November 30, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I’ve written several times about the plight of fathers, particularly single fathers, in Ireland. The simple truth is that, if dads in the U.S., England, Australia and Canada think family courts treat them badly, they haven’t seen anything yet. The law on fathers’ rights in Ireland requires single fathers to file a lawsuit in court just to get recognition of their rights as fathers. Failure to do that and their rights are entirely governed by their children’s mothers.
So much for the good news.
Fathers who find themselves in court due to a divorce and child custody case are treated as non-entities. Here, here and here I reported on the research into Irish family courts conducted by Roisin O’Shea. Her findings are truly shocking and I say this as a person who’s written about family courts for eight years. By now I shouldn’t be shocked by anything those courts do, but the behavior of Irish judges is beyond disgraceful.
All that makes this article the more shameful still (Irish Examiner, 11/28/16). Nominally it’s about an advertising campaign started by Fathers 4 Justice that seeks to alter Amendment Eight to the Irish Constitution. That amendment, that passed a popular referendum by a 2 – 1 margin in 1983, essentially bans abortion in Ireland. Groups favoring abortion rights for women oppose it and Fathers 4 Justice seem to want it altered, although the organization’s website doesn’t make it clear just how.
But the ad campaign that reads “A Father is for Life, Not Just Conception: Change the Eighth” has drawn enough enmity from pro-abortion rights groups that F4J has promised to sue them for slander, libel and defamation.
The details of the Irish Constitution interest me less, however, than do the frankly false claims of Suzanne Harrington, the writer of the Examiner piece. As is so often the case, Harrington apparently figures that heat is more important than light. Texas feminist Molly Ivins once said, “That you feel strongly about something may be a fact, but it is not an argument.” Harrington would do well to heed those words.
Not content with arguing that men should have no say in the life or death of a fetus they helped to conceive, Harrington goes on to the more astonishing claim that no woman would ever falsely accuse an innocent man in the course of a child custody proceeding. Really, I’m not making that up.
What woman on earth would turn down shared childcare with the other parent?
Why would any woman not want her children to spend time with their father?
Let me tell you who these women are: These are the women whose children have been left waiting at the window for dad to turn up, then let down over and over again; the women whose ex-partners have used access to their children to try to retain coercive control over them; the fathers who are prone to violence, or ill with active addiction. The fathers who are subject to barring orders and restraints.
The ones who are unfit parents.
The idea that there are legions of women out there who won’t let their exes see their kids is risible.
Harrington finds the idea of mothers barring fathers’ access to their children “risible,” but more responsible, less misandric observers take it seriously. What’s more, they don’t lie about the facts of life in Irish family courts. Naturally, Roisin O’Shea is one of those responsible observers. Has Harrington read the results of O’Shea’s study? Is she lying about the facts or simply ignorant of them? Here are a few of O’Shea’s findings:
All of the judges interviewed acknowledged that persistent breaches of court ordered access was a chronic problem, but did not believe that attachment and committal was an appropriate sanction where the primary carer was the mother.
The types of access orders made, ensure that primary carers become the pre-dominant parent, with very limited time allocated to the non-resident parent…
A standard access arrangement for the non-resident parent, primarily fathers, that permeated across all courts as a default position, was the policy of ordering access every second weekend, for a period of hours during the day, and once or twice mid-week for a couple of hours. This arrangement did not appear to be informed by any social studies or child centred research…
Primary carers, the majority of whom were women, often sought to severely restrict or exclude the other parent from the lives of the children, on the basis that frequent contact with the non-resident parent distressed them, and in turn distressed the children.
Harrington wants readers to believe that mothers limiting or denying access to fathers is a rarity. The facts show otherwise. Family court judges themselves “acknowledged that persistent breaches of court ordered access was a chronic problem” and mothers “often sought to severely restrict or exclude the other parent from the lives of the children.” In short, Harrington is just making up facts to suit her purposes.
And of course the fact that mothers limiting access is a “persistent” and “chronic problem,” plus the fact that mothers are almost invariably ordered to be the primary or sole custodian of children effectively means that perfectly fit fathers lose their children as a matter of course.
In 95% of the cases observed the primary carer was the mother, and in 100% of cases where access was unilaterally withdrawn, it was done by the mother.
In no case was the primary carer sanctioned for persistent unilateral cessation of access in breach of court orders…
It is a finding of this research that where court orders were made relating to access and parenting, that the outcome of those orders, was that the ‘tender years’ principle was almost uniformly applied.
To Harrington, there is no questioning that state of affairs. To her, fathers are uncaring louts who are lucky to get whatever crumbs judge toss their way.
Naturally, Harrington conceives of the matter solely in terms of what benefits women receive from the family court system. To her, men are pariahs and children don’t enter into the conversation at all. That mountains of evidence demonstrate that children do better with two parents involved in their lives goes unmentioned by Harrington.
The virulence with which fathers used to be attacked in the United States and other parts of the English-speaking world has considerably diminished as legislatures move, however hesitantly, toward passing laws that actually stand to benefit children. But in Ireland, anti-dad sentiment runs high. Harrington is a disgrace. Her false and misleading rhetoric about family courts should find no hearing and no expression in reputable publications. Her overt hatred of fathers and dismissal of children’s legitimate needs should be beyond the pale.
That they still find expression in the Irish press speaks volumes about the plight of fathers and children there. But of course we already knew that. Roisin O’Shea already told us.
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