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Shatter blasts lack of action to protect surrogate families

A former Minister for Justice has blasted the State’s lack of action regarding surrogate families as a “disgrace”.
Alan Shatter, Fine Gael’s Minister for Justice between 2011 and 2014 and a prominent family law solicitor, claims that a bill introduced by him in early 2014 would have dealt with the issue of legal recognition for surrogate parents, only for the subject of surrogacy to be dropped by the then Government several months later.
Responding to an article published in Saturday’s Irish Examiner, Mr Shatter said the State had promised the Supreme Court during a case related to surrogacy that his bill would be used to fill the gaps in the law relating to such problems and described the fact that this had not transpired as “unacceptable”.
“Later when delivering its judgement in that case the Supreme Court was critical of the legislature for failing to earlier enact the required legislation,” Mr Shatter said.
There has been a need for many years for comprehensive legislation and legal procedures addressing the rights and obligations of the parents of children born to a surrogate mother.
The article in Saturday’s Irish Examiner described how a Cork mother of twins born via surrogacy has no legal relationship with her children.
Annmarie McCarthy, who turned to surrogacy after underlying health issues meant it would be unsafe for her to conceive naturally, described how as far as Ireland is concerned she is a “legal stranger” to her children, with no parental rights.
In his letter, Mr Shatter states that “no parent or child should be trapped in a legal twilight zone and left in a legal limbo”.
He said that the surrogacy provisions contained in his 2014 bill had been “derived from my personally conducting a comparative analysis of then existing surrogacy laws across the world” and that, while there had been resistance behind the scenes to the bill due to it being “too controversial”, he had stood his ground on the matter to ensure his version was the one published.
He said that those same surrogacy provisions were subsequently dropped by his successor as Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald in September of that year, with then Minister for Health Leo Varadkar stating the matter would be addressed in a bill of his own to be prepared in 2015, which never transpired.
Mr Shatter left office in May 2014 in the fallout from the Garda Maurice McCabe scandal. He was subsequently cleared in the courts of having handled that matter inappropriately.
Children born abroad
Regarding the surrogacy issue, he said that he is of the opinion that it is “inevitable” that whatever legislation is finally enacted on the matter “will fail to properly and comprehensively address” the legal relationship between parents and their surrogate children born abroad, and the same relationship of those children to the same parents “with whom they live and to whom they are emotionally attached”.
There are currently roughly 1,000 surrogate children living in Ireland as Irish citizens.
Two reports have been produced over the past 20 years aimed at resolving the issue of such children’s legal status, with an Oireachtas committee currently in the process of composing a third.
At present parents of surrogates are not permitted to provide legal consent for their children for issues stemming from the trivial, such as a school trip, to the life-changing, such as a crucial medical intervention.

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