A group of protesting fathers claimed Mr McDowell has applied to the UN for permission to prevent them from being granted the same legal rights as the mothers of their children.
“It’s in total breach of the Equality Act 2000 where you cannot discriminate against people on the basis of race, age, religion, status or gender,” said Eamon Quinn, spokesman for the Unmarried and Separated Fathers of Ireland support organisation.
The fathers’ group yesterday held the first of two Christmas-time Dublin protests against the legal treatment of their members.
According to Mr Quinn, Mr McDowell applied last June for special permission which would deny equal legal rights to unmarried fathers. He said the proviso was contained in Irish submissions for proposed amendments to the UN human rights declaration.
The submission included the following statement: “Ireland is of the view that the attainment in Ireland of the objective of the convention does not necessitate the extension to men of rights identical to those accorded by law to women in respect of the guardianship, adoption and custody of children born out of wedlock and reserves the right to implement the convention subject to that understanding.”
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said our legislation was “gender neutral” and was therefore not biased towards women.
Decisions in regard to family law were matters for the courts. However, Mr McDowell intended to make changes to the in camera rule which would allow family law cases to be reported while maintaining the anonymity of the persons involved.
Family law cases are held in camera and the fathers’ group believes that justice behind closed doors is “no justice”.
They claimed men could be disposed of as ‘rubbish’ in relation to domestic law. They said for the courts to take the side of the mother breached equality legislation as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mr Quinn said English law gave automatic guardianship to fathers of children born outside wedlock.