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Sunday 17 December 2017

Surrogate birth described as 'unique' and 'exceptional' during High Court case

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Ray Managh

A family law matter relating to the surrogate birth and guardianship of a child was described by a High Court judge on Wednesday as “unique” and “exceptional.”

Media representatives were allowed to remain in court for the hearing but with reporting restrictions so strident as to even restrain publication of the restrictions imposed on them by the court.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty granted an interim order bringing the child into wardship and under the protection of the High Court and returned the proceedings for mention on November 7th.  He also directed that “the couple,” who brought the application, be appointed interim guardians of the child.

Mary O’Toole SC, who appeared with barrister Natalie McDonnell and Marian Campbell solicitors for the married couple concerned, told the court they did not wish to exclude the Press but would be seeking very specific reporting restrictions to protect the identity of the child and the couple.

Gerard Durcan SC, counsel for the Attorney General, told the court that the State supported the application to make the child a ward of court.  He said the child, born outside the State, was currently living in Ireland.

Mr Durcan, who appeared with barrister Alex Finn, also supported an application by Ms O’Toole to serve notice of the proceedings and specific documentation outside the State on the surrogate mother and her husband.

He said it was appropriate that the surrogate mother and her husband be served with notice of the proceedings and given a chance to appear should they choose to do so.

Mr Durcan said there were a number of representatives of various State departments in court to record matters and make or recommend decisions that may be taken by the Attorney General or State agencies regarding the case.

Barrister Sarah McKechnie, counsel for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, told Judge Moriarty that the Agency would carry out an assessment of the child in time for the next court appearance. She said the Agency did not have any concerns relating to the welfare of the child.

Ms O’Toole said there was no suggestion of wrongdoing by anyone involved in the surrogacy procedures or in relation to the care of the child.

Judge Moriarty said he was satisfied that the child should be taken into the care of the High Court wardship and that he had the jurisdiction to make orders regarding service of documents outside the State.

At different times during the hearing he described the case as interesting and very serious family law, which he considered “interesting,” “unusual,” “exceptional” and “unique.”

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