New legislation will recognise ‘diverse forms of family life’

Fitzgerald says there’s no question of rushing Children and Family Relationships Bill

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said the Children and Family Relationships Bill will recognise the reality of "diverse" family types in Ireland.

She said Cabinet had decided the Dáil debate on the Bill would start next week, with the proposed legislation due to be published on Thursday morning and “hopefully” becoming law in March.

“We’re saying that a same-sex couple can adopt a child. Already in law a single person who is in a same-sex partnership can effectively adopt. So we’re recognising that in this legislation and recognising that diversity and dealing with the reality.”

Ms Fitzgerald 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.

She said the legislation covered a broad range of issues, and highlighted guardianship, access, custody, maintenance and the rights of unmarried fathers.

“It makes sure that questions in relation to the identity of a child conceived through assisted human reproduction is guaranteed. In this legislation there’s very clear provisions in relation to that for the first time ever.”

Ms Fitzgerald said the Bill allowed for access for a broad group people for adoption, include same-sex partners and heterosexual couples who are co-habiting.

She said there would be plenty of time for the Oireachtas to discuss the planned law when she spoke to reporters at Government Buildings.

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.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Acting Features Editor of The Irish Times