We are pleased to welcome a third guest post from Kieran Walsh. In this post, Kieran continues Mairead’s discussion of forced marriage in the Republic and considers whether child abduction law could be used in Ireland to protect children from being forced into marriage. He argues, in particular, for a child-focused approach to child abduction, which would allow the relevant law to be deployed effectively even outside the realm of custody disputes.
The recent forced marriage decision in Northern Ireland raises some interesting, and perhaps interminable, problems for cross-border levels of compliance with children’s rights and child protection instruments. As outlined previously by Mairead, the Northern Ireland courts granted an order to under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 which prevented two girls, aged 12 and 14, from travelling to Pakistan where they were to be married. Ireland has no similar means of protecting children from forced marriage.
Friday 14 May 2010
Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, U.C.C., Room G10, 10.30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Speakers at the symposium include:
- Prof. Andrew Sharpe, School of Law, Keele University
- Prof. Stephen Whittle, School of Law, Manchester Metropolitan University (pictured above)
- Ms. Eilís Barry, Barrister at Law
- Mr. Michael Farrell, Solicitor, Free Legal Advice Centres; Irish Human Rights Commission
- Ms. Tanya Ní Mhuirthile, Faculty of Law, University College Cork
Further information is available from Ms Noreen Delea, Faculty of Law, UCC, Cork Tel. (021) 490 2728. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For full details and a booking form for the symposium, see http://www.ucc.ie/en/ccjhr/fullstory,97981,en.html
This symposium forms part of an IRCHSS-funded project, Gender, Religious Diversity and Multiculturalism (PI: Dr. Siobhán Mullally, Law, UCC).
Delegate Fee: €20.00 CPD Points: 3 hours
I was asked yesterday to give a sense of the extent to which situations like that of G and D – the Northern Irish case of two young girls who were at risk of being forced by their parents into marriage in Pakistan which we wrote about here- are of relevance in the Republic.
I am not aware of any ‘G and D’ type cases which have come before our courts. As yet, forced marriage does not seem to be seen as a mainstream ‘family law’ or ‘women’s law’ issue in the way that it is in the UK and Northern Ireland. In 2007, the Minister for Health and Children stated in the Dail that she was satisfied ‘that all reasonable measures are in place to prevent forced marriages and to provide a remedy where full, free and informed consent is absent’. She referred to the law of nullity which allows a marriage to be set aside where it was contracted in the face of fear, duress, intimidation or undue influence. She noted that the criminal law provided several bases upon which violence used in the context of forcing another into marriage can be prosecuted. Read more…
Today, Senator Ivana Bacik of Labour (pictured left) will be introducing a Bill to prohibit Female Genital Mutilation in the Seanad during the Labour Party’s private members’ time. The Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum are available here. The Minister for Health and Children has welcomed the Bill, indicating that it will be read a second time in a year or so. Labour’s press release notes that FGM Bills were introduced by Labour TDs Liz McManus (see Bill here) and Jan O’Sullivan (see Bill here) in the Dail in 2009 and 2001. Senator Bacik has said:
We urgently need a law specifically criminalising this barbaric practice which has destroyed the lives of so many girls and women world-wide. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to address this issue, but there has already been a great deal of work done on developing a legal framework, and delaying the introduction of this legislation by another year is unacceptable.
Senator Bacik’s Bill would:
- Introduce an offence of performing female genital mutilation on a woman or girl (note the gender-specific nature of the offence), the penalty for which shall be a fine or a term of imprisonment up to 14 years or both.
- Have extra-territorial effect so that an Irish citizen or resident who performs FGM outside of Ireland still falls within the terms of the Act.
- Rule out any defence of parental consent in the case of a minor.
- Allow a medical defence where the procedure was performed by a registered medical practitioner who ‘honestly believed, on reasonable grounds, that the operation was necessary to safeguard the life or health of the woman or girl concerned or to correct a genital abnormality or malformation’.
The Bill appears, to some extent, to take its cue from the UK Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. In that jurisdiction, the legislation has fallen at the prosecution hurdle, and thus appears to have largely symbolic and perhaps deterrant value. For open-access articles which critique the UK legislation see this study by Sadiya Mohammad on the legislation’s efficacy and this article by Moira Dustin and Anne Phillips which considers the legislation in the broader context of UK law-making in the general area of women + gender + culture.
In response to an article written by Mr. John Waters, (Irish Times, Feb. 19 2010), guest contributor Fergal Landy takes a different view. It is of utmost importance that Mr. Waters article is read before Fergal’s contribution. This article can be accessed here.
John Waters, opinion and analysis 19.02.10, has outlined his view on the proposed referendum on children’s rights. Mr. Waters is entitled to his view and the debate in relation to the proposed changes should be carried out in an open and inclusive manner, my declared interest is that I am a qualified social worker, currently working as a researcher with children and families and I am a citizen with a genuine concern for the well being of children and young people. I am not wearing, and never have worn, a cloak of secrecy, I have merely respected the confidentiality of the people I have worked with. It is not with Mr. Waters’ opinion that I am concerned but with his deeply flawed analysis. Mr. Waters’ analysis contains some accurate points, designed to draw in the reader predisposed to reasonable argument and to provide a credible, even authoritative, foundation. As is regularly the case with Mr. Water’s these accurate points are then carefully knitted with numerous erroneous points often coupled with vital omissions to form a completely inaccurate but seemingly credible and authoritative analysis. Read more…
The Irish Times reports that Cardinal Seán Brady, the besieged leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, has said today that he wants a “just resolution” to a civil case taken against him by an alleged victim of the convicted child abuser Father Brendan Smyth. The man is suing Cardinal Brady in his capacity as Archbishop of Armagh and as the Catholic Church’s representative in Ireland. The action was initially taken some 13 years ago, in 2007. The Cardinal has asked his lawyers to engage with the complainant’s solicitor “with a view to progressing the case”.
The man claims he was repeatedly sexually abused by Brendan Smyth in Dundalk in the early 1970s. According to the Irish Times, the man is alleging that the Catholic Church called an ecclesiastical court to deal with the allegations and assured the man that Smyth would never be placed in a siutation where he could abuse children. Read more…
The Irish cabinet reshuffle (see here, here, here and here) has resulted in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform , being divested of issues relating to equality, disability, integration and human rights. These important areas will be subsumed into the new Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs. The comments below are some initial reactions to this news.
Justice, Equality and Human Rights-Why?
I do not believe in making structural changes for their own sake. Too often, changes in structures can be pursued to disguise a lack of clear priorities or the determination to implement them. This Government has a clear agenda which I am determined will be driven forward with energy and commitment. There is no time to be wasted on extensive restructuring at the expense of action to implement our policies.
An Taoiseach Brian Cowen T.D. 23 March 2010
From 1992 until 1997, there was Minister for Equality and Law Reform, however post the 1997 general election, this was subsumed into the Department of Justice (to become the Dept. of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (DJELR).This was a time of enormous economic growth within the Republic of Ireland and a number of months before the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The thrust of today’s speech by An Taoiseach’s recognised the need for a re-invigorated economy based on job creation and innovation. For reasons highlighted by the statement of An Taoiseach above, structural changes were made to a number of departments.
Today the Pope has issued his pastoral letter on child sex abuse in Ireland. A lengthy letter (full version published here), it will take time to fully digest and analyse, and indeed this analysis could perhaps focus on numerous different aspects of the letter. In this blog entry I wish to focus on just one issue arising from the letter: accountability. In particular, it is possible through this letter to consider how the Pope appears to believe he and the Vatican connect to current problems in Ireland.
Despite what many may have wished for (the letter being promised since 13 December 2009) this letter does not accept any blame or accountability for the current scandal in Ireland. Instead we see an allocation of blame directly on the priests who offended and some senior members of the Church in Ireland who made leadership mistakes. The fault lies in Ireland, not in the Vatican. The word ‘we’ is nowhere to be seen in the discussions of the Church, the fault, the apology. Read more…
The return of Jon Venables, one of the men (then boys) convicted of the murder of Jamie Bulger has sparked a fresh debate on how we respond to children who commit crimes and what we expect the criminal justice system to achieve in such cases.
Today the Ministry of Justice in the UK has announced that it has rejected calls to raise the age of criminal responsibility from ten to twelve. Scotland is in the process of amending its legislation to raise the age of responsibility from eight to twelve. Ireland made similar moves in 2001 under the Childrens Act, however in serious cases (murder, manslaughter, rape or aggravated assault) ten or eleven year olds can be prosecuted. Read more…
Yesterday and today there has been a great deal of commentary in Ireland on the tragic situations in which children and young people die in the care of the state. This intense commentary and discussion emerged from the publication by Alan Shatter TD of a report emanating from the HSE on the death of Tracey Fay who died when she was 18 years old and in the care of the state (RTE News coverage). Unfortunately, Tracey Fay is not the only minor to have died in state care or in relation to whom the HSE’s report has not been released either to the public or, it appears, to the families of the deceased. While this brings up multiple questions of about the responsibility of the state to protect those in its care, it also raises interseting questions about investigation and reporting in cases of death that I want to broach in this post. Read more…