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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 14°C Independent Senator Sharon Keogan
# sharon keogan
'Check your Christian values': Senator asked to leave Oireachtas committee during surrogacy hearing
Committee chair Kathleen Funchion TD was forced to suspend the meeting after comments from Independent Senator Sharon Keogan.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 21st 2022, 4:50 PM

A SENATOR WAS asked to leave an Oireachtas Committee today after she was accused of disrespecting the witnesses. 

The incident came as the Oireachtas Joint Committee on International Surrogacy was meeting to discuss the rights of children born through surrogacy.

During the meeting, Independent Senator Sharon Keogan said that she “wholeheartedly objects to the commercialisation of the human child” and said that surrogacy was “harmful, exploitative and unethical”. 

“I don’t believe it is everyone’s right to have a child. It is a privilege to give birth and it can be dangerous even to those with the best medical attention,” she added.

Keogan also said that Irish law should not “whitewash” or “airbrush” the surrogate mothers from the recognition process.

Speaking after Keogan, Elaine Cohalan of the Assisted Human Reproduction Coalition urged committee members to lead the debate using respectful language around surrogacy.

“Inflammatory language, and using undefined terms don’t benefit the debate. Our members are ordinary people who have been through in some cases harrowing experiences,” she said.  

Cohalan is married to her wife, Jenny and they have a three-year-old daughter, who was conceived using assisted human reproduction.

Senator Lynn Ruane accused Keogan of “outright opposing” the topic because of her “personal bigotry”, which Keogan rejected.

“Outright opposing something because of a personal bigotry or belief is not critically engaging with a topic, they’re two different things, ” Ruane said.

Keogan took issue with Ruane’s comments saying that she objected “to that word because I’m not”.

Ruane then said that Keogan should “check your Christian values” because she was was being disrespectful towards the witnesses. 

“You are crude and you are cold and it is not okay,” Ruane added.

Following an interjection by committee chair Kathleen Funchion TD of Sinn Féin, Keogan said that Gearoid Kenny Moore, a representative for Irish Gay Dads, was “extremely lucky to be here today.”

Funchion, was forced to suspend the meeting after Keogan attempted to raise comments made during a previous private session regarding one of the witnesses.

After the session resumed, Keogan was asked to leave the meeting under Standing Order 113, which allows for a chairperson to order a member to leave a meeting due to disorderly conduct. / YouTube


The committee heard that proposed legislation to regulate surrogacy in Ireland does not create a mechanism to recognise children as the legal children of both parents.

Ciara Merrigan, chair of Irish Families Through Surrogacy, said there is a “big gap” in the current proposed legislation which does not allow for a legal parent-child relationship to be established.

She said that Ireland has an opportunity to be “a world leader” in recognising the rights of children born through surrogacy.

Merrigan, who is a mother to three-year-old twins who were born through international surrogacy, said that under current Irish law, the surrogate mother is viewed as her children’s mother.

There are no laws in the Republic to govern domestic or international surrogacy.

The Oireachtas committee has been charged with developing fresh proposals to fix the gap in Irish law.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill currently going through the Oireachtas is seeking to regulate surrogacy and other reproductive areas.

It would allow for “altruistic” surrogacy in Ireland only.

Merrigan said: “Under Irish law, the surrogate is seen as our twins’ mother, although she’s not genetically related to them, nor does she live in the state.

“What we can legislate for are the safeguards and protection expected for the surrogate mother, children and intended parents.

“A big gap in the proposed legislation means there is not a mechanism in law to create a legal parent relationship for children born through surrogacy so that the child has a legal link with both parents.

“We have learned from other jurisdictions on how this can be overcome.

“This is Ireland’s opportunity to be a world leader, to recognise the diverse and evolving nature of modern families and to legislate appropriately.

“Effectively as it stands, our children only have one parent, their father in the state who can provide legal protection and stability.”

Claire O’Connell, an LGBT Ireland board member, warned that the Bill in its current form will exclude anyone in a current surrogacy agreement, or those that will take place until the commencement of the Bill, and those that take place internationally.

“This will primarily impact couples or individuals experiencing infertility, and countless male couples who wish to parent a child together,” she added.

Cohalan told the committee that Irish relationships and families are no longer being created in the “traditional chronological order of yesterday”.

We need a system where all parties are treated with dignity and respect, where the surrogate mother and intended parents receive independence, legal and medical advice, entering into the arrangement freely with informed consent, receive counselling and support throughout the process.

“Where the surrogate mother has their welfare and best interests at the heart of the system, has full bodily autonomy throughout the process, does not bear legal, social or financial responsibility for the child once they’re born and is protected and safeguarded throughout the process.

“Where the child has their best interests protected, has access to the information on their genetic history.

“They should not be labelled, categorised or treated differently because of the method of their conception or gestation. Our families are families, not different.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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