Sunday 8 December 2019

Hollow victory fails parents and children

The parenthood ball has been passed back to the Oireachtas: it must not kick it into touch.
The parenthood ball has been passed back to the Oireachtas: it must not kick it into touch.

IN the end, the landmark surrogacy appeal had little to do with surrogacy. Yesterday, the State, by a six to one majority, won its Supreme Court appeal against a landmark ruling that the genetic mother of twins born to a surrogate is entitled to be registered as their legal mother on their birth certificates.

It is a hollow victory that bears no winners.

In a pattern that has become depressingly familiar, each of the Supreme Court judges lamented the lack of legislation governing assisted human reproduction (AHR), despite major advances in science and seismic changes in the traditional family form.

The Supreme Court, which also implored the Government to act in the 2010 frozen embryo case, was at pains to stress that it cannot and will not cross the constitutional line or offend the separation of powers which dictates that the exclusive power of legislating lies with the Oireachtas.

But what are families and children to do in the face of a legislature that does not make laws?

It is an inertia that has left - in the words of Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell - generations of children born in Ireland through AHR in "a legal half-world", where the only constraints on the process are those imposed by the dictates of a private market and the sense of responsibility of practitioners.

AHR and ever changing family forms, including a legal divorce regime that exalts the family based on marriage - but treats children of married and unmarried families differently in the eyes of the Constitution - are undoubtedly complex matters of social and public policy.

These are not easy questions and difficult policy choices must be made.

But children are human persons who enjoy legal and constitutional rights no matter how they have come to be born.

The failure by successive governments to regulate AHR is inexcusable and a stain on Ireland's claim to be a developed society which values parents and children.

The parenthood ball has been passed back to the Oireachtas: it must not kick it into touch.

Frontline policing still  remains a priority

Although it is good news that, statistically, crime levels continue to fall, that does not tell the full human picture.

The reality is that many people, victims of crime and otherwise, do not feel safe. While closing garda stations may be a feature of modern policing, it has left communities vulnerable to gangs of professional thieves, some of whom are capable of extreme violence.

This helps to foster fear, even among those who have not personally experienced crime. However, the most common crime in Ireland remains theft, accounting for almost one-third of all criminal activity. While gardai do their best, the reality is resources are stretched and we are increasingly falling back on the community spirit to counteract this pervasive crime. Also highlighted in our regional crime survey is the fact that crime varies across different parts of the country. The bottom line for most is that it is vital that frontline policing remains a priority. There is nothing like the visibility of gardai to reassure people they are safe and it is vital that resources continue to be directed to this end.

Irish Independent

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