Wednesday, 5 May 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
1. Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach the number of births to foreign nationals in the State in the past five years for which figures are available; the breakdown by births to United Kingdom nationals, European economic area nationals, United States nationals and nationals from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12724/04]
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin): Official statistics on vital events, including births, are compiled by the Central Statistics Office on the basis, of information collected through the civil registration system. Up to September 2003, statistics on births were compiled solely on the basis of a paper-based birth notification form, which did not include a question on nationality. Since last September, a new electronic birth notification system, which provides for recording of nationality, has been introduced on a gradual basis, but it only covers a minority of births. Accordingly, the information requested by the Deputy is not available from the CSO.
Mr. Cuffe: It seems absurd that we are proceeding with undue haste to a referendum when we do not even have statistics available to justify the proposed measures. When I was at school, I was told by a teacher that facts were the essence of debate and discussion. We are now told the Government does not have the facts on——
Mr. Cuffe: Does the Minister agree that we should have such facts at our disposal, that the Government should have an immigration policy in place before holding the referendum and that the referendum should be withdrawn?
Mr. Cuffe: Does the Minister agree that the facts should be provided before this debate is initiated? Will she outline the measures she intends to take to ensure such facts are available, given that facts will be at the heart of the wider political discussions over the next month?
Ms Hanafin: As the Deputy will be aware, I answer on behalf of the Central Statistics Office in regard to statistics compiled by it. In September of last year, a new automatic civil registration system was introduced which includes a question on nationality. Prior to that, such a question was not asked on the manual forms. While only approximately 16% of all birth notifications are dealt with by the automatic system at present, as time goes on we will have better information on this.
However, there are exceptions. The Rotunda Hospital and the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, have recorded data on nationality for the majority of births as they introduced their own notification forms since 2001. While I answer on behalf of the CSO, there is also factual information from the three Dublin maternity hospitals, which I obtained from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and would like to share with the Deputy. The three Dublin maternity hospitals deal with the majority of births in the country. There was a total of 5,471 births to non-Irish nationals for 2003, of which 4,407 were to mothers from outside the US, UK or European Union. It is interesting to note that in the past two years births to non-nationals in the three hospitals totalled more than 10,000. In 2002, 20% of all births were to non-nationals and the figure was 24% for 2003.
The census of population shows that non-nationals accounted for 9% of the population in Dublin city and county yet accounted for 24% of births. Despite the fact that EU nationals represent approximately 60% of non-nationals resident in the State, they account for just 18% of births to non-nationals. Further statistical information that would be of interest in the context of the question asked is that births to Nigerian and Romanian nationals in the Dublin maternity hospitals in 2003 totalled 1,984, approximately 44% of births to non-EU nationals.
It is clear there is factual information from the three Dublin hospitals dealing with the issue. While we do not have the same facts and statistics from all the hospitals in the country because the CSO does not at present compile such information, it will be in a position to do so when the automatic registration system is extended throughout the country.
Mr. Durkan: Has the Minister information on the place of residence of mothers of various nationalities? How many are already registered or still registered in the State? The statistics do not indicate from whence they came other than that they were non-nationals.
Ms Hanafin: However, information is available for 2003 in respect of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, and the Rotunda Hospital. Holles Street had 251 late bookings, either not booked or booked in the last ten days before birth. Of those, 70 were to Irish nationals, the majority having been transferred from other hospitals throughout the country, eight were to EU nationals and 163 were to non-EU nationals. There were 271 late bookings in the Rotunda, of which two were to EU nationals and 269 of the 271 were to non-EU nationals. The only information I have relates to the nationality of parents, not the address, plus the information I have just given.
Mr. Rabbitte: It is the first time in my memory I have heard the Minister of State answer for the CSO, proffering information that does not come from the CSO. Does she know the number of cars driven by non-nationals which went in for the NCT last year?
Is the Minister of State saying that she does not have this information from the CSO, that the figures she is proffering are from the maternity hospitals? Is she saying that non-nationals are more prolific in the matter of giving birth, or is she saying that many people are arriving here to give birth and leaving again? Which is she saying? There is no point her feigning innocence that she is just giving statistics. What exactly is she saying? Are the 46,500 people to whom the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, gave permits last year included in that figure for non-national births and, if so, how many are in that category? Precisely what is the CSO doing about being enabled to provide this information officially?
Ms Hanafin: My initial answers related to official statistics. I made it clear that the Central Statistics Office does not have the information sought in the question. In response to the supplementary question, which went far beyond the remit of the original question which related to the referendum, non-nationals, births and any other information which might be available, I am sharing with the House the information available from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I am doing it without comment. I am giving the facts and figures available. The statistics and figures are simply compiled on the basis of nationality. As Deputy Rabbitte knows, and I will confirm, the statistics do not make clear why the mother of the child is in the country. I am sharing the simple facts with the House.
Mr. Sargent: Unlike the Minister of State, I will stick with the CSO by asking her if the CSO will be asked to differentiate between the issue of nationality of mothers giving birth in Irish hospitals and the citizenship of these mothers. Is she aware that the question asked in maternity hospitals is leading to the collection of extremely misleading information? The question is not about citizenship, even though the citizens may be Irish in many cases. It asks about place of birth, which for someone who came from another country as a child may be irrelevant in the overall scheme if they are Irish citizens. This is what is referred to, not citizenship.
Does the Minister of State accept that the CSO, therefore, is not just giving inadequate information but it is giving misleading information in compiling facts based on place of birth? Is she not concerned that the father of the child appears not to be of interest in gleaning this information, even though the father can quite often be an Irish citizen? Is it not a cause of great concern to the Government that the information on which it is basing policy does not reflect the reality of people attending maternity hospitals? Will she confront that issue and realise that children of Irish citizens are effectively known as children of non-nationals on the basis that the birthplace rather than citizenship is what is asked about in the hospitals? Is this not a matter of great concern to her?
Ms Hanafin: As all Deputies have agreed in the House in the past, the CSO works on the basis of best international practice. It gathers statistics so that they can be compared not just to information gathered in previous or future years, but with European countries and countries throughout the world. The question which is asked traditionally and internationally in regard to these matters relates to nationality. It also ties in with the question on the Census of Population, which allows for comparisons to be made.
Ms Burton: Has the Minister of State statistics from the CSO on the number of Irish born people married to non-nationals? At this stage most Deputies would have one or more members of their family married to a non-national. An Irish person could have been married to a non-national when they lived abroad or they could be married to a non-national whom they met here. Are births to Irish people married to non-nationals included in the Minister of State’s non-national birth statistics? While I know she is very caring and compassionate, this is a cause of great concern to people married to non-nationals.
Ms Burton: Has the Minister of State got that information? I listened with care to what she said about numbers. She referred to 163 non-national births in one hospital and 269 non-national births in another hospital, which comes to a total of 432 births. The Tánaiste said last year that 46,500 work visas were issued to people. The 432 non-national births——
Ms Burton: The Minister said he was concerned about this in regard to the referendum. The 432 late bookings amount to less than 1% of the 46,500 visas issued. Does the Minister of State consider these late bookings, relative to population movement, to be very high? They amount to less than 1% of visas issued. Is this the reason for the referendum?
An Ceann Comhairle: The referendum is the responsibility of another Minister. I suggest the Deputy submit a question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Minister of State will reply on the statistical question.
Ms Hanafin: I gave the number of births to non-nationals in 2003 as 5,471. The figures the Deputy quoted related to late bookings. Anyone would be concerned about a heavily pregnant mother turning up in a maternity hospital, irrespective of where she came from. Many of these people are putting themselves through a great deal of hardship to get to this country. We would like to see these women being better protected against having to take these steps, irrespective of where they come from.
Mr. Boyle: On the question posed by Deputy Sargent in regard to the nationality and citizenship of fathers, in the statistics the Minister of State quoted from the Dublin maternity hospitals. Is it true that the CSO has no statistics in this regard and the information she has supplied to the House contains no information about the citizenship of the fathers of children born in these maternity hospitals? The question asked was not about the nationality or citizenship of the mother but about her place of birth. My birth certificate states that I was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America. My father was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, and my mother was born in Cork, Ireland. This information, given in the current context in Ireland some 40 years later, would give spurious statistics such as those just quoted to the House by the Minister of State.
Ms Hanafin: This is the information the hospitals have given. The Central Statistics Office can gather more information on the new automatic civil registration system but it is only used on a very limited scale at present.
Mr. Rabbitte: Is the answer to the question place of birth or nationality? Do the CSO or the maternity hospitals seek any information relating to paternity? Do we have any information about who the father is in any given case? Is it not likely that most of the 40,500 people who have work permits and are here legally are sexually active? It must also be likely that a proportion of babies born to mothers from this group have Irish fathers. Is the Minister of State aware if the CSO or any other Government agency is engaged in economic research about the implications of the additional births per 1,000 head of population in the context, for example, of the pension problem which some of the Minister of State’s colleagues say we will have in the years ahead?
Ms Hanafin: I am open to correction but I understand the answer is the question to which the Deputy referred is nationality. The collection of information on the nationality of the parents of new-born children is not a requirement of the Civil Registration Act 2004. The question is asked on the statistical form but only for the purpose of compiling vital statistics and registrars do not have to answer it. Some particulars must be registered, among them answers to questions asked by Deputy Rabbitte. They include the forename, surname, birth surname, address and occupation of the father, the former surname, if any, of the father, the date of birth of the father, the personal public service number of the father, the birth surname of the father’s mother and other such relevant information.
Mr. Durkan: I will try again to get the information, which would be beneficial to this side of the House. Is it possible to ascertain the place of residence at the time, or for the previous year, of non-national mothers presenting at national maternity hospitals?
Ms Hanafin: The information from the CSO is based on manual forms and the information is not uniform throughout the country, which is why the CSO is not issuing any documentation in that regard. However, that will change with the new automatic civil registration system. The information required under that system is listed under the Civil Registration Act and includes the date and place of birth, time of birth, sex of the child, forename and surname of the child, personal public service number of the child as well as the forename, surname, birth surname, address and occupation of the mother, former surname of the mother, date of birth of the mother, marital status of the mother, personal public service number of the mother, birth surname of the mother’s mother, date of registration and the signature of the registrar.
Mr. Cuffe: We were told that 16% of registrations are carried out automatically. Therefore I presume the other 84% are still done on the manual paper-based system. Surely we can get some kind of breakdown of the 16%, which could well be as valid a breakdown as the information from the two hospitals, which the Minister of State has cited. Will she give us a breakdown?
In light of the remarks made in the House today, what message will the Minister of State give to the CSO about changing the methodology by which it collects its statistics? I suffer from the same issue as my colleague Deputy Boyle in so far as my late mother was from Chicago but I was born in Baggot Street and I am curious as to what the CSO would have made with my details.
Ms Hanafin: As I said at the outset, the CSO does not have sufficient information from throughout the country to be able to release composite information on the matter because it only gets the 16% registered under the electronic system. The CSO has the information from non-automatic registration and the paper-based system but, in many cases, the paper-based offices are still using a form, which has been in place since before September 2003, which did not have a question on nationality. In many offices in which the new forms are being used, the information on nationality is not being given. True to form, the CSO will wait until it has more comprehensive data before it issues further information. The information which the CSO has on this matter is limited, but there is additional information which I gave in response to supplementary questions.
Ms Burton: Will the Minister of State supply information on the number of passports issued by Irish embassies to qualifying people of Irish descent abroad? For instance, in South Africa, an average of 2,000 passports are issued every year to people of Irish descent. If people like that come to live in Ireland, how do they count in the statistics? In many cases people such as this are like Deputies Boyle and Cuffe in being from mixed marriages in that one parent is of Irish nationality and the other is of a foreign nationality. How do they count in the statistics? It is important information for this debate because we live in a society in which many people are married to people of Irish descent and subsequently take an Irish passport or are married to non-nationals.
Ms Hanafin: The Deputy’s first question is more relevant to the Department of Foreign Affairs which is responsible for the matter. In regard to the second question, I stress that it is not a requirement under the Civil Registration Act 2004 to give the information on nationality, and the forms to which I have referred and which are used in the maternity hospitals have been devised by the hospitals themselves.
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