Thursday 9 October 2014

Concerns about GRO records raised in Dáil Debate

The Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 reached its Second Stage reading on Tuesday 7 October.

As previously mentioned on Irish Genealogy News, this Bill seeks to update existing legislation to better reflect modern Irish society as well as providing a legal framework for the General Register Office to eventually provide electronic access to its historical civil registration records of births, marriages and deaths*.

Not surprisingly, most of the deputies who have spoken so far in the debate have concentrated on the primary areas being amended within the Bill ie the compulsory inclusion of the father's name on a birth certificate, preventing marriages of convenience, registering Irish deaths abroad etc.

Catherine Murphy TD
Only Deputy Catherine Murphy (Independent, Kildare North) has, to now, raised the issues currently bothering today's generation of Irish genealogists: access to online civil registration records and the poor standard of research facilities (essentially, Werburgh Street).

I'm not going to summarise or paraphrase her speech. If you are interested to read it, you can follow Tuesday's entire Oireachtas Debate here (Ms Murphy's contribution starts on page 39), or you can download her speech in pdf format here.

UPDATE: The debate resumed today and this second session can be followed here. A number of deputies spoke, but only one – Olivia Mitchell TD (Fine Gael, Dublin South) – made any mention or comment about the historical records.  Her contribution can be read on page 16 (penultimate paragraph).

The debate was wound up by Deputy Kevin Humphries, Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection. In his closing comments he said: "Deputy Catherine Murphy covered the area of online access to historical records. This is becoming ever more important. Deputy Olivia Mitchell also referred to this. It is covered clearly in this Bill, but we must be careful that citizens' privacy is also protected. In the Bill, we are acting within the international norm.

"Deputy Murphy also raised the General Register Office in Werburgh Street. As a result, I intend to visit the office to see exactly what the Deputy means. I will come back to her at a further stage in regard to the specifics because it is not within the Bill."

The Bill has now been referred to the Select Committee.

*Back in July, the Minister responsible for the GRO stated that she wanted to see the historical bmd registers (not just the indexes) available to the public online, and this Bill is the legislation that is expected to facilitate that path.