Genealogists have written to Michael McDowell, the Irish justice minister, to complain that his proposed privacy bill could put them out of business. They say if the bill is passed they could be denied access to public registers, such as the records of births, marriages and deaths, an essential resource for biographers, social historians and genealogists.
The bill, currently before the Seanad, stipulates that if a person complains that their privacy has been breached, it is not a defence to say the information you got about them came from a register that is open to the public. In theory a famous person could object to researchers compiling his family tree using information from public registers.
What genealogists most fear is that the privacy bill, when enacted, will be used by cautious librarians to deny them access to records. Michael Merrigan, secretary of the Genealogical Society of Ireland, said that the bill could “create a climate of fear”, with genealogical and heraldic research impeded and publication of information frustrated through the threat of litigation.
You can read more about this issue in the Times Online at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2091-2393785,00.html