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Friday, July 20, 2007

Supreme Court ruling today


Lost among all the important events of the day, like the Sopranos finale, was an interesting ruling from the Supreme Court.

The birth mother of an infant was permitted the right to continue to appeal for guardianship and joint custody of her fourteen month old child, which the father wishes to remove to Australia for at least a year.

The father, who is in a gay relationship, had sought to take the child to the ends of the earth with his gay lover, but the Supreme Court has ruled in a majority 2-1 decision that he must at least wait until the mother's court appeals to have the rights to see and know her own child have been heard.

Ridiculous? Of course it is. No mother would ever be treated like that in Ireland. It never happened. Only it did, sort of. Swap the genders around and you have the real story.

What I find bizarre is that the father, as this RTE report reveals, has had to go all the way to the Supreme Court just to be permitted the right to ASK for rights to know his own child, before the child's mother and her lesbian lover whisk the infant off to Australia.

One day, perhaps, we might eventually see some equity in parenting in this country. But that dissenting judge's opinion in the Supreme Court today indicates that it won't be any day soon.

12 comments:

b3n said...

WHAT??!!! This is absolutely ridiculus. It's the last ever Sopranos?!?

Yet another example of how the Irish legal system fails Irish fathers.

JC Skinner said...

Aye. The ending was cack too. I don't want to spoil it for you, but I'm gonna. Here's what I said about their cop-out ending on politics.ie:
"Obviously the writers ran out of ideas. No need here to start thinking the emperor is wearing clothes. He isn't. It's not some smart post-modern conceit. They just couldn't think of an ending.
It's not the first time a top telly show got derailed by the writers plotting themselves into corners they couldn't write their way out of.
I recall feeling cheated by Twin Peaks on similar grounds. It's fairly evident from the few glimpses I've caught that Lost will deteriorate in the same way. This is nothing new and it's not original."

Medbh said...

JC, this case is but one example of how the patriarchy harms men. Article 41 in the Irish Constitution defines women as mothers, placing all of the benefits as well as the burdens of parenthood on women.
de Valera wanted to shut women up in the home and keep them out of national affairs, but he also set the precedent for men to be considered secondary in custody disputes.

JC Skinner said...

I's concur with that as the root cause of this situation, Medbh, but I'd query why it is that, decades after women took their place in the workplace, men are still utterly discriminated against in the home.
A case of women enjoying prejudice that plays in their favour, perhaps?

Medbh said...

Women in the work force in large numbers is still a relatively new phenomenon, J.C., less than twenty years ago. Women are still largely defined as mother/wife. The judicial system, along with the political system, are both run by men. Not to be nit-picky, but seeing as how the High Court intervenes to tell women if they can even leave the country to have an abortion, I wouldn't say that Irish law favors women in general.

JC Skinner said...

Straw man, Medbh. I suggested that it suits women to preserve laws that provoke prejudice in their favour, such as child access and custody issues.
I'd be keen to hear your viewpoint on that.
As for abortion, it's been repeatedly the subject of referenda in this country. Like or don't like the law we have, it's the people who decided that one.

Medbh said...

Your beef is with the men who make the laws and enforce the laws, JC. How many women are deciding custody cases in court? Women make up less than 10% of the Dail. It's also worth noting that men seeking custody of their kids is a relatively recent trend, a product of both economic and cultural shifts.

JC Skinner said...

Actually, many of the family law cases are decided by female judges. Due to the unfair in camera ruling that oversees such cases, no statistics are available on the proportion of female to male judges deciding these cases. But anecdotally, I've never encountered a case yet that was overseen by a male judge, though I'm sure they do exist.
As for the Dail, the members are reliant on votes and those who shout the loudest get heard the most. It's no surprise that there is no lobby within parliament to revamp the status of children act except when a father forces the issue through the supreme court, since the voices heard by TDs are invariably those of the likes of Cherish, who lobby strenuously (with my taxpayers' funding) for the status quo of auto-custody for women.

Medbh said...

Hi JC, According to a report done by Trinity Law School
http://www.tcd.ie/Law/WomeninLaw.html
1 in 5 judges in Ireland is a woman, making up 21% of the population. While that's much higher than Northern Ireland, it's not a huge sum issuing arbitrary rulings against fathers.
Your personal experience with these cases stands unchallenged, as our own stories are meaningful just as much as anything else. I do think that when men are getting the short end of the stick, it doesn't sit easily.
Irish men have just as much right to their kids as far as I'm concerned. I just don't think anyone's plotting against them.

JC Skinner said...

True, no one's plotting against them. Though organisations like Cherish do lobby against them.
I'd love to conduct some research into how often female judges like Catherine McGuinness oversee family law cases compared to the average male judge. Sadly the in camera ruling does not facilitate such research being conducted.
Is it possible that gender stereotyping occurs in terms of the types of cases assigned to judges? You don't hear complaints of that nature but then again, if those discussions were to ever occur, they'd not be happening in public, I guess.
Like I said, I don't see any great plot, so much as an utter lack of will to change things to benefit the children and parents involved in these cases. It's not like there aren't better, more equitable examples of legal frameworks out there. Scandinavia comes to mind. Even the US has a much more equitable and child-focused system.
Perhaps, now that Alan Shatter is back in the Dail, we might see some movement on this issue. Though with him in opposition, I won't hold my breath.

Medbh said...

The U.S. used to be just as prone to award custody to the mother as Ireland. The film "Kramer vs. Kramer" did a good job examining how unfair the family courts system could be to fathers, and it wasn't all that long ago, either. I'm guessing similar reforms and adjustments in attitude will come to Ireland in the recent future.
Cheers, J.C.

JC Skinner said...

I love that film.
Cheers to you too, Medbh.