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A couple I know recently adopted two little boys. The boys are four and five years old and had a very difficult start in life. I only know tiny bits of their history (I wouldn’t ask – it’s none of my business) but what I do know was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Initially, I welled up because of what the boys had seen and been through; then I welled up with gratitude that they had been removed from that situation and placed at the centre of a loving home and family.

These boys will be loved and cherished for the rest of their days. They now have the opportunity to have a childhood. They are part of an extended family which has embraced them and folded them into its bosom, letting them know that they are loved and accepted and wanted.

Should the unthinkable happen – and one of their parents become incapable, for whatever reason, of taking care of them – the other parent will step in and assume the role of sole care-giver. As is only right, of course, because they have adopted the boys together.

It’s just as well they’re in the UK, so, because they’d never get that security here in Ireland. You see, my friends – the adoptive parents – are gay. They have been in a committed relationship for over ten years, and five years ago, they become legally recognised as a couple. At the beginning of this year the adoption of their boys was finalised.

In Ireland, it is perfectly legal for a gay person to adopt a child – as a single person. Even if they are in a relationship, the non-adopting partner will not have equal parental rights – even though their relationship will have been taken into consideration during the adoption process.

This issue is back in the news again in Ireland because we have a new incoming government. They are ‘looking at things’ and trying to see what they can do to improve matters for citizens and residents.

I am stunned that we are even having a discussion about this. Why shouldn’t gay people be allowed to marry? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to adopt children as a couple? Surely the focus of any adoptive legislation should be on the child/ren involved and the perceived ability of the potential adoptive parents to parent?

Surely, as a nation, we should grow up and stop worrying about what loving, consenting adults do in their bedrooms? Surely, what is important is that the parents love each other and their children? Surely, all that matters is that children are loved, safe, secure and have their needs met? Surely, what their parents do or don’t do to express their love for each other in private is irrelevant?

I have heard the argument that the ‘ideal’ is for every child is to be brought up in a family with a mother and a father. And that’s marvellous – but guess what? Ideals are things we strive for, not standards that we impose as minimums and then use to punish people who don’t meet these minimums.

If we are to apply the ‘rule of ideals’ across the board and extrapolate it into every situation, I guess I should get my children ready to be taken into care. I’m a divorced woman with two children. That’s not ideal. My eldest child has not seen – or heard from – her father in five years. My youngest has never seen her father. Well, that’s not ideal either, is it?

I find it very difficult to comprehend how anyone would fight to deny a child a loving, secure, safe home. I am reminded of my own childhood. My parents were heterosexual and married to each other. For the first 15 years of my life, I went to bed worrying about which one of the heterosexual males floating around would get into bed beside me on any given night. I cried myself to sleep every night of my life until I was 20.

If you had offered me the choice between living with two, married heterosexual parents and suffering abuse – physical, mental, emotional, psychological and sexual – every day of my life and living with two homosexual parents who loved each other and loved me, I would have walked across hot coals to get access to the latter.

Heck! I’d have gone to live with two homosexual orang utans if it would have meant that I would have been safe.

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The Irish Times published a number of adoption related stories in recent months, one about how new legislation has affected current domestic adoptions followed by a more personal piece regarding three women who gave their children up for adoption. But it was a letter from one Father Con McGillicuddy which has caused me to brood a little on the subject. Father Con thought it ‘sad’ that women who did not want to be mothers chose abortion when there are – as he put it:

“There are many pro-life agencies such as Cura available to help women with unwanted pregnancies, providing guidance and facilities towards bringing their children to birth; children who could then be adopted by couples who would give them a happy life.”

All of which is laudable, except for one thing. For those women who travelled to the UK it is not just about what to do with a baby at the end of the pregnancy, but that they travel because they do not wish to be pregnant in the first place. They do not wish to be pregnant for 40 weeks, or go through an unwanted labour or deliver a child  and hand it over to strangers.

While I have nothing but sympathy for any woman or man longing yet unable to have a biological child, it is extremely questionable to suggest that women in a crisis pregnancy automatically become incubators for the childless. And while I take no umbrage with the sentiment behind what he wrote and agree that we ought to be supportive of women in crisis pregnancies, I feel we ought to be supportive of ALL of their decisions. I certainly think it is shameful that we as a nation are so eager to stick our heads in the sand while we export our problem to the UK. Five thousand women. Five thousand.

Father Con is right, it is sad commentary, but I doubt we feel that for the same reasons.

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