Irish couples face an uphill struggle with surrogacy laws
Although there is no law banning surrogacy in Ireland, most Irish couples wishing to try surrogacy at home face near-impossible odds.
A couple who uses a surrogate mother must adopt the child following the birth but Irish adoption laws stipulate that private adoptions are restricted only to relatives of the mother, says Professor Deirdre Madden, a fertility law expert at University College Cork.
In February an Irish woman with no womb became the proud mother of twin girls with the help of her sister who acted as a surrogate and the services of a Dublin fertility clinic.
The birth was believed to be one of the first ever surrogate births in the country, and advocates hope that it is a step in the right direction towards implementing regular surrogacy in Ireland.
Desperate couples wishing to find a surrogate mother have in the past looked to the UK where surrogacy births are more common.
"We get about five couples a year who come to us from Ireland asking for help with surrogacy," said Robin Carter of Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS), a support organisation for parents considering surrogacy.
But a 2005 change in legislation regarding adoption in the UK now prevents non-UK residents from adopting a child born in the UK through surrogacy, thus ending the dreams of Irish parents who had hoped to use the UK as their last resort.
"We would love to help people from the Republic of Ireland and other European countries," said Robin Carter, "but we simply can't do it."
The only way an Irish couple could attempt a surrogacy in the UK is if they set up permanent residency there, says Carter.
Surrogacy remains a daunting prospect for Irish childless couples who have "exhausted all other options", says Helen Browne of the National Infertility Support and Information Group (NISIG) in Ireland.
"It is very important for any person in Ireland who needs surrogacy that it should be carried out here because at least we can take care of them," she says.