A GAY man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple who wanted a baby has been granted access to the three-year-old boy, but not guardianship by the Supreme Court.
The little boy at the heart of the case was born in 2006 as a result of a sperm donation, following various efforts over three years by the mother to conceive.
This landmark case was taken by a 42-year-old gay man, identified only as ‘A’. The couple, who took part in a civil union ceremony in England some years ago, were not in court.
Mr Justice Hugh Geoghegan said access should be limited and a 2005 agreement with the couple under which the man was to have the status of a “favourite uncle”, while enforceable only to the extent it protected the child’s welfare, was sensible. Any closer connection, unless it had complete agreement, was likely to be “wholly disruptive” and against the child’s interests, he said.
Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said the man was largely responsible for the complete breakdown of mutual trust between himself and the couple after the child’s birth in 2006 as he had acted insensitively and departed from the agreement with the couple, claiming he should be recognised as the child’s father.
The Supreme Court also found the lesbian couple and child are not a family under the Constitution and ruled the High Court erred in finding they are a “de facto family” entitled to invoke family rights under article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The five judges of the Supreme Court unanimously overturned this decision.
After the child was born, the couple claimed the man became intrusive. They became fearful after he sought to see the child once a month and described himself as “a father” and the parties’ relationship deteriorated. The High Court described the relationship between the man and the child’s mother as “poisonous” and between him and the other woman as one of “armed neutrality”.
Ms Justice Susan Denham ruled there was no such institution as a ‘de facto’ family in Ireland and that the lesbian couple were not a family under the Constitution. She found the High Court had given insufficient weight to the fact that the man is the biological father of the child and she said he had rights as a natural father. She also found that there was benefit to a child, in general, to have the society of his father and was satisfied the High Court also gave insufficient weight to this factor.
The court ruled that if it was not possible for the parties to agree on access, the matter should be determined by the High Court.
The man was in court but did not want to comment afterwards. He hugged his lawyers repeatedly. They said he was “very, very happy” with the decision.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved