Concerns within the genealogical community that the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 could restrict access to Ireland’s civil registration records were raised during the second stage debate on the bill in the Dáil yesterday.
The full debate can be read online. References to genealogy were made by Deputy Catherine Murphy (the “John Grennan” whom she cites is presumably CIGO’s patron John Grenham) and by Minister of State Brian Hayes in wrapping up the debate.
Minister Hayes stated that the points raised about genealogy will be debated in greater detail at the next Stage. The Minister with overall responsibility for the passage of the FOI Bill is Brendan Howlin TD and during the coming committee stage he will put on record that concerns about access to civil records of birth, death and marriage are unfounded.
Contrary to the concerns about restriction of access, after many years of lobbying by CIGO recent legislative changes will actually allow greater access to civil registration records online. The Civil Registration Act 2004 has been amended to allow the Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht (currently Jimmy Deenihan TD) to make the indexes to Ireland’s birth, death & marriage records – which date back to 1845 – available on its website www.irishgenealogy.ie. These indexes are more complete than those currently available online (1845-1958) at FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com or Findmypast.ie.
On another note, genealogists should keep a keen eye out for the coming Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2013, recently announced by the Irish government. Amongst other things the Bill will provide for the compulsory registration of fathers’ names in birth registrations and stopping sham marriages. For genealogists, it is hoped that at long last provision will be made for next-of-kin to be involved in the registration of deaths by coroners. Currently, deaths where the coroner becomes involved must be registered by the coroner, but this generally means that vital biographical information about the deceased (such as date and place of birth and parents’ names) is omitted. CIGO has long called for coroners to be allowed (as doctors are) to issue a ’cause of death certificate’ to the next-of-kin thus allowing them to attend the registrar’s office to make the registration and provide family data.