Saturday, April 21, 2007
Voters in four constituencies in Ireland will get the chance to vote for parents' rights in the forthcoming election after the Fathers Rights-Responsibility Party became the state's newest official political party this week.
Candidates include former MEP candidate Liam O'Gogain, a veteran campaigner for shared parenting and founder of campaigning organisation Parental Equality, and Alan Beirne, one of Parental Equality's leading members who came to public prominence when he featured in RTE's groundbreaking documentary series on divorce some years back.
Unlike our current Taoiseach, who had wealthy pals to buy him a house and bankroll his marital separation, many divorced and separated fathers in Ireland suffer real financial hardship when their relationships break down.
And unlike our current Taoiseach, they do not always gain unlimited or even any access to their children following separation.
The creakingly antique laws relating to parenting in Ireland are predicated on the outdated belief that a woman's place is in the home and the children's place is at her apron-strings.
Hence the phenomenon of so many children who are now being raised in Ireland without meaningful influence from their fathers. Around 40% of all births in Ireland are now to unmarried parents, but what those many fathers often do not realise is that the state gives their relationship with their children absolutely no protection.
They are not granted automatic guardianship of their children, and if they split with their children's mother, they must petition for access via the courts. They must also seek 'custody', that odious phrase with all its connotations of children as possessions.
Instances of bitter women denying fathers access to their kids, and being facilitated in doing so by our outdated legal system, run into the thousands. In fact, Irish fathers face the worst discrimination in Europe.
The adversarial, Kramer Versus Kramer, format pits mother against father on a queered playing pitch which ensures only that fathers must empty their pockets to finance their former partner's lives, while being simultaneously unable to have meaningful relationships with their children.
The result is that we are raising an experimental generation of children with no paternal input into their lives. Forget the media lie of deadbeat dads. We have a deadbeat system, and it is no wonder that it results in an ASBO generation where the Department of Social Welfare has become husband to lone mothers and father to their children.
The Fathers Rights-Responsibility Party advocate a mediated, shared parenting system that benefits all, especially the children.
To all voters in constituencies where their candidates are running, I urge you to offer these candidates a preference in the forthcoming election, a first preference if possible.
That way, you can send a message out to the incoming government, whoever they may be, that it is time we dragged our legal system out of the dark ages for our children's sake.