Marriage referendum ‘changed everything’ for surrogacy family

John Mahon and Gerard Whelan had triplets through surrogacy in the United States

John Mahon and Gerard Whelan speaking on the Late Late Show on Friday. Photograph: RTÉ

John Mahon and Gerard Whelan speaking on the Late Late Show on Friday. Photograph: RTÉ

 

The first Irish same-sex couple to have children through surrogacy have said the marriage equality referendum “changed everything” as it meant the State recognised their family.

John Mahon and Gerard Whelan were speaking on the Late Late Show on Friday and will address a conference, Families Through Surrogacy, on Sunday in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire.

They described the process of being a gay couple and having triplets through surrogacy in the United States in 2001.

“We always spoke about having a family,” said the couple. “It didn’t seem impossible but it did seem outlandish. We thought we’d be as good parents as anyone else.

“We didn’t have the internet at the time so we went into an internet cafe in Temple Bar and typed in ‘gay surrogacy’ thinking we would get a tap on the shoulder asking what we were doing.

“There was one company providing surrogacy services to American and international clients to the LGBT community.”

They said they sought legal advice in order to “know where we stood”.

“We didn’t want to arrive home with children and have the authorities arrive and say ‘sorry lads you can’t have them’.

“We were told it wasn’t illegal but possibly wouldn’t be welcomed by the State.

“We were just told to keep our heads down, play the system and not to annoy people. We were told the media would be interested and maybe there’d be some politicians that may jump up and down.

“We were told specifically that the State has enormous powers in the field of child protection, which it has to have. Literally, if they wished, or we annoyed them enough, they could decapitate us a family.”

After the triplets were brought to Ireland, the couple said they received a mixed reaction from society, including unwelcome intrusion from the media.

“We arrived home Sunday and on Thursday there was a knock on the door and two members of the Garda were there.

“They said they believed we had brought babies into the country. We thought everything was going to fall apart then.

“We thought the State was going to come in and take our kids. They said we brought kids into the country without showing passports. We tried twice in Shannon to show our passports. But we showed them our documentation and they wished us well.”

The couple added that the marriage equality referendum “changed everything”.

“It recognised us a family,” they said. “We don’t feel under threat by the State anymore.”

The Families Through Surrogacy conference takes place from 12pm-6pm on Sunday.