An Oireachtas Committee tasked with examining laws to regulate surrogacy has been suspended after one member was accused of being "crude and cold" towards those who had shared their experiences.

Senator Lynn Ruane accused Senator Sharon Keogan of being "personal" towards witnesses, adding she should "check her Christian values".

Ms Keogan responded that the committee should not be used as an "echo chamber for one view" and that it should allow space for all perspectives.

Ms Keogan told committee witness Gearoid Kenny Moore, who, with his husband, had twins through surrogacy, that he was "extremely lucky to be here today".

The committee had been hearing from a number of representatives from the Assisted Human Reproductive Coalition.

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Committee chair, Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion suspended the meeting, saying there were people who had been waiting for years for legal issues around surrogacy to be properly examined.

"Their children have grown up without it," she said.

Earlier, Senator Keogan told the committee that surrogacy was "harmful, exploitative and unethical" and "not in the best interest of the child".

She said: "I don't believe it is everyone's right to have a child. It is a privilege to give birth."

Ms Keogan said it was important that the surrogate mother was not "airbrushed out of the process".

She said: "If we have learned anything from the mother and baby home scenario, where people were trying to find out who they were and where they came from and they couldn't do that, I want to see this regulated but it is so important that we don't airbrush and whitewash the birth mother out of the process."

Elaine Coholan of the Assisted Human Reproductive Coalition said it was very important that members of the Committee "think about your responsibility to lead the debate in a respectful, dignified way, around surrogacy" and to be aware that their words matter.

"Inflammatory language and using undefined terms do not benefit the debate. Our members are ordinary people who have, in some cases, been through harrowing experiences. We are doing our best to be good parents to our much loved children," she said.

Mothers are 'legal strangers' to their children

Mothers of children born through surrogacy have been forced to sit in hospital car parks as they undergo medical treatment because they are "legal strangers" to their own children, the committee heard.

Ciara Merrigan, Chairperson of Irish Families through Surrogacy, said Covid restrictions in healthcare settings, where only one person can accompany a child in hospital, added an extra strain to families of children born through surrogacy.

A genetic mother is not recognised as the mother under Irish law, and in some cases fathers have to wait up to five years to be assigned parental rights, depending on what county they live in, she said.

"This can effectively leave the child stateless and parentless until such a time that the father can be granted the parental order," Ms Merrigan told the committee.

"A number of our members have had to bring their children's father to their newborn vaccinations, or their Covid vaccination appointments, because the mother is not allowed to consent to the administration of vaccines," she said.

"If children are hospitalised we legally cannot give medical consent for their care. Due to Covid restrictions, just one parent can accompany the child.

"This separation has been extremely distressing for both our members and their children. Mothers have spent their time being forced to sit out in hospital car parks as they await news on their children, desperate to comfort them," she said.

Ms Merrigan, who pursued surrogacy because of a cancer diagnosis, said she cannot enrol her 3-year-old twins in school or creche: "Their father has to sign the forms," she said.

"As mothers, we cannot apply for our children's passport. The father applies for the passport as a single father. Mothers cannot travel alone with their children without showing proof from the father to travel abroad. A number of our members have had experiences of being questioned at passport control," she said.

As a result of having no legal link to their children, mothers worry about their children's identity and report feeling like an "imposter" on a daily basis, she said: "We as their mother require permission from their father to apply for guardianship status. If there was to be a marriage breakup the wife would be left in a very vulnerable position in terms of rights over their children, which could be used against them in an exploitative way.

"Our children were created by us, albeit in a non-traditional manner. We are their constant, their advocates. We are their mammies and we are their family.

"They have no other parents other than us. Our children's needs are paramount, they need stability and certainty from the benefit of having two legally recognised parents. Our Irish children deserve respect, dignity and equality," she said.