Surrogacy law is 'linked to same-sex marriage poll'
Opponents of the same-sex marriage referendum have said a major law change on surrogacy and assisted reproduction is closely linked to the marriage vote.
The group 'Mothers and Fathers Matter' said it was concerned that Health Minister Leo Varadkar said that lawmakers were trying to catch up on the scientists in relation to surrogacy, assisted reproduction and related matters.
"In these matters, we look to our politicians to help us find what is best for society and especially for the welfare of children," the group's spokesman, Keith Mills, said.
Mr Mills said he was also concerned that the outline of legislation set out by Mr Varadkar was too closely linked to the British model. "We believe that this legislation and the related Children and Family Relations Bill, currently before the Dáil, cannot be decoupled from the same-sex marriage referendum," Mr Mills added.
"Ultimately, there are good elements in both pieces of legislation. But the overall import of the referendum is that the State will no longer be able to give preference to a family model based on father, mother and children," he added.
The group advocating a 'No' vote in the marriage referendum on May 22 next, said the two pieces of legislation would be part of their campaign which would focus on child welfare concerns and the traditional family model. They reject efforts by the Government, who insist these issues will be dealt with by these two pieces of law.
Yesterday afternoon in the Dáil, during a debate on the Children and Family Relationships Bill, former justice minister Alan Shatter criticised his ex-Cabinet colleague, Mr Varadkar. Mr Shatter, who was forced to quit as Justice Minister last May, said he was "enormously confused" by much of what Mr Varadkar was saying in relation to the surrogacy law, which is related to the children's legislation but is at a much earlier stage of preparation.
Mr Shatter essentially said failure to include surrogacy parentage provisions in the Children and Family Relations Bill was a breach of promise made to the Supreme Court in early 2014. Mr Shatter pointed out that the surrogacy measures being outlined by Mr Varadkar earlier yesterday were contained in a version of the Children and Family Relationships Bill which he himself had published in January 2014.
"I wish he would stop pretending that he is presenting some new crusade to address an issue that no one before he came along was interested in addressing," Mr Shatter told the Dáil.
"It's misleading, it's misleading and it's unfair to members of the media and those interviewing him who do not have the intimacy of knowledge of both the bill that was published last January and of this legislation," the former justice minister concluded.
But Mr Varadkar struck a conciliatory note when asked his views of what Mr Shatter had to say. "Alan did a lot of work on surrogacy while minister for justice. I am happy to be following through and building on that initial work and look forward to his constructive input," the Health Minister said.