CHILDREN who are born as a result of sperm or egg donation should be allowed to know the identity of the donor when they are older, according to a leading child law expert.
Special rapporteur on child protection Geoffrey Shannon said it was the view of the Law Society that upcoming legislation should allow for a child in these circumstances to know their identity.
This would mean that sperm or egg donors could no longer remain anonymous and potentially face requests years later for contact from children they have never met or knew existed.
The Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality was discussing the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which aims to create a legal structure to underpin diverse parenting situations including fertility treatments and surrogacy.
Mr Shannon said the right to know one's identity was enshrined in several international human rights documents, and while the issue was very complex with no "quick fix" solution, it was important the new law factored it in.
The donor should also get full information at the time of the donation so that down the line they know a child might try to find out their details.
Obstetricians told the committee that many Irish couples who need to access eggs are going to Spain, where donors can still remain anonymous.
In several other countries donors cannot be anonymous and this has affected supply, said Dr Mary Wingfield of the Merrion Fertility Clinic.
Problems can arise such as men who donate sperm could ending up having hundreds of children who would not know they are related, the hearing was told.
The Institute of Obstericians said one of the proposals in the legislation would allow for penalties against people who go abroad and use commercial surrogacy services; they felt this was draconian.
Commercial surrogacy where a woman who carries a child is paid, can cost between €50,000- €100,000 because of the involvement by an agency.
The institute said the legislation should allow for reasonable expenses to be paid to surrogate mothers.
Asked what should happen if a surrogate mother decides she does not want to part with the child, Mr Shannon said he believed the law had taken a sensible approach to this. The birth mother should remain the guardian of the child until she consents to no longer being the mother, he added.
The parenting organisation One Family called for funding to open about 17 centres around the country, which would allow for children to spend time with a non-resident parent.
Two of these were established on a pilot basis but have now closed down.