Clare court hears schoolgirl, aged 15, has left Ireland to marry 'young lad' in England

By Gordon Deegan

A 15-year-old Co. Clare schoolgirl has left school and her home to get married to a "young lad" in the UK, a court heard today.

In court today, the girl's mother said that her daughter went missing earlier this summer in the UK to be with the boy who she is now engaged to.

Giving sworn evidence, the mother said that her daughter has told her that she is booked to get married to the lad on July 23 next in the UK - the day she celebrates her 16th birthday.

In court, the teen's mother said that her daughter does not want to come back to school in Ireland.

She said: "If she comes back and goes to school she is afraid that she will be left sitting and he could meet someone else and her life could be destroyed.

"She is after running away. It is Traveller culture. We have to go with it. It is not what we want. It is what she wants. I was married young myself. Her sisters were married at 16. We were hoping that she would be different. She has tried everything to keep us happy, but she wasn’t happy."

The girl’s parents were in court today concerning a prosecution being taken against them by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) for the girl’s poor school attendance prior to her absconding in the UK.

The settled Traveller girl had an absentee rate of 41% between October 2016 and February of this year and the absentee rate improved to 17% for the remainder of the girl’s second year in secondary school.

However, solicitor for the CFA, Kevin Sherry said that the girl has missed 32 days out of the 32 days in school in the current school year as she has absconded and is living with a brother in the UK.

Solicitor for the girl’s parents, Daragh Hassett said that “her ambition in life is to meet a boy and get married and judge she has told you that herself when she met you before”.

Mr Hassett said that it is not a case that the girl was bullied at school or that she was difficult. He said: “She just didn’t like school and wants to get married.”

The girl is not attending school in the UK either.

The judge said that both parents were at risk of being sent to jail when he gives sentence in the case.

The mother said: “My daughter is refusing to come home. She wants to be beside the boy. I know it is wrong. We are not forcing her to do this. It is not a made marriage."

The woman said that her daughter went missing in the UK and ran away with the young lad while the family were over there caring for a sick grandchild.

She said: “We reported her missing to the police. After three days, she got in touch with us to say that she would only return unless we gave her permission to marry this boy and only then we got her back.”

The mother described the girl as “a mature young lady”. She said: “It is what she wants and we have to go with it.”

Mr Hassett said that the family has six other kids and there was never an issue concerning their school attendance record.

The judge told the girl’s mother that the evidence from the CFA is that she has not played her role fully in persuading her daughter to go to school.

In reply, the mother said: “We have tried our best.”

The judge said that he would give sentence in the case in two weeks' time.

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