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A Child Centred Supreme Court?

February 29, 2012

Whatever the final wording, if the coming Children’s Right referendum passes it will mark a new phase in Irish Family law and Irish jurisprudence. Whatever the wording new and novel cases and legal arguments will heard, and old ideas will be questioned in this new light. In times like this the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, take on a central role.


It is with this in mind that I note with curiosity the news that the Hon. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin has been appointed by the government to the bench of the Supreme Court.


The Hon. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin previously presided over the Minors list in the High Court, which includes all special care applications. Justice MacMenamin has shown an interest in child law, special care, children’s rights and unmarried fathers, often contributing to seminars and publishing papers on these areas. Justice MacMenamin has show an awareness of the rights of the child, perhaps this is most infamously seen in his judgement in the High Court in the Baby Anne case. This judgement was of course over turned by what were then his superiors in the Supreme Court.


It is impossible to know how or if his judgements will be effected by his promotion, but I for one will watch with interest how this plays out.


Of parallel interest is the fact that in her judgement in the Baby Anne case, Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness stated that given the law as it was she had to overturn the high court verdict, but did so reluctantly. Of course, with any referendum these restrictions may no longer apply.


It would foolish of me to make any serious predictions, but a constitutional amendment, a new judge, and an old one given new scope guarantee that things will at least be interesting.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. irelandssecretcourts permalink
    February 29, 2012 09:50

    Regardless of the wording, the Children’s “Rights” Referendum seeks to remove the rights of parents so that the State can decide in all matters. The two main reason for this is to be fully compliant with the UNCRC and to allow for Forced Adoption in Ireland.

    The Baby Ann case and particularly, what was not widely said is very interesting. The emotional argument that removing the child “from the only home she had ever known”, get’s weakened when you look at the skulduggery engaged in by the prospective “Parents” and their friend the social worker. The long delays by the social worker and the hiring of a Private Dectective by the adoptive “Parents” is what resulted in this case.

    The Adoption Act of 1988 which supposedly allows for Forced Adoption is unconstitutional, it should have been repealed after the first unsuccessful challenge. If Madelyn McCann was found tomorrow, the judge wouldn’t argue that “she has settled in nicely with here kidnappers so we will leave her with them”.

    Adoption is not the panacea it’s presented to be, 1 in 4 adoptions break-down. We don’t hear much about children being put on an aircraft and returned to foreign countries or being dumped into Foster “Care” but yes, there are foreign children in Irish State “Care”. The Outcomes for children in Foster “Care” are dismal and Outcome for Adoption are only slightly better. Forced Adoption by Governments is about economics, it’s cheaper to pay €50,000 to get a child adopted than it is to pay for “Care” from age zero to 18.

    Psychology or Social Work has not addressed the “Primal” aspect of Forced Adoption. Children grow up feeling rejected by their birth parents and need therapy for their “issues”. Mothers who lost a child to Forced Adoption experience a life-long “Living Bereavement”. Adoptive “Parents” get what they want, the child has no say in the matter and is supposed to feel grateful for being “Chosen”.

    Many find their birth parents and find the truth that their mother didn’t reject them, they were denied the opportunity and the turn their anger on the Adopters and the System. Adoption should be abolished except in cases where children have no parents or relatives. Forced Adoption should be tried in a court of Human Rights and the perpetrators punished for the crime of Eugenics. Siblings should never be seperated.

    The Irish Public are not so stupid that they cannot see beyond the veil of Children’s “Rights” as spouted by people with vested interests in the €580 Million a year pot the “Professionals” like to dip into. It’s a bit more than diseingenuous to talk about lofty “Rights”, when 30% of all Irish Children are living in consistent poverty. Or that children who already have Rights to an Education or Health Care are constantly being denied their rights. Apparently Special Needs children have less rights than “Normal” children and the Govt simply cant afford to pay for SNA’s in classroom or transport, and yet, have no problem paying €1.6 Billion to unsecured Bond Holders. Or the children who’s parents you see on TV3 begging the public for funds to take their child, often to 3rd World countries to get live saving treatment when the HSE have pronounced a death sentence on them.

    While social workers “apprehend” children on the basis of “future Emotional Harm” or “Risk” as it is called, the children “In Need” are being ignored. Children are tortured by being removed and placed in “Care” and their parents emotionally abused by this evil system. It has become no more than an Industry to make money for “Professionals” and does little but cause harm. All Social Workers are just as culpable for not speaking out against this system. I realise that you have personally let in some light into the failings of the system but if you are a member of a wicked organization that does wicked things you are just as culpable.

    The HSE get it wrong in over 60% of cases as evidenced by judges handing the children back when the case gets a full hearing. Social Workers are never “damned if the do or damned if they don’t”, unless you count “bad press” in the Media. Until Social Workers, and especially Case Managers are held to account for their failings, nothing good will happen to children, especially the ones in “Care”. I predict a massive NO vote in the Referendum.


    Joe Burns.

  2. irelandssecretcourts permalink
    February 29, 2012 23:16

    Thank you so much for posting my reply. I’m not looking to villify anyone or play the “blame game” with regard to this. I have been censored on other websites and all I want to do is engage in debate.

    Ireland has an opportunity to build a World-Class Child Protection System but the current Ideology being taught in Social Work Schools is simply not working. Even as you suggested, if the Adversarial Legal System was replaced by the Inquisitorial System of Justice it would be a great benefit to families. I also believe that if Judges stopped granting Ex-Parte Hearings to the HSE tomorrow, that far less children would be harmed.

    I also believe that Social Workers working as prosecutors rather than Advocates is the basis of the solution to the current issues. I would rather see each Social Worker being given an annual budget of €100,000 a year to be spent directly on families rather than the money going to “Professionals”. If a Social Worker could pay off a families utility bill, pay their back rent or buy clothes or groceries for a family it would keep families together rather than damaging them by splitting them up. Sounds crazy? this is exactly what charities do, it’s cheaper, the money directly benefits children and it’s a better and cheaper alternative than paying the money to “Professionals”.

    The term “Best Interest of the Child” is nothing more than a slogan, it is by no mean measurable. It should be replaced with “to the measurable and demonstrated benefit of the child”, and it should be measured and people held accountable when it’s not. Charles Pragnel MSW is the author of this term.

    The area of Child Protection should be an area where most Social Workers want to work in rather than the stepping-stone it has become with the highest turn-over rate. The problem is that Social Workers are being asked to do a job that they are not capable of. You cant be a Prosecutor and Advocate at the same time.Your counterparts who work in other areas of the practice don’t prosecute their clients.

    Until Social Workers break out of the fenced-in thinking of this dangerous ideology and start suggesting new methods of keeping families together then the problems will only get worse. Parents are the best protection for children, the State is the worst possible parent imaginable. I believe another “Ryan Report” is waiting to happen, unless Social Workers get behind the idea of Advocacy rather than Prosecution then the profession is doomed to fail.

    Look forward to more of your posts,

    Best regards,

    Joe Burns

  3. April 11, 2012 10:05

    i dnt think it is fair for children growing up without their natural parents when the parents have not committed any crimes and people have a statutory right to raise and cherish their children. the system does not realise that these children have to grow up into adults with feelings and emotions that have rights to their real parents.madeline crookes

  4. November 24, 2012 03:36

    Interesting blog and replies. If anyone is interested in how activist adoptees feel about the new amendment, feel free to check out ‘Adoption Rights Now’ Facebook page and discussion group.
    It would be wonderful if every human being got to grow up with theri natural parents in a warm loving family. This just isn’t always possible in the real world for numerous reasons. However to remove a child from his/her family and slam the door closed to their past is just another form of abuse in it’s own right and it’s a life long abuse. Adoption when absolutely necessary but never ever closed adoption…

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