I am very glad to get some speaking time on this historic Bill. I congratulate the Minister on her efforts to bring it before the House. There is a saying that life sometimes imitates art but in my case, it is a case of politics imitating my life. When I was elected to this Dáil, I was a single parent and my daughter and I were unrecognised by the State. I am very glad to see that when passed, this legislation will change that for so many parents who parent alone for a range of different reasons. Since my election to the House, my life has moved on, like that of other people.
I am now a married woman. This Bill will give recognition to my new form of family and to my daughter's stepfather. I anxiously await the introduction of the adoption legislation. The Minister will be aware that where a person who has a child marries or remarries and the new partner wishes to adopt that child under current law both people must adopt the child, which is nonsense. I told my daughter that I would be speaking in the House about this issue today. She does not want me to have to adopt her. I respect her opinion on that. I eagerly await the adoption legislation which will further formalise the recognition of our family in this State.
This is powerful legislation. Ireland has moved on. As legislators, we are often scolded for not moving quickly enough on issues affecting people outside this House. I know from my experience as a social worker and my engagement with families trying to look after children in particularly difficult circumstances that the unsung heroes in this regard are the grandparents. In bestowing guardianship rights on grandparents this legislation will be transformational for families and children. I do not say that lightly. A child's sense of belonging and identity is wrapped up in the home in which he or she lives and the person who cares for him or her. No child should feel that he or she is somehow lesser than the child he or she sits beside in school or plays with on the football or hockey team. This legislation will bring an end to that for many children and families throughout the country.
The Bill also makes provision for the children of same-sex couples, which is hugely important. I have many friends who are currently in that situation and whose children, again, feel left out or different in some way. As I said, this legislation, in terms of the child-centred approach therein, is powerful legislation. The old adage that children should be seen and not heard is the type of philosophy that surrounded the manner in which family life and family legislation in this country was constructed over the last number of years. I am always horrified by how often in family law cases the voice of the child is not only not heard but not consulted. That we are taking a child-centred approach to this legislation will be transformational for these children and their families.
It is a great sense of pride for a State to be able to recognise, acknowledge and confer an official status on a family. I do not think we can under-value this. It is hugely important. This is a significant step forward for Ireland as a country. As a young student in college it always was a source of amusement for me that Article 41 of the Constitution only recognised the married family. We all know that the tapestry of family life is so much more intricate and stitched together in different ways than the idealised nuclear family. It is extremely important to the development of a child, emotionally and socially, that he or she has a sense of identity when growing up, that there is no big kerfuffle when he or she has to provide a birth certificate for school purposes and that he or she does not have to endure the embarrassment of having to go court in order to get a passport when every other child does not have to jump through those types of hoops. For the children who live in a diverse array of family situations to be officially recognised is powerful. I am excited that as a Government we are at long last legislating on this issue.
The guardianship rights afforded under this legislation to step-parents will be hugely helpful to families. I hope that priority will be given in the adoption legislation to address the situation of a single parent family which later becomes a married family and the step-parent wishes to adopt the child. Any change in this regard will be powerful for many families throughout the country. I eagerly await that legislation.
I know from the briefings and build up to the introduction of this legislation that drafting it has been technically difficult and onerous. However, it is worth it. I commend the Minister and her officials for their work in that regard. I believe that as a result of this legislation children will have a proper sense of who they are and a proper recognition of the families in which they live. I will be eagerly following the debate on the legislation as it moves through all Stages.