Shatter claims No campaign is using children as weapons
Ex-minister for justice says surrogacy is irrelevant to same-sex marriage debate
Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has criticised the No campaign in the forthcoming same-sex marriage referendum, claiming that they are using children as weapons. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
Mr Shatter said the issue of surrogacy is irrelevant to the debate and it is being misused by the opposition to create confusion. In an interview with The Irish Times Mr Shatter said it was very “unfortunate” that the opposition to this referendum have raised this issue in a way that “lacks insight and compassion”.
He said: “This is a diversion. It is very unfortunate that children are being dishonestly used as a weapon in this referendum by individuals. Many of those who are professing concern about the rights of children are the same individuals who opposed the children’s rights amendment.”
Mr Shatter said it was inevitable that surrogacy was going to be brought into the debate on marriage equality.
He said this is down to the absence of it from the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which passed into law earlier this year.
“I think it was inevitable that the issue would attempt to be misused by No campaigners in the equality referendum. I think that attempt would have been completely undermined if the issue had already been comprehensively dealt with.”
Mr Shatter had published the first draft of the bill to include surrogacy but it was removed in the final draft.
He said he did not want to criticise his former Cabinet colleagues but said it would have been ideal to have these issues addressed before the vote on May 22nd.
The Fine Gael TD said those legal issues surrounding surrogacy need to be dealt with but either way it has nothing to do with the referendum.
Mr Shatter said: “I always anticipated that it would be beneficial to comprehensively address the legal issues around surrogacy in advance of the referendum on marriage equality so the issue couldn’t be used as a diversion and cause confusion.
“I am not in any way surprised that No campaigners are attempting to use in that way. I don’t believe they will be successful.
“The vast majority of people are mature enough to understand that surrogacy is an entirely different issue; it is a far greater relevance to heterosexual couples who have difficulty in conceiving.”
Welfare of children
Mr Shatter said even without the vote, there is no law which prevents any couple – gay or straight – from using a surrogate.
The former minister for justice, who stepped down last year after the findings of the Guerin report into allegations of Garda malpractice, said the referendum has nothing to do with children except in one instance.
He said: “This isn’t just about marriage equality. This is about the welfare of children in one specific sense which is ensuring that those children within our community today and into the future whose sexual orientation is gay feel that they are fully accepted, that they are part of the extended community and that they will through their lifetime be treated as everyone else.
Mr Shatter said passing this referendum would send a powerful message that there is no such thing as a second class citizen in Ireland.