Judge calls for review of fathers’ rights

THE High Court judge in the Mr G case has challenged the Government to review the rights of unmarried fathers.

Mr Justice Liam McKechnie made his ruling under the European Convention on Human Rights but he suggested it was time for a change to domestic Irish law which is guided by the constitutional bias against unmarried fathers.

The judge made his comments in a 62-page ruling in the case.

One in three children in Ireland are born to unmarried parents yet, unlike the mother or a married man, the Constitution gives the unmarried father no automatic legal status in the lives of his children. He only attains legal status if he makes a formal application for guardianship.

Mr Justice McKechnie said he did not challenge the constitutional principle that fathering a child should not automatically confer rights on the father as there were many cases where fatherhood was due to a one- night stand, rape or incest.

“But what about a person who fathers a child within an established relationship, and who from the moment of birth, nurtures, protects and safeguards his child, to a standard which all too frequently married fathers fail to live up to?” he said.

The judge said such relationships had nearly all the characteristics of a constitutionally protected family. “Could I respectfully suggest that our society, which is governed by a Constitution which declares the principles of prudence, justice, charity and human dignity, might in its maturity so agree?”

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