Letters to the Editor: No parent or child should be left in legal limbo

Former justice minister Alan Shatter blasts lack of action on Bill to protect surrogate families
Letters to the Editor: No parent or child should be left in legal limbo

Former justice minister Alan Shatter says it is a disgrace that comprehensive surrogacy legislation, first published by him in a draft Bill in 2014, has still not been enacted.

I refer to the article ‘Families in Legal Twilight Zone over Foreign Surrogacy’ by Neil Michael ( Irish Examiner, Saturday, November 6). There has been a need for many years for comprehensive legislation and legal procedures addressing the rights and obligations of the parents of children born to a surrogate mother, prescribing legal protections to ensure vulnerable women are not exploited, ensuring all who so engage freely enter into surrogacy agreements and that the best
interests of children so born are fully protected.

Such legislation should address the position of all children born to surrogate mothers both within and outside the State. No parent or child should be trapped in a legal twilight zone and left in a legal limbo.

In early 2014 when minister for justice, equality, and defence, I published the draft Children and Family Law Reform Bill which subsequently became the Children and Family Law Reform Act 2015. I personally, when minister, drafted a substantial proportion of the Bill’s initial provisions and included within it the provisions then required to create the necessary legal structure relating to surrogacy.

Global surrogacy laws

The surrogacy provisions were derived from my personally conducting a comparative analysis of then-existing surrogacy laws across the world. There was a behind-the-scenes battle to get the draft Bill published, as some feared the surrogacy provisions could be too controversial and wanted them dropped. I stood my ground and the draft Bill, when published, was widely welcomed.

In February 2014, during a Supreme Court case relating to surrogacy, counsel on behalf of the State informed the court gaps in the law relating to surrogacy would be addressed by the Houses of the Oireachtas in the Bill I was progressing on behalf of the government. Later when delivering its judgement in that case the Supreme Court was critical of the legislature for failing to earlier enact the required legislation.

Subsequent to my forced resignation from government in May 2014, my successor at Justice, Frances Fitzgerald in September 2014 announced that the subject of surrogacy was being dropped from the Bill and then Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar announced the issue would be addressed by him in a Bill to be prepared by the Department of Health and published in early 2015. It never appeared.

Fail to address

Almost eight years and two reports later, with another report apparently on the way, the comprehensive surrogacy legislation required has still not been enacted. Sadly it also appears inevitable that what may ultimately be enacted will fail to properly and comprehensively address the legal relationship to their children of those parenting children in Ireland born by a surrogate mother abroad and the legal relationship of such children to the parents with whom they live and to whom they are emotionally attached.

It is a disgrace that to date this important issue that impacts the welfare of hundreds of children and parents in the state has not been addressed. It is unacceptable that a promise made by counsel to the Supreme Court on behalf of the State almost eight years ago has been reneged on.

It will be a scandal if any legislation finally enacted leaves hundreds born through surrogacy outside Ireland, and those parenting them in the State, in a continuing legal twilight zone and limbo.

Alan Shatter

Dublin 16

Climate activists not immune to risk

Climate change is so important to all of us. However, with regard to the recent convention in Glasgow, I would query some of the protests.

Looking at some of the photographs online, many of the protesters wore no masks. Have the same protesters considered the effect of Covid-19 and returning to their home country, given their exposure to possible Covid-19 contacts and may possibly endanger the population on their return?

Also, I would query their mode of transport to the event. If they used air transport or other fossil fuel transport, then they would have potentially increased global warming. Is it double jeopardy?

I hope the environment, both climate and health, haven’t been affected or infected by their actions.

Action speaks louder than words. I just hope that their actions, which I support, don’t have detrimental effects on the vulnerable in our society.

Ger Brennan


Co Cork

Wave energy, not wind, for us

Onshore or offshore, the problem with wind energy remains the same — reliability. Without question, we need ‘green’ energy but on this island especially, surely the focus should be on wave energy, which is far more reliable, or even solar energy, whether on a large or small scale?

We can erect all the wind turbines we like, enough to power the entire country on a windy day, but what if the day isn’t windy? Because there is no storage option for wind energy, we’re left with no option but fossil-fuel back-up, plants that have to be run on a regular basis.

Diarmuid O’Flynn


Co Cork

Take heed of Greta

How can one young woman, Greta Thunberg, tower over the world leaders? These are the people who direct our paths for the next decades and yet at the Cop26 they spoke loudly but did little and they need to be called out for that as they were by Greta.

There is no reason why the message from one individual cannot be the right message. We all need to work to improve the environment before we get a once-in-a-century event every week as seems to be happening with the fires and floods that are happening in many places.

Maybe it’s time for the world’s leaders to listen to even one young voice as they are the ones that are going to be living in the world that these leaders leave us, long after they are gone.

Keep up the good work, Greta.

Dennis Fitzgerald

Vic Melbourne


€290k salary and perks a disgrace

It’s outrageous and beggars belief that the HSE pays €290,000 as salary to a so-called Secretary-General of the Department of Health who has, according to Cianan Brennan ( Irish Examiner, Friday, November 5) “behaved with utter disregard for transparency and accountability on the issue of his controversial salary”.

Robert Watt, Secretary-General of the Department of Health. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Robert Watt, Secretary-General of the Department of Health. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Of course, Robert Watt is laughing all the way to the bank, not only with his obscene salary but also with additional perks and gross pension. This is at a time when this country is on its knees economically. There is no other country in the developed world that pays such salaries to individuals in similar positions. It is an absolute disgrace and a further indictment of the political class supposedly running this country.

Patrick O’Brien


Kerry Pike

What is wrong with WIT as it is?

Ray Griffin ( Irish Examiner, Opinion, November 4) fancifully invokes the spectre of Machiavelli and Richlieu in his over-egged diatribe on the subject of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and its forlorn quest to attain full university status. He frames the frustrated yearning as something of an ingrained political bias promoted and perpetrated by the “cute hoors and sneaking regarders” who populate the Irish political classes, borrowing an emotive description from erstwhile sociologist Paddy O’Carroll.

What’s the beef? What is wrong with WIT as is, if it works towards continually developing high-quality academic programmes which aspiring students will be drawn to engage with? Simply acquiring the status of university does nothing to bolster standards, promote excellence or deliver high-quality graduates.

Such features lie in the determined and creative commitment to constant growth in standards and relevance to societal needs in the round. Granting university status should be about more than local pride and the ‘Machiavellian’ instincts of academics who are seeking vacuous status and salary hikes. WIT can well operate as a valuable third-level academic institution if it enhances its own reputation via constant improvement.


WIT has been a world-class academic institution for the past 150 years, famed and respected for having developed and produced all sorts of innovative research, with a wide spectrum and direct application to practical realities. It doesn’t seek to change its name to garner shallow accreditation boons. It simply goes about delivering excellence across the board, and perennially so.

I simply don’t buy the absolute need for WIT to transmogrify by title to university. Such aspirational dynamics hover more within the academic-staffing edifice and institutional executive, rather than ‘cold-light-of-day’ assessment of the wider societal need.

Mr Griffin claims that “university degrees have become central to having a good life”, obviously oblivious to the many, many graduates who struggle to find any work appropriate to their college qualification. Fast-food restaurants are peppered with many such folk. Qualified craftsmen and tradesmen would likely be far more successful in ‘having a good life’, given their practical ‘hands-on’ pertinence to just about everybody’s well-being in the country.

Perhaps Ray Griffin might pipe down his personal polemic and focus more on the ongoing salient task of WIT enhancement through high-grade degree programmes which have direct, practical relevance to all and sundry. Thus will students be attracted and academic standards continue to flourish. With such vibrance, the south-east region can thrive and progress with due pride and quality across the board.

Jim Cosgrove

Lismore, Co Waterford

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