Unmarried Irish fathers have limited rights and responsibilities, says Mitchell

Knowing his or her identity is a stand-alone entitlement of all children

by Michael O'Regan

The Irish Times, Friday 10th October 2014

Unmarried fathers in Ireland had very limited rights and responsibilities, Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell told the Dáil.

She said that whether a man was a good or bad father, an absent father or a present father, his child carried his DNA and, therefore, had a lifelong, multigenerational connection to him.

“Not knowing one’s parents has many implications,’’ Ms Mitchell said. “For example, a person who does not know the identity of his or her parents is denied all types of health information that could be absolutely essential in terms of both preventative measures and treatment of illness.’’

She said even setting that aside, it was every child’s entitlement to have information regarding his or her identity. “This is a stand-alone entitlement of all children, even when it might be inconvenient for their parents,’’ she said.

Ms Mitchell was speaking during the debate on the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 providing for the compulsory registration of the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate.

She said she fully appreciated the reasons mothers had for leaving a father’s name off the register. “These are complex issues and it is sometimes difficult to know what a person’s motivation might be,’’ she added.