Monday 24 October 2016

'Whether people vote yes or no, the adoption process is not going to change' - Chair of Adoption Agency ahead of marriage referendum

Published 11/05/2015 | 22:20

Geoffrey Shannon
Geoffrey Shannon
Simon Coveney
Eamon Farrell, brother of actor Colin Farrell with his partner Stephen Mannion

The Chair of the Adoption Authority of Ireland has said that the adoption process in Ireland is not going to change, regardless of the outcome of the same sex marriage referendum later this month.

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Geoffrey Shannon, also a special rapporteur on child protection was speaking tonight on RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live show.

"I think it’s important to state at the outset that no one has a right to a child, a child has a right to a family," he said.

Mr Shannon said that out of 112 adoptions last year, some 69 involved step-parent adoptions, where the biological mother marries somebody other than the birth father. He said Irish society and the attitude towards adoption has changed over the years.

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

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“The best interests of the child is the key requirement in determining whether somebody gets the licence to adopt... if you’re a sole applicant, if you’re a married couple, if you’re a cohabiting couple, or a same-sex couple, what happens is you’re assessed and that assessment looks at your capacity to parent a child into adulthood. It is not concerned with gender or sexual orientation." 

Questioned by presenter Claire Byrne, Mr Shannon confirmed that the birth mother can say “I don’t want a same-sex couple taking care of my child or adopting my child.”

“Absolutely, that is the position, and I would take that one step further, the birth mother on occasion has elected to place her child with a sole applicant in a same-sex relationship, so the mother determines who the child is placed with,” he said.

In a special debate-style programme tonight, Minister Simon Coveney, leading the referendum campaign for the Government went head to head with 'No' campaigner, Independent Senator Ronán Mullen.

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Eamon Farrell, brother of actor Colin Farrell with his partner Stephen Mannion
Eamon Farrell, brother of actor Colin Farrell with his partner Stephen Mannion

During the heated argument, Senator Mullen said that "the Government has tried to use the mental health of young gay people" to sway people's opinions towards the 'yes' side.

He also added that he wasn't "reassured" by the comments Mr Shannon made in his interview with Claire Byrne.

"I'm not reassured by any Government sponsored agencies at the moment," he said.

Minister Coveney, in turn, appealed to viewers to accept the opinions from the opinions of an "adoption expert".

"It is only the 'No' side that is using children in order to scare people," Minister Coveney added.

"The issues around surrogacy and the laws around it are a separate issue."

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"We are turning a debate and discussion that shold be about love and wanting to spend their lives together into a debate about children," he said.

Gay man and campaigner Paddy Manning also argued for the 'No' side on the show while Eamon Farrell, Colin Farrell’s brother who married his partner Steven Mannion in Canada, filmed a report and argued for the 'Yes' side.

In closing statements from the debate podiums, Senaotr Mullen said: "We should give legal support to all families but no child should be deprived of a mother or father."

Meanwhile, Minister Coveney closed with: "This is an appeal form the gay community to be treated equally".

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