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Monday, February 16, 2015

Shatter calls for surrogacy to be dealt with in new Bill

Former minister feels adequate time must be allowed for debate on Child and Family Relationships Bill

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter said the Government needs to reconsider the lack of reference to surrogacy in the Child and Family Relationships Bill.

Speaking on the Saturday with Claire Byrne radio programme on RTÉ Radio One, Mr Shatter said while he was pleased the Bill was going to be brought before Cabinet next week he felt it was important that it be given adequate time for debate in the Oireachtas.

The Child and Family Relationships Bill seeks to address, among other issues, guardianship rights in relation to unmarried couples, grandparents and same-sex couples. It also contains provisions on assisted reproduction rights.

Mr Shatter said he did not believe there was any issue with the constitutionality of the Bill, though he would have wanted a fuller version published earlier.

Mr Shatter also expressed concern that the Government may fail to pass the forthcoming same-sex marriage referendum, by holding the referendum so close to the passing of the Child and Family Relationships Bill. He believes that this may cause the two issues to be linked.

Ben Conroy from the Íona Institute said in response that as the same-sex marriage referendum seeks to change the status of the mother and the father, and consequently the family, in Irish law, bringing the Child and Family Relationships Bill into the marriage debate was not “muddying the waters”.

Also speaking on the programme, Bishop Kevin Doran said the church’s position when it comes to raising children would be that preference should be given to a male-female relationship, as this was the optimum environment for raising a child. The bishop said he wasn’t sure how, for example, two men could provide a necessary female influence for their daughter.

Independent Róisín Shortall said that the Child and Family Relationships Bill isn’t going to distinguish between civil partnership and same-sex marriages when it comes to gay adoption, so the Bill isn’t of direct relevance to the marriage debate.

Ms Shortall also said that fundamental issues exist in terms of people’s rights to know the identity of their parents, and that the Bill lacks provisions that would regulate assisted reproduction and surrogacy in a way that puts the child first. Ms Shortall said that this was a legal issue, not a health issue.

Mr Shatter said that he believes there is no reason why the issue of surrogacy should have been taken out of the Bill, as the clarification of rights is needed.

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