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Irish Gay Dads group 'implore' Govt to ensure Irish surrogacy families are not 'left behind'

Senator Sharon Koeghan said ‘as long as children are loved and cared for and feel secure in life, that’s all that matters’.

Shane Lennon of the Irish Gay Dads group addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on international surrogacy this morning.
Shane Lennon of the Irish Gay Dads group addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on international surrogacy this morning.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE Irish Gay Dads group have “implored” the Government to take action to make sure that families that are created through surrogacy “are not left behind” and treated as “second-class citizens in their own country”.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on International Surrogacy met today to focus on issues faced by same sex couples, both male and female, entering international surrogacy arrangements and achieving parental recognition.

The meeting follows on from the last week’s controversial meeting where Independent Senator Sharon Keogan said 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 Jennifer Whitmore of the Social Democrats, the chair of the committee, 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 the meeting last week that members of the committee should not oppose matters because of “personal bigotry” but should “critically engage” with a topic.

Keogan was subsequently asked to leave the meeting.

Keogan said a comment she made to a representative of the Irish Gay Dads group was “misinterpreted”.

Resignation

In an email to members of another committee of which she is a member, the Oireachtas Children’s Committee, Keogan said she was resigning as a member but was remaining on the International Surrogacy Committee. 

Her email had the subject line “Unsafe Working Environment/Resignation”.

“I no longer feel safe or protected as a member of the Committee and have made this difficult decision as a result of that,” she told members. 

Screenshot - 2022-04-28T101852.359 Independent Senator Sharon Keogan

Addressing Gearóid Kenny Moore of the Irish Gay Dads group today, Keogan said she was “very touched” by his statements at last week’s meeting. 

“Of all the witnesses that were here, I was most touched by yours and the relationship that you had with your surrogate mother and the relationship that you were encouraging with the surrogate mother, and how you agreed also to allow the birth mother to be on the birth cert.

“I certainly was very heartened to hear that you agree with that. And, you know, there are many roads to parenthood. Absolutely. And as long as children are loved and cared for and feel secure in life, that’s all that matters,” she said.  

In his own case, the surrogate mother is listed on their child’s birth cert because they were born in the UK, where parental rights cannot be transferred until after the child is born, explained Farrelly. 

“Therefore the surrogate is legally obliged to be based on the birth search. We as a couple have had children through the UK, could not go through the parental order process that exists there because in order to do so, you have to be a resident passport holder, citizen etc. So we were none of those. And that’s the primary reason why the surrogate is listed on the birth cert,” he said.

“Going forward, we would ask you to consider that when surrogacy is the method of conception that the birth cert issued to the child would actually list its intended parents,” said Farrelly, adding that the inclusion of the surrogate be placed on the long form birth “so that the children can see very clearly the exact method of conception and gestation”.

Surrogate mother

“I’m glad you recognise the importance of the birthing mother, in particular for gay marriage, gay dads, and it’s really important to me that the mother is safeguarded in some way,” said Keogan. 

“We are fully in support of is the creation of a surrogacy register that will include her details for the duration of the child’s life so she can never be whitewashed out of the picture as you were concerned about last week and we are fully in support of that,” said Farrelly.

 Addressing the committee today, Shane Lennon of the Irish Gay Dads group he met his husband Carlos 12 years ago.

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“From day one, discuss our desire to have a family,” he said.

“It is an innate human desire, to want to have a family to raise a child and to create a higher meaning in one’s life… It’s not selective to only some people, but it was all a matter of fertility, physical stability or sexuality,” said Lennon. 

“How is it right that in the eyes of the Revenue Commissioners, I am equal, the same as my friends and neighbors. But when it comes to my fundamental right to bear my family, I’m prohibited,” he said, adding that Irish relationships and families are no longer being created in the traditional chronological order of yesterday. 

It would be a “travesty” not to include international surrogacy into the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, he said.

Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery Kearney told the committee that when gay couples meet they “have the same conversations as everybody else with regard to whether they’re going to have children together”.

“I’m not sure that everybody considers that,” she said, adding that whether someone has a desire to have a child is not dependent on your sexuality or your gender. 

She said it is about “nurturing” and is “something in the human spirit”.

Farrelly said the United States, Canada and the UK surrogacy models are “extremely well established” and have been in existence for over 30 years.

Putting together a very stringent framework that ensures that every party enters into an agreement freely, that they give their consent, and that they get appropriate legal and medical support will create a robust system for Ireland, he said.

He called for an oversight body to regulate all of the players should be established, as there are equivalent bodies in other locations.

“Anybody who participates in a surrogacy agreement, a clinic, legal person or medical person should be regulated and approved by that body,” he added.

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