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New organisation to fight ‘anti-child legislation’

By Susan Gately - 11 October, 2014

Economist Prof Ray Kinsella, lecturer Smurfit Business School

Economist Prof Ray Kinsella, lecturer Smurfit Business School

For twenty or thirty years the family has been systematically de-constructed in Ireland, a leading Irish academic has warned.

According to Professor Ray Kinsella, Chairman of a newly formed group called ‘Mothers and Fathers matter’, the final element is the attempted severing of the link between a child and his or her biological parents through a proposed bill due to come before the Dáil before Christmas.

The Children and Family Relationships Bill published in late September aims to bring “legal clarity to parentage, guardianship, custody and access for diverse families” according to Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, who insists the bill puts the interests of children “centre stage”.

‘Mothers and Fathers Matter’ says the planned Bill is deeply anti-child in its present form and needs major amendments.

Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Professor Kinsella said there were a number of provisions that were “highly damaging to children”.

“The presumption on the part of the Government is that it doesn’t matter what [family] structure you put together. They [the structures] should be driven by the decisions of individuals or adults rather than by the needs of children.”

Actually, a mother and a father do matter terribly to children, he added. “This piece of legislation wishes that away in the interests of ideology. It is a bad piece of legislation – bad for children and bad for their sense of identity.”

The legislation proposes to:

  • Modernise the law regarding the parental rights of children living in “diverse family forms”;
  • Establish that the best interests of the child are paramount in decisions on custody, guardianship and access;
  • Extend automatic guardianship to non-marital fathers who have lived with the child’s mother for at least 12 months, including 3 months following the child’s birth;
  • Enable civil partnered or cohabiting couples to be eligible jointly to adopt a child;
  • Allow civil partners, step-parents, those cohabiting with the biological parent and those acting in loco parentis for a specified period to apply for guardianship and custody.

The bill also deals with the legal relationships that arise through Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR).

holding handsProfessor Kinsella is particularly critical of  how parentage is to be assigned in AHR cases seeing it as the “commodification of children”.

“Any two or three people seem to have the right to manipulate scientific discoveries in genetics to order a child.”

Legislation that normalises a situation in which a child is deprived of a right to a [biological ] mother and father is not only out of kilter with international practise, but also flies in the face of commonsense, he said.

“Common sense tells you that a  [biological] mother and father can’t be switched around  like pieces on a chess board.  Nobody will have the same understanding of your biological child as you have.”

Professor Kinsella recognised that there were single parent families and adoptive families who were ‘heroic’ and doing a great job, but “the mainstream situation should predicate the legislation”.

Adoptive parents can be wonderful people, but even then “a child will inevitably search for his or her identity. There is a strong impulse to know the biological parents.”

In its present form, the Children and Family Relationships Bill authorises adults to use eggs or sperm from fertility clinics in order to have children regardless of whether the commissioning adult, or adults can provide the subsequent child with both a mother and a father, say Mothers and Fathers Matter.

“As we read the bill a child can have three mothers – a genetic mother, a carrier mother and an intending mother. When relationships form or break up, a child could be left without the sense of permanency that you have when you have a biological father and mother.”

Paraphrasing Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, he said “Future generations will look back and ask the question: ‘How did we convince ourselves that any kind of arrangements that meet the desires of a number of adults are right for a child?'”

He called for a forum to address the issues raised in the legislation.

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