Independent Senator Sharon Keogan has officially resigned from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, saying she no longer feels safe serving in that capacity.
RTÉ reports that Senator Keogan sent an email to Committee Chair and Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion, as well as fellow committee members, with the subject line “Unsafe Working Environment/ Resignation”.
This development follows the suspension of the Oireachtas surrogacy committee last Thursday, April 21, when Senator Keogan was called “disrespectful”, “crude” and “cold” towards those who told their stories of surrogacy. The senator said she “wholeheartedly objects to the commercialisation of the human child and the relegation of women to the status of simply incubator or wombs for hire irrespective of whether you are heterosexual, single, lesbian, gay or trans”.
“Surrogacy I believe is harmful,” she continued, “it is exploitative and it is unethical. I don’t believe it is everyone’s right to have a child. It is a privilege to give birth and it can be dangerous even to those with the best medical attention.”
The senator’s words caused a stir in the Oireachtas with Elaine Cohalan, chairperson of the Assisted Human Reproduction Coalition, posing a rebuttal.
“Inflammatory language and using undefined terms don’t benefit the debate,” she said. “Our members are ordinary people who have been in some cases through harrowing experiences. We are Irish citizens, your constituents, you are our representatives.”
“I can tell you, words matter,” she continued, speaking as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Outright opposing something because of a personal bigotry or belief is not critically engaging with a topic,” said Senator Lynn Ruane, who acknowledged the vulnerable position of those who shared their stories prior to Senator Keogan’s comments.
Chairperson Funchion, who was presiding over the meeting at the time, brought the discussion to a halt, expressing that she would not stand over a meeting “where there is any sort of disrespect to witnesses in this room”. To Senator Keogan, she directly added, “you know yourself you have been disrespectful at times over the last number of meetings”.
Following the resignation email, Chairperson Funchion said, “It is always disappointing when any member resigns from a committee and I thank her for her contribution.”
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