New proposed legislation in Ireland could force unwed mothers to include the father of their child’s name on birth certificates. Those backing the new legislation believe that the inclusion of the father’s name would help to reinforce a child’s right to know who their parents are.

The Irish Independent
reports on the new legislation being spearheaded by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton. The push for the new legislation comes following a report by the Law Reform Commission which found that having both the mother and father’s name on a birth certificate could help reinforce a child’s right to know their parents.

In their report, the Law Reform Commission offered reasons as to why single or unwed mothers may not want to list the father’s name on the birth certificate. The report found that single or unwed mothers erroneously believed that by listing the father’s name on the birth certificate, that their social welfare benefits may be affected or that it could grant the father automatic legal access right to the child.

The Law Reform Commission also warned that without knowledge of who their father is, children could run the risk of “striking up relationships” with people they are unknowingly related to.

Joan Burton, however, is now charged with defining exemptions for the proposed legislation for cases such as where the mother may feel threatened by the father and does not wish for contact, or if the mother does not know who the father is.

The Commission did find that, “In most cases the mother of the child is aware of who the father of the child is.”

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) reported that the around 6 percent of the 70,620 born in Ireland in 2007 did not have a father’s name listed on their birth certificate. That figure dropped only slightly for 2008.

The new Irish legislation is in step with British law instituted in 2009 which requires the father’s name to be included on the birth certificate. While punishment for not adhering to the law includes a fine and jail time, the law has yet to be enforced.