Fine Gael TD for Galway West & Mayo South

Civil Registration Legislation – Oral Dáil Question

Amendment legislation to the Civil Registration Act 2004 expected to be introduced by end of April ’14

Seán Kyne TD: To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill and its progress in view of ongoing concerns regarding the registration of deaths abroad. My question relates to the progress of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill, with particular reference to the registration of Irish citizens who die abroad.

Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD: On 19 July 2013, the Cabinet approved the drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill.

I brought this proposal for legislation to the Cabinet as there are a number of important policy issues I want to see implemented through amendments to the 2004 Act.  The Bill will provide for a wide range of issues relating to the registration of life events in the State.  Representations and recommendations have been made by various groups and organisations since the enactment of the Civil Registration Act 2004 and this Bill seeks to address these issues.  The General Register Office, which administers the civil registration service, has also identified areas where legislative amendments are required to streamline the service to the public.

The Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.  The issues are complex but it is a priority for me to have it published at the earliest possible date.  I am seeking completion of it by the end of April, if feasible, and certainly no later than the end of June.  The legislation will provide for the development of a mechanism to register the deaths of Irish persons normally resident in the State who die while on short-term absences from the State.  The Deputy will be aware that usually when a person dies abroad the death is registered by the authorities in that country, from which a certified copy of the death registration is obtainable.  In general, only deaths which occur within the State can be registered here although there are some exceptions, such as the death of a person on board an Irish aircraft, the death of a member of the security forces serving outside the State or where a death occurs in a country which does not have a system in place to register deaths.

I realise that it is very important for families to have the death of their loved one abroad registered in Ireland.  In this regard, the Department has examined options for providing a mechanism that deals with these cases in a way that addresses the concerns of families while ensuring the validity of the current registration process.

Seán Kyne TD: I thank the Minister for her reply and her commitment that the Bill will be published by the end of April or, at the latest, the end of June.  I do not doubt her bona fides in that regard.  Unfortunately, this Bill has been delayed for some time.  Like other Deputies, I have raised this matter on a number of occasions.  I published a Private Members’ Bill dealing with the issue in November 2012, although I held off introducing it when I realised that the Minister was progressing the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill, which also encompasses a range of other issues.

The Help Bring them Home campaign in Galway, members of which made a presentation on this matter to an Oireachtas committee during the lifetime of the last Government, have expressed concern about the delay in introducing the Bill.  As such, I welcome the Minister’s commitment in that regard.

One woman to whom I spoke, whose brother died abroad, told me that her parents would like to have a death certificate for him before they pass on, which puts this issue into context.  People who do not understand the legislative process are concerned that the Bill will be forever delayed.  As such, the Minister’s commitment is welcome.

The gender recognition Bill is similarly delayed.  I am sure the Minister also proposes to progress that Bill.

Minister Joan Burton: I am aware of Deputy Kyne’s Bill.  I acknowledge the work he put into its preparation.  I was surprised to learn on becoming Minister for Social Protection that the drafting of legislation, in terms of the fine legal details, is a lengthy process.  The heads of the gender recognition Bill have been considered in committee, the report of which I am currently considering.  The last number of years have been exceptionally busy for the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in terms of the drafting of legislation.  I understand that office is currently working flat out on the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill.  I hope it will be published in April and, failing this, by the end of June.