Children and Family Bill published on Oireachtas website

Legislation covers issues such as guardianship, custody and rights of unmarried fathers

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald speaking to media on the Children and Family Relationships Bill this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald speaking to media on the Children and Family Relationships Bill this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Children and Family Bill has been published on the Oireachtas website this morning.

The purpose of the Bill is to reform and update family law to address the needs of children living in diverse family types.

The legislation covers a broad range of issues, such as guardianship, access, custody, maintenance and the rights of unmarried fathers.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed the Dáil debate on the proposed legislation will begin next week and “hopefully” become law in March.

Ms Fitzgerald earlier this week described the Bill as “a very significant piece of legislation” which was long-overdue.

“It’s wide-ranging reform of family law, been recommended over many years, affecting a wide variety of family types, family diversity in Ireland,” she said.

Asked to comment on concerns that the Government was attempting to rush the legislation through the Houses in order to separate it from the same-sex marriage referendum, she said: “There’s no question of rushing this legislation. This is important legislation.”

She said the legislation was not constitutional change and had been recommended by commissions and reports over many years. “It’s fundamental reform of family law in Ireland, recognising the reality for so many families and so many children out there.”

She said Ms Fitzgerald said she had already briefed the Opposition on the details of the Bill and they had expressed “very strong support” for its provisions.

The legislation was complex and would bear detailed study, she added. “I’m not putting a definite time when it needs to end but certainly we’d like to see it completed hopefully in March.”

Asked about opposition to gay adoption, Ms Fitzgerald said the legislation would recognise the reality of family life in Ireland for children and for parents, “the diverse forms of family life”.

Asked if she understood why people might conflate the issues of gay adoption and marriage equality, she said they were entirely different issues.

On donor registration in assisted human reproduction, Ms Fitzgerald said children had the right to know their identity. A donor-conceived child register would be developed and administered by an authority.

Asked if she anticipated a drop in donations, Ms Fitzgerald said that was a possibility. “But what we’re doing is in line with best international practice.”

“There’s no opt-out,” she said. However, retrospective provisions applying to couples which had used anonymous donors in the past would allow them to go to court.

An explanatory memorandum and copy of the Bill, which runs to more than 100 pages, can be viewed on the Oireachtas website here.