I would like to ask the Minister to tell the House in more detail why the Government chose to approach this whole problem in such a narrow context and only to propose an amendment to Article 37 as is contained in section 1 of this Bill referring to the Schedule and adding to Article 37 the words:
No adoption of a person taking effect or expressed to take effect at any time after the coming into operation of this Constitution under laws enacted by the Oireachtas and being an adoption in pursuant to an order made or an authorisation given by any person or body of persons designated by those laws to exercise such functions and powers was or shall be invalid by reason only of the fact that such person or body of persons was not a judge or a court appointed or established as such under this Constitution.
As I pointed out on Second Stage, the Labour Party in drafting a Bill to amend the Constitution drafted it in a much more balanced and much wider context and did not just take this narrow issue which undoubtedly does need constitutional reform and does need to be put in a referendum to the people.
I was disappointed that the Minister, in response to what I thought was a very useful debate in this House on Second Stage, replied extremely briefly and did not seem to explain adequately why the Government are involving the people in the expense and the administrative complexity of a referendum on the issue of adoption on such a narrow issue of family law and why the Minister still adamantly refuses to be prepared to broaden the Bill to amend the Constitution to include specifically the issues of removal of the status of illegitimacy and the granting of the right to be available for adoption to legitimate children in certain circumstances where they have been abandoned or where they have been so maltreated by their parents that it is necessary to find a substitute family for them.
The Minister cannot have it both ways. He said both in the Dáil and in this House that he believed there was a need for reform of the law related to illegitimacy, but not yet because there has not been enough homework done and so on. He appears to be very sympathetic to the problem of legitimate children who may spend their young lives either in institutional care or in the much less secure and less satisfactory care of fosterage, either long term or short term fosterage. I cannot understand why, if the Minister is sympathetic on both these issues, he does not use this opportunity, even at this stage, to broaden the terms of this Bill. I am aware that I may be asking him to get over a substantial procedural hurdle because I found it impossible to draft amendments to this Bill which would enable us to broaden its scope. It is outside the range of an individual Senator to do it, but I think that if there were Government concern in this International Year of the Child we could even at this late stage pass a Bill to amend the Constitution which would be worthwhile and make it worth having the whole involvement of people by way of a referendum.
Since the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, is sympathetic to the need for reform in the law relating to legitimacy and in regard to the hardship caused to legitimate children, I would like him to explain why this Bill is cast in such narrow terms and why it only deals with one problem where it could in a more balanced and comprehensive way deal with at least three problems in the context of one Bill to amend the Constitution.