Surrogacy committee members must act in ‘respectful’ way

‘Issue of international surrogacy is legally, socially and emotionally complex’

The chair of the Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy has said politicians have a responsibility to deal with the issue in a respectful way, following a week of rows between committee members.

Opening the committee’s fifth public meeting on Thursday morning, chairwoman Jennifer Whitmore, a Social Democrats TD, addressed the controversy of recent days and said witnesses should be questioned in a way that does not cause hurt.

The committee was suspended twice last week after Independent Senator Sharon Keogan was accused of being “crude and cold” by fellow Senator Lynn Ruane, while Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said Ms Keogan had been disrespectful to witnesses.

Ms Keogan demanded apologies from both on Wednesday in a private meeting, but these were not forthcoming and she then resigned from a separate Committee on Children, chaired by Ms Funchion.


On Thursday morning, Ms Whitmore said: “The issue of international surrogacy is a legally complex issue. It is a socially complex issue and it is an emotionally complex issue.” The committee’s task was “particularly challenging as we have only three months in which to complete it”, she added.

“I would ask members to be mindful of the fact that many of the witnesses that we have invited in as a committee have been on very difficult and long journeys to get to this point.

“I ask, therefore, that our manner of questioning be done in a respectful way and without causing hurt. I would also ask them as members that we treat each other with respect.”

Ms Whitmore said she would not stand over “name calling or religious references in the chamber”. She also criticised the discussion “of matters in a public forum that arose from private meetings”.

Last week Ms Keogan told witnesses, who were families giving their experience of surrogacy, that she “wholeheartedly objects to the commercialisation of the human child”, adding “I don’t believe it is everyone’s right to have a child. It is a privilege to give birth”.

Same-sex couples

Thursday’s public meeting focused on the particular issues faced by same-sex couples entering international surrogacy arrangements and achieving parental recognition.

Assistant dean at the University of Limerick Dr Lydia Bracken said she had conducted research with LGBT Ireland in 2021 which found that 53 per cent of LGBT families were not fully recognised under Irish law, in that both parents were not recognised as legal parents.

She said Ireland cannot regulate surrogacy undertaken abroad or control the ethical or human rights framework that is in place in another country but it can control the recognition of legal parentage for Irish law.

The key question should be whether the ethical safeguards in that country were equivalent to those provided in domestic law, though they did not need to be identical, she said.

Ms Bracken said that an “overly restrictive” or “poorly defined” domestic framework for surrogacy in Ireland would encourage people to go abroad.

Gearoid Kenny Moore of Irish Gay Dads appeared alongside his colleague Shane Lennon.

Mr Kenny Moore said all children should be treated equally in the eyes of Irish law while the wellbeing of surrogate mothers should be prioritised.

Mr Lennon said he himself was born via IVF, one of the first children in Ireland to be born this way. He said he married his husband in 2018, and it was an innate human desire to want to have a family, he added. “It is not selective to only some people.” He said it would be a travesty not to address international surrogacy in the Bill.

Addressing Mr Kenny Moore, who appeared last week, Ms Keogan said she was “very touched” by his statements in the previous meeting.

“Of all the witnesses that were here, I was most touched by yours and the relationship that you had with your surrogate mother and the relationship that you were encouraging with the surrogate mother, and how you agreed also to allow the birth mother to be on the birth cert.” She said there were “many roads to parenthood”.

He said in his own case, the surrogate mother was listed on their child’s birth cert because they were born in the United Kingdom, where parental rights cannot be transferred until after the child is born so the surrogate was legally obliged to be on the cert. Ms Keogan said “a lot of exploitation does go on in this particular road to parenthood”.

Mr Kenny Moore said that he would dispute that there was extensive exploitation.

Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee asked whether Ms Bracken would be proposing a “green list” of countries that comply with Irish ethical frameworks, but Ms Bracken said she was proposing a more individualised approach that would look at it on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the interests of the child.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times