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Senator objects to 'deeply personal attack' after being labelled 'crude and cold' during committee

Sharon Keogan says a comment she made to representative for Irish Gay Dads was “misinterpreted”.

Independent Senator Sharon Keogan
Independent Senator Sharon Keogan
Image: Oireachtas.ie

INDEPENDENT SENATOR SHARON Keogan has written to the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy after she was asked to apologise for comments she made during yesterday’s meeting. 

Keogan had told the meeting that she was opposed to surrogacy on the grounds that it was “harmful, exploitative and unethical”, adding that she “does not believe it is everyone’s right to have a child”. 

The committee had been hearing evidence from witnesses with experience of surrogacy, including those who had had children conceived using assisted human reproduction.

Following Keogan’s contribution, Elaine Cohalan of the Assisted Human Reproduction Coalition urged committee members to use respectful language. 

“Inflammatory language, and using undefined terms don’t benefit the debate,” she said.

In a letter sent to chair of the committee Jennifer Whitmore TD of the Social Democrats, Keogan rejected that her comments were inflammatory and took issue with “this characterisation of my words”.

Keogan claims that “the tone of the meeting changed” following Cohalan’s remarks and that several members subsequently referred to her words as “inflammatory”.  

Independent Senator Lynn Ruane told yesterday’s hearing that members of the committee should not oppose matters because of “personal bigotry” but should “critically engage” with a topic. 

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Ruane accused Keogan of being “crude and cold” and asked her to “check your Christian values”. Keogan has taken issue this “deeply personal attack”.

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“I wish to object to this deeply personal attack on me during a public meeting and contend that the language used by the member was inflammatory, discriminatory and sought to characterise me and my contribution unfairly,” Keogan writes. 

Sinn Féin’s Kathleen Funchion TD was acting chair of yesterday’s hearing and suspended the committee after Keogan said that Gearoid Kenny Moore, a representative for Irish Gay Dads, was “extremely lucky to be here today.”

Keogan says she was not given an opportunity to explain what she intended to say: 

The meeting was suspended, and I was asked to apologise to a witness. I believe that no apology is due because the acting Chair shut me down while I was trying to finish a point which she arbitrarily decided to misinterpret. I was not allowed to finish the point when I tried again later.

“During a brief private meeting of the Committee, the acting chair proceeded to warn me that the witnesses could sue me under privilege. This is incorrect and that warning should be withdrawn and matters around parliamentary privilege advised to the acting chair. This warning was completely unwarranted and without foundation.”

Repeating comments she made during yesterday’s hearing, Keogan has categorised the committee as “an echo chamber” and said that evidence should be obtained “from a wide variety of witnesses with differing views”.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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