'It would have taken the surrogate years to earn the money otherwise'
As three-and-a-half-year-old Ava O'Flaherty reluctantly gets ready to go to bed on a Tuesday evening, her mother Caroline is preparing for a well-earned break with her friends at the cinema to watch 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', about an eccentric group of British pensioners who have retired to India.
Caroline is excited about seeing the country depicted on screen; she now has a life-long connection to India in the form of Ava, who was born there through a surrogate mother. Caroline was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1998, when she was just 27. Though she recovered from the illness, her chances of carrying a baby to full term were limited. When she married Niall in 2000, they embarked on years of research into IVF and adoption, all to no avail. But one evening in 2010, Caroline came across a documentary on TG4 about a clinic in India run by artificial reproduction expert Dr Nanya Patel. Later that year, they met the surrogate mother, and after an embryo was successfully planted, Ava was born in April 2011.
Caroline has no qualms about having used an Indian surrogate. It offered the woman a route out of poverty and it was her second surrogacy. "It would have taken them 10 years to earn the money they received from us," she says.
The couple's joy at Ava's birth was quickly overshadowed by a legal battle to get her an Irish passport or emergency travel documents. After a court order was eventually issued in Dublin, Ava finally received one of the first passports granted to an Irish surrogacy baby and Niall got to meet her for the first time.
The O'Flaherty's became Ava's legal parents in India, where their names were listed on her birth certificate, so they did not have to formally adopt her.
Planned new surrogacy laws, which the Government has drawn up, will have to work out how to formally recognise these babies when they are brought home.
POLL: Pregnancy and fertility
Under the new rules, the woman who gives birth would remain the mother in the eyes of the law until she agrees with the genetic parents to transfer parentage to them.
This is to end the practice of genetic parents having to formally adopt their own child.