Call for legislation to treat surrogate mothers equally
A Galway City councillor has called on the Health Minister to consider introducing legislation giving surrogate mothers maternity leave so they are not treated any differently from natural or adoptive parents.
Fine Gael Cllr Padraig Conneely said he is aware of several couples in Galway who have become parents through a surrogacy arrangement abroad.
Surrogacy is a way for a childless couple or individual to have a child, with a surrogate mother carrying the child. The surrogate mother agrees to be artificially inseminated or to have an embryo transferred to her womb in order to become pregnant. She then carries the child to term with the intention of giving custody of the child to the “commissioning” person or couple.
The law currently only gives maternity leave and pay to the surrogate mother who will be giving birth to the baby or to a mother who has adopted a child.
“I think it’s terribly wrong if a [surrogate] mother can’t get maternity leave, yet they can get it if they have adopted. These parents are the registered parents of the baby. It’s very unfair,” said Cllr Conneely.
“I wrote to Health Minister Simon Harris urging him to change the legislation. I have spoken to the HSE and to the City Council and they have confirmed there are more and more surrogate parents trying to get maternity benefits.
“I think times have moved on, surrogacy is an increasing option for parents who otherwise cannot have children. I understand it’s complicated but it is something that needs to be examined in the current environment.”
There is no Irish legislation to cover the legal issues arising from surrogacy.
In 2014 the European Court of Justice ruled that women who use surrogate mothers did not have a legal right to maternity leave when the baby is born.
The following year a woman lost her High Court case alleging the State’s refusal to pay her maternity benefit amounted to unlawful discrimination and breached the Equal Status Act.
More Irish couples are turning to surrogacy in Ireland due to medical reasons, often following multiple miscarriages or after the woman has had a hysterectomy.
Surrogacy is being seen as a more pragmatic solution rather than adoption as international adoption is almost at a standstill and Irish adoption is exceedingly rare.
When health minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised that provision for altruistic, but not commercial, surrogacy would be made in legislation on assisted human reproduction, which has still not come into force.
New bridge in Galway ‘pointless for people on bicycles’
From the Galway City Tribune – An advocate for cycling infrastructure in Galway has labelled the city’s newest cycle and pedestrian bridge as ‘pointless’ for people on bikes travelling from the Cathedral to Newtownsmyth.
Galway City Council and National Transport Authority (NTA) said the bridge would remove conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic on the existing bridge.
And it would also facilitate the BusConnects Cross-City Link scheme over the 200-year-old bridge, which is currently with An Bord Pleanála.
But Shane Foran, a cycling campaigner and community member of the Council’s Transport Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), claimed there is confusion whether people on bikes can access Newtownsmyth by turning right off the new bridge.
He said that a review of the BusConnects proposal, “shows them to be inconsistent with the claimed purpose of the new bridge”.
“According to the drawings, there is to be a new one-way street arrangement at Newtownsmyth going north. There is no apparent provision for cyclists to move ‘contra-flow’ to the south.
“Therefore how are cyclists travelling east-west to lawfully access the new cycle bridge from the Newtownsmyth side? The new legal restrictions will arguably also make it pointless for most eastbound cyclists, coming from the university direction, to use the new bridge to travel west to east,” Mr Foran said.
In a submission to An Bord Pleanála on the BusConnects plan, he sought clarity on whether cyclists can travel both ways along Newtownsmyth, to and from the new bridge.
“From my reading of the plans, that would be forbidden. You would no longer lawfully be able to do that,” he said.
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A similar submission to ABP was made by the Galway City Community Network.
“It is not the intention of the proposed scheme to restrict access for cyclists to or from the new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge,” the Council said in response.
“The proposed scheme intends that Newtownsmyth will be made a cul-de-sac utilising retractable bollards. The section of Newtownsmyth between the bollards and St Vincent’s Avenue is proposed to act as a shared space for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Both pedestrians and cyclists will be permitted to traverse Newtownsmyth in both directions when the bollards are up, permitting access and egress in both directions for cyclists.
“References in the design to one-way relate to vehicles exiting Newtownsmyth during the loading window when the bollards are retracted and are not intended to restrict cyclist permeability,” it told ABP.
But Mr Foran was not convinced. “What happens when the bollards are down and if that section is made one-way for vehicles what legal mechanism makes it two-way for bicycles?” he asked.
Galway City Council to make formal complaint over ads for short-term lets
Galway City Council will write to the Advertising Standards Authority to complain that short-term rental properties in Rent Pressure Zones are in breach of their planning permission and should be removed from the likes of Airbnb.
Green Party Councillor Niall Murphy told a meeting of Galway City Council that there had been regulations in place to restrict such short-term lets in the RPZs since 2019, but enforcement has been weak due a lack of staff in the local authority.
Difficulties identifying owners and a lack of resources had meant that landlords have been able to ignore the rules and carry on business as normal.
While further legislation is on the way that will lead to Fáilte Ireland maintaining a register of properties, it has been repeatedly delayed.
“The Advertising Standards Authority can pressure Airbnb to see if a property has planning permission and is within the limit,” said Cllr Murphy.
Properties advertised within RPZs, which are let for more than 90 days, are breaking the law.
Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab) said the motion shouldn’t be specific to Airbnb as there were multiple letting platforms advertising properties in Galway.
While he agreed with the spirit of the motion, he said policing the amount of days landlords were letting properties out was “exceptionally difficult”.
Cllr Murphy said he understood that complaints had to mention specifically the platform where adverts were placed.
The only voice of disagreement came from Cllr Noel Larkin (Ind) who said he did not agree with dictating to property owners what they could and could not do with their properties.
Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) tabled an amendment to remove reference to Airbnb and instead ask them to complain about short-term letting platforms.
It passed by 15 votes to 1.
After the meeting, Cllr Murphy said letting platforms should be pressurised into refusing to carry those adverts in breach of the regulations.
“While there is a place in the market for short term-letting platforms such as Airbnb, they have to operate within the current regulations. Many of the customers on such well-known platforms would not be aware that the advert they are answering is actually in breach of the law,” he said.
‘No significant numbers’ in Galway hospitals linked to vaping
From the Galway City Tribune – Vaping and e-cigarette usage has not been linked to the admission of “significant numbers” at Galway hospitals.
A meeting of Regional Health Forum West was told that despite anecdotal reports of the damage caused by vaping, very few patients had presented to hospitals with health issues as a result of e-cigarette usage.
Chief Executive Officer of the Saolta Health Care Group, Tony Canavan (pictured), made the comments in reply to a question from Leitrim-based councillor Felim Gurn who said he had been told “the damage done over 30 years of smoking” was less than that caused “three years vaping”.
Mr Canavan provided information from National Tobacco Free Ireland which states: “It is highly likely that chronic use of e-cigarettes will induce pathological changes in both the heart and lungs”.
He said a Department of Health report found that most of the observed clinical harms were due to acute events associated with the use of e-cigarettes.
“They included poisonings (mainly nicotine and some e-liquid constituents), injuries (mainly burns and some fractures), and respiratory diseases (mainly injuries to the lungs and exacerbation of asthma).
“There were fatalities among the poisonings and respiratory disease cases, and long-term disability among some burn cases. Both the poisoning cases and the respiratory disease cases highlighted a possible association between e-cigarettes, and the use of other drugs such as alcohol, synthetic cannabinoids and opiates,” states the report.
Mr Canavan said while the HSE does not recommend the use of e-cigarettes, hospitals locally had not seen patients presenting with illnesses as a direct result of their usage.
“The short answer is no – we haven’t seen a significant number.
“There are lots of comments, opinions and ideas but maybe not a whole lot of evidence at the moment,” said Mr Canavan.