Father's rights. Mr G and the high court.
"Campaigners have welcomed the outcome of a landmark High Court case on the rights of unmarried fathers.
Today the court ruled that the rights of an unmarried father were breached after his former partner removed his children from Ireland without his consent.
The ruling has significant implications for unmarried parents in the future and has already sparked a call for a constitutional referendum.
The High Court has ruled that the removal of twin boys from Ireland to England was wrongful and in breach of the rights of their father.
A man known as Mr G, who was the unmarried father of two-year-old twin boys, took the action after his former partner took them to England without prior warning or consent.
In a lengthy judgment, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie ruled that the action by the mother breached the rights of the father even though the couple were not married.
Under the Constitution, unmarried fathers have no immediate right to the custody of their children.
However Judge McKechnie concluded that the boys had been resident in Ireland and the couple had lived their lives in a fashion similar to a married couple.
The court heard that the father dropped and collected his children from school and was the only contact that a local crèche had when dealing with the boys.
A District Court case in which judgment was reserved last March involved Mr G applying for custody and guardianship, Judge McKechnie said today that as of 9 March there were rights of custody as a result of the District Court application.
In line with this he said the mother's refusal to return the children was unlawful.
Mr G was represented by Michael McDowell SC who said that the issue of costs was yet to be decided. Mr G has also taken action in the English courts, a stay on proceedings had been issued to await the outcome of the High Court case in Ireland.
Some legal experts say that while the judgment does provide a framework for new legislation to safeguard the rights of unmarried parents, this particular case may not set a precedent."
The rights of unmarried fathers in Ireland has long been a bitter battle to many. Custody of children is usually granted to the mothers and fathers are frequently denied access to their children as the parents war and hostilities over the split colours judgement. Fathers who were active in their children's lives struggle when reduced to weekend fathers, seeking to build a relationship with their children over a limited time.
Now, it's not all one sided. There is more than one man who has been granted access and abuse that by not turning up and by refusing to pay maintenance for his child or children. There are mothers who get their kids up for school every day, put them to bed every night and are doing their level best to hold their family together as best they can without a second parent's help or interest and resent then the court's decision.
It's a quagmire.
But what of the children? What about their rights?
In an ideal world children should have access to their parents. They should have a right to live a child's life, to love both parents without guilt, to see both parents. They should grow up with a loving family, they should be shielded from arguments and vicious splits, hostilities.
They should never be made to choose between two parents.
If a family unit breaks apart, then it is incumbent upon parents to protect their children from a situation they had no part in and no control over. If the children have had a good relationship with their father and their father's family then I think it is down right cruel to prevent them from continuing that relationship. Parents should not run the other one down in front of the child. It's not that child's fault if the parents can't stand each other. It's not that child's fault that an adult union broke down. It is not that child's fault if Dad didn't pay that month, it is not that child's fault if Mum is to attend a wedding that weekend and wants to change the agreement.
It is never the child's fault, so why are they made to suffer?
I have never condoned automatic custody to either parent. I think cases need to be judged individually. I also think it would be in everyone's best interests if you could keep the courts completely out of it.
As adults, the parents must set aside their personal differences and decide what is the best they can do for the children. Sometimes that means sitting down with the 'enemy' and hashing out a way forward. Easier said than done I know. But if it can be done it should be.