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'Ailbhe was Finn's parent in every way, except for legally'

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Happy family: Ailbhe O’Nolan and AnneMarie Whelan with their son Finn

Happy family: Ailbhe O’Nolan and AnneMarie Whelan with their son Finn

Happy family: Ailbhe O’Nolan and AnneMarie Whelan with their son Finn

It arrived with little fanfare, but a historic day for some same-sex couples has played out in the Dublin family courts.

For years, female same-sex couples who had children through surrogacy have been fighting for legal rights as parents.

Until now, only the birth mother had the right to be named on the child's birth certificate.

But a law that was first introduced in 2015 finally came into effect last Wednesday, meaning applications for declaration of parenthood could finally be heard by the courts.

"Wednesday can only be described as a great day," said AnneMarie Whelan, a lawyer living in Clondalkin.

Ms Whelan and her wife Ailbhe O'Nolan got married in 2017 and started their family shortly afterwards. Ms Whelan gave birth to their son Finn in June 2018.

"From day one, Ailbhe has been his parent in every sense except legally," Ms Whelan said.

Until last week, Ms O'Nolan had no legal right as the parent of their son - meaning if anything had happened to Ms Whelan, there would have been uncertainty over who would have been the child's carer.

"The fact that Finn had a birthday before he got a birth cert is something that we are struggling with," said Ms Whelan. "It's a big step forward and it gives our family that assurance, that permanency. Nobody is taking this away from us. Or if they try, there will be an even bigger fight.

"When Finn was conceived we were fully convinced that the legislation would have been commenced before he was even born and this would be a non-issue for us."

It was only when their baby was four weeks old that the couple discovered that the crucial legislation had been delayed again - "a kick in the teeth".

Ms Whelan has been working with LGBT Ireland to try to help progress the law for a number of years.

She points out that the existing law is still "so deficient" in that it only focuses on giving rights to a birth mother.

Male same-sex couples have no legal rights, and neither do a heterosexual couple who choose surrogacy where the woman does not carry the baby.

"Our system is still centred on the birth mother being the primary carer in every instance," said Ms Whelan.

"It isn't just for LGBT couples, it isn't just for gay men, but even heterosexual couples have no right to have an intending mother, who does not carry the child, she has no right to go on the birth cert."

She added that more work needs to be done to protect parents who use fertility treatments to start their families.

Irish Independent