Minister challenged on new family law
THE Government has been accused of "dishonesty" over a new family law which is in part aimed at taking the child welfare issue out of the same-sex marriage referendum debate.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald expects to get Government clearance on Tuesday for a new Children & Family Relations Bill, which she hopes will be put through the Dáil and Seanad by the end of March. Ms Fitzgerald has repeatedly argued that child welfare issues in same-sex marriages, and other relationships apart from traditional marriage, are best dealt with by a separate law and are not part of the referendum debate.
But opponents of the marriage vote, due in May, seriously contest this view. Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said the Government was "putting the cart before the horse" and may well be advancing a new law which goes against the Constitution.
"This is essentially a 'big bluff' by Government who are advancing a law which goes against the constitutional protection given marriage. It would appear they are hoping to follow that by putting 'a constitutional lock' on the situation," Senator Mullen told the Irish Independent.
The new bill is being described as the biggest change in family law in the State's history. It will give new rights to children, single parents, same-sex couples, heterosexual couples living together, separated fathers, grandparents and other relatives where children are involved in a family dispute.
Fianna Fáil are ready to support the Bill in principle.