Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014: Second Stage - Seanad Eireann
Posted on July 15, 2014
Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Tuesday, 15 July 2014)
I welcome the Minister as Tánaiste. This is my first opportunity to do so and I welcome her appointment. I also welcome the Bill and I thank the Minister for starting it in the Seanad. It is a Bill that will benefit from the detailed scrutiny we will give it in the Seanad on Committee Stage. We always appreciate when Ministers initiate Bills in the Seanad. The Bill is about modernising the civil registration service and updating the 2004 Act, which was the major codifying civil registration law. Other Members spoke about significant amendments provided for in the Bill. I thank the Minister for accepting my amending Bill to the Civil Registration Act, which has enabled the Humanist Association of Ireland to conduct legal wedding ceremonies. It has made a huge difference to many couples. I welcome the commitment of the Minister in her speech on Second Stage to introduce an amendment to the Bill on Committee Stage to confirm the legality of conducting weddings out of doors once they conform to the rules on public places. The Humanist Association of Ireland had issues about this and I made representations to the Minister on this point. I am glad the matter has been resolved but it would be good to have an amendment that clarifies it and puts it beyond doubt.
Senators Moloney and van Turnhout referred to child marriage and the motion proposed by Labour Party Senators on 25 June, which was seconded by Senator van Turnhout in a cross-party initiative. The Private Members' motion asked the Government to consider removing or amending the statutory provision allowing minors to marry on the basis of a court exemption. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, dealt with the matter but we are glad the Government committed, on foot of the motion, to setting up an interdepartmental working group with officials from the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Justice and Equality on how best to deal with the issue. The issue concerns section 31 of the Family Law Act 1995, which provides the minimum legal age at which people can get married as 18 years, but section 33 of the Act allows a couple to apply to the court for an exemption to the rule where one or both are aged under 18 years. Section 2(2) of the Civil Registration Act 2004 maintains the facility to apply for this exemption. The new Bill is about amending the Civil Registration Act and it might be appropriate to examine changing the law on child marriage in an amendment to this Bill. The Government has accepted the Labour Party motion and will be examining the matter. We were very concerned about children being coerced into entering marriage and many of us were shocked at the figures produced by the Minister for Justice and Equality on the number of couples applying for exemptions and the number of people marrying who are under 18 years. It deserves a review.