Press Release: Government's far-reaching reform puts children at centre of family law

Published date: 
10 Apr 2014

Thursday 10 April 2014: For immediate release

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, today outlined a range of innovative proposals in the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014. The draft legislation, published in January of this year, recognises and legislates for the social reality facing families and children in Ireland today.  The Minister was opening a seminar for the Children’s Rights Alliance which looked at the impact the proposed Children and Family Relationships Bill will have on children. A copy of Minister Shatter’s speech is available on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “The Children and Family Relationships Bill is the most significant reform of family law in a generation. It aims to reflect the reality of contemporary family life in Ireland. It is a modern Bill for the modern family. Over the past 25 years a seismic shift has taken place in terms of family structure. The legislation provides legal clarity and challenges discrimination faced by non-marital families, unmarried fathers, same sex couples, grandparents, foster carers and those who availed of assisted human reproduction and surrogacy. Importantly, the Bill will require courts to listen to children and make decisions in their best interests in family law cases.”

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection said: “The Children and Family Relationships Bill will not only radically overhaul many existing rules, it will create new rights for parents, both biological and social, and, most critically, for children. The constitutional preference for families based on marriage remains intact, but it is essential to provide legal certainty for all families, whatever their official status. The provisions relating to guardianship, custody and access will bring a diverse range of family types in from the cold. The important changes to adoption law are a crucial recognition of the valuable contribution that can be made to the lives of children by substitute parents, regardless of their sexual orientation or civil status.”

Dr Deirdre Madden, University College Cork said: “I welcome the aim of the Bill to create a legal structure to underpin diverse parenting situations and to bring legal clarity on parental rights and duties. However, there are a number of policy issues in the Bill which require further discussion and justification such as the exclusion of posthumous reproduction after death, the restriction of surrogacy to gestational surrogacy only, and the non-eligibility of genetic parents to apply for a declaration of parentage if payment provisions are contravened. The stated aim of the Bill is to ensure that the best interests of the child are paramount, which is a welcome aspiration. However, it is regrettable there is no mention of the child’s right to identify its genetic parent in circumstances of sperm, egg or embryo donation.”

For further information, please contact:
Bríd McGrath
Tel: 087-7708631

Notes to Editor:
•    The event  was chaired by Judge Catherine McGuinness and also involved Mánus DeBarra of the Ombusdman for Children’s Office.  
•    To follow the event on Twitter use @ChildRightsIRE  #CFRBILL
•    Review the Children’s Rights Alliance initial submission on the Children and Family Relationships Bill here  
•    The draft Children and Family Relationship Bill 2014 is currently being examined by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.

Children's Rights Alliance