Parents group says bill puts adults' needs before children
THE new Child and Family Relations Bill "puts adults' wants ahead of children's needs", a new parents' group has warned.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the new draft law, running to over 100 pages, will be published tomorrow and begin its passage through the Dail and Seanad next week. Opposition parties are broadly supportive though they will be seeking amendments, especially to strengthen unmarried fathers' rights, and possibly more time for discussion.
But the emergence of a new group, 'Mothers and Fathers Matter', who launched a major publicity campaign against the law change, increases the likelihood of child welfare remaining central in the referendum vote on same-sex marriage due to be held in mid-May.
The group is headed by former UCD economics professor, Dr Ray Kinsella, who said they will lobby for major changes to the new bill - but also campaign against the referendum.
"This is first and last about children and I believe people will see through the Government's attempt to separate the issue from the forthcoming marriage referendum. We have to realise that arrangements which some adults want do not always serve the needs of children to have a father and mother," Prof Kinsella told the Irish Independent.
The Justice Minister said the bill is a major reform of family law which sets out to vindicate the equal right of children, parents and families in a changed society.
"It provides a legal bedrock upon which the diversity of families will be valued, recognised and protected in today's Ireland," Ms Fitzgerald said.
Fianna Fail justice spokesman, Niall Collins, said he was concerned that enough time be allowed to debate the legislation.
He said he may be seeking amendments especially in the rights of single fathers.
Sinn Fein spokesman, Padraig MacLochlainn, also said his party were supporting the bill in principle. He said they will also back the same-sex marriage referendum.
Ms Fitzgerald denied there was any attempt to rush the passage of the bill. But she conceded that the Government hopes it will be completed by TDs and senators by March 24.
Professor Kinsella said there were good elements to the new draft law, especially improved guardianship rights for single fathers. But he insisted that it destroyed the preference for mothers and fathers in Irish adoption laws, disrupted the natural link between parents and children, and undermined the special status of marriage in the Constitution.
"The bill effectively commodifies children and puts the wants of adults before the needs of children," Professor Kinsella said. But there was a welcome for the new law from Barnardos, who said it will lead to greater equality for children in the eyes of law, no matter who is bringing them up.