Minister agrees fathers must be involved in care of children


SEANAD REPORT:CHILDREN AND Youth Affairs Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she had sympathy with points made by Jim Walsh (FF) in regard to how fathers had been dealt with in family law over a period of time.

She believed that every effort should be made to enable both parents to be involved in the care of their child, where that was appropriate.

Mr Walsh said sometimes fathers were excluded from involvement in the rearing of their children because, perhaps, of the fractious relationship with the mother. That needed to be looked at.

Mr Walsh said he had long been a strong advocate of children knowing who their parents were. Did the Minister accept that the phrase in the proposed wording for the 31st amendment to the Constitution – “with due regard to the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child” – should include the right of a child to a father and a mother and to know their identities?

Ms Fitzgerald said she agreed with him on the issue of knowing about identity. The Government intended to bring forward legislation to ensure that fathers were named on birth certificates. Only in exceptional cases would a father not be named.

Identity was critical for individuals. Adoptions, particularly those of an inter-country nature, had made people more and more conscious about issues around identity. In Ireland there were many people who wanted to have access to information, to trace their origins and, perhaps, to obtain medical information.

There were some constitutional difficulties with this issue.

A Fine Gael senator asked if one government adviser was worth the cost of three senators. Paul Bradford (FG) was speaking in a debate on proposals for the retention of the House along reformed lines.

Asking Government TDs to preside over such reform was akin to asking Count Dracula to preside over the blood transfusion service, he believed. That said, Senators had to recognise that their task was to save the institution rather than their seats.

Senators were debating a document drawn up by past and present political figures on the need to retain the Upper House.

One of the authors, Feargal Quinn (Ind) called on the Government to “park” its abolition proposal to allow consideration of a reform Bill.