THE chairman of the Adoption Authority of Ireland has said that regardless of a 'Yes' or 'No' vote in the same-sex marriage referendum, "the adoption process is not going to change".
Family law expert Geoffrey Shannon - who is also the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection - spoke out on the issue saying that he wasn't "advocating that people should vote one way or another" but to bring "clarity" on adoption issues.
Some 'No' campaigners have said that a 'Yes' vote will open the way for gay couples to adopt children.
Mr Shannon outlined how the legal status of adoption will not change whatever way the vote goes and pointed out that same-sex couples can already adopt.
He made the comments on last night's Claire Byrne Live show in an exclusive interview with the RTE presenter.
"Whether people vote Yes or No, the adoption process is not going to change and the reason for that is that sole applicants have been in a position to apply to assess for adoption since 1991.
"So for over 20 years sole applicants, and that includes a partner in a cohabiting relationship, whether of the same sex-nature or a heterosexual relationship, the partner has been in a position to apply to be assessed for adoption.
"The Children and Family Relationships Act extends the right to assessment for adoption to civil partners and cohabiting couples who have been living together for a period of three years," Mr Shannon added.
"From a child's perspective, that means the child will have a legal relationship with the two partners in a cohabiting relationship."
He said that the "best interests of the child" is the key requirement in determining whether somebody gets the licence to adopt.
The assessment is "not concerned with gender or sexual orientation", he said.
He also said that the birth mother's consent must be "full, free and informed" and can refuse to allow her child to be adopted by any couple, including those in same-sex relationships.
"If the birth mother decides that she does not want to place her child with a same-sex couple, that decision will invariably be respected," he said.