to facilitate birth registration of donor-conceived children. Collaboration is ongoing between the three bodies.

The Minister is aware of the impact this issue is having on affected families. The Deputy outlined those on behalf of her constituents in Dublin. The Minister acknowledges in particular the position of same-sex female couples wishing to have the second partner registered as "parent" and the pressing need to proceed with commencement as soon as possible. The Deputy has been working on this for some time and I understand where she is coming from on it. I will ensure that both line Ministers are aware of the matters she has raised in the House this evening.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I will read to the Minister of State an email I received from a parent which demonstrates the frustration people feel.


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