Media can report on surrogate case
A significant High Court ruling today means the media may report part of a landmark legal action concerning whether a couple may be listed as parents on the birth certificates of two very small children born to a surrogate mother.
The surrogate mother is supporting the couple's application, described as having serious implications in the public interest, but the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages have opposed it.
The State parties also opposed applications by lawyers for the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Sunday Times for leave to report the proceedings, brought under the Status of Children Act 1987 and the Guardianship of Infants Act 1954.
The proceedings opened on Monday before Mr Justice Henry Abbott when lawyers for the Irish Independent and Sunday Times applied for the media to be permitted report. The Irish Times joined that application today.
This afternoon, Mr Justice Abbott revised an earlier ruling made by him excluding the media and made an order setting out the terms under which the proceedings may be partly reported and by whom.
While the evidence from those involved will be heard in private, designated reporters from the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Times and a member of the High Court press pool may report part of the proceedings subject to strict reporting restrictions supervised by the court.
The restrictions prevent reporting by Twitter or other social media outlet and also restrain any reporting before 1pm. Any reporting of the proceedings from after 1pm can also only happen after 4pm.
The restrictions were agreed after discussions between lawyers for the newspapers, the State and the applicants.
Mr Justice Abbott had earlier stressed that the judiciary should be careful to ensure the courts are not perceived to be purposely "avoiding the public gaze" under the guise of protecting the interests of the children.
In his earlier decision excluding the media, the judge said the interests of the children were paramount in these matters of "very heavy and serious public importance" but could not be used "as an instrument of avoiding the public gaze".
Gerard Durcan SC, for the parents, said they were not seeking to exclude the press and proposed a balance could be struck between the private interest of the parties and the public interest by permitting limited reporting of the proceedings subject to strict reporting restrictions and directions imposed by the court.
Ray Ryan BL, for the Irish Times and Irish independent, and James McGowan BL, for the Sunday Times, had all stressed their interest in the case was based on the public interest nature of the proceedings and their clients would do nothing that would tend to identify the applicants in any way.
Mr Ryan said any "shutting out entirely of the press" would be a disproportionate measure under the European Convention of Human Rights.