Seanad debates

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015: Committee Stage

 

10:30 am

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Amendment No. 41 is about the identity rights of the child, and I fully understand the principle behind the amendment. I had originally intended to establish a voluntary register on a statutory basis. I reconsidered this after extensive discussion with other Departments and having examined the effect of putting the register on a statutory basis. In reviewing the position, I took into account, for example, that the voluntary contact register for adopted people operates on an administrative basis. This gives a high degree of flexibility without compelling anyone to participate. The reason for placing a register on a statutory basis is often to compel registration where relevant. I have discussed the matter with the Department of Health, in particular, which will be responsible for operating the national donor-conceived person register. It is expected, in due course, to set up an independent regulator in relation to AHR in general. The Department intends to develop and operate, on an administrative basis, a voluntary register to enable donors and donor-conceived children who are born as a result of pre-commencement procedures to register their particulars and, potentially, to contact each other. I hope that clarifies the Department's intentions.

Amendment No. 42 calls for the destruction of records where a live birth has not resulted from a DAHR procedure. Senator Crown raised this matter earlier and I wish to make further comments. This is a wholly understandable recommendation but it is already covered by two major protections. First, the Minister for Health is a data controller within the meaning of the Data Protection Acts. Under the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003, information may not be held for longer than is necessary for the purposes for which it was originally retained. This deals to some degree with the other amendment tabled by Senator Crown. This means that where the DAHR procedure does not give rise to a pregnancy and birth, the records in relation to the procedure cannot be retained. Regulations under Parts 2 and 3 can also help clarify this matter, but I am confident and I and assure the Senator that in light of existing legislation, there is no need for a provision in this Bill specifying that the relevant records must be destroyed.

Comments

Uinsionn O'Fionn
Posted on 27 Mar 2015 9:05 pm (This comment has been reported to moderators)

"Accordingly, the only basis now on which a donor can seek to prevent the release of information to the child is that of the donor’s safety or that of the child. The provision enabling a donor to cite ‘well-being’ as a criterion to prevent the release of identifying information to the child has been removed. The amendment is intended to clarify that it would be only in exceptional circumstances that a donor could seek to prevent the release of information."

What criteria denotes 'safety' as being threatened? Can the Minister specify as regards this area? Is it life threatening safety concerns or entirely subjective concerns surrounding safety that might prevent the information from being provided? Do threats toward Psychological Health, i.e. might 'fright' toward subsequent family members of donor, at news of donor conceived child making contact be considered as a safety concern as it appears as a threat? Can 'well-being' be manipulated linguistically under the auspices of 'safety'?

Will full contact information be provided at eighteen years of age, name of donor and address, telephone and so on?

...

If the Minister (as 'competent authority) is contacted as regards release of information to Donor Conceived Child does this automatically assume that the Minister at that time will be in tune with the Convention on the Rights of the Child? The Implementation Handbook on the rights of the child states...

"The word 'competent' relates to an authorized
position rather than to ability; nonetheless such
authorities must have skills to determine, on the
basis of the evidence, what is in the child’s best
interests. Such skills could be acquired through
formal training (for example, in psychology,
social work or children’s legal casework) or an
equivalent weight of experience (for example,
through being a community or religious arbitrator)."(*)

Will appropriate training be necessary on behalf of the Minster to make such decisions as regards'safety'?

I very much look forward to your reply.

(*) http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Implementation_Hand...

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