The Freedom of Information Bill 2013 passed Committee Stage on the 12th & 13th November when amendments were considered by the Dáil Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform. A large number of amendments were put down for consideration by both the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, and opposition TDs. One of the main amendments from the Minister relating to fees involved in making FOI requests had to be withdrawn in the face of very vocal criticism. However, the issue will likely be raised again when the Bill is debated by the Seanad.
As regards access to civil records of birth, death & marriage held by the General Register Office, CIGO is pleased to report that during consideration of amendments put down by opposition TDs the Minister confirmed that “the legislation will not prevent access to the registers as provided for under the Civil Registration Act. Legislation governing birth, death and marriage certificates held by the General Register Office is laid out in section 61 of the Civil Registration Act 2004.”
Given the Minister’s comments above it seems unlikely that any diminution in access to Ireland’s civil records is being considered in the context of the Freedom of Information Bill.
However, genealogists should keep in mind that the government has indicated that it intends soon to publish a Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill. While the Bill is set to deal with the issue of sham marriages, the validity of marriages in Embassy and Consulate facilities and other administrative issues relating to civil registration, family historians should be ready to react quickly if the Bill includes any suggestion that access might be denied to civil registration records.