Commission Appears Before Supreme Court in Important Involuntary Adoption Case

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission appeared before the Supreme Court on 18 and 19 of April as amicus curiae (or ‘friend of the court’) in a case that relates to involuntary adoption and the constitutional rights of the child.

The case centres on the adoption of a minor, known as B, who has an intellectual disability. The Child and Family Agency and the child’s foster mother applied to the High Court ten weeks before B’s 18th birthday for an adoption order under the Adoption Act and for an order dispensing with the necessity to obtain the consent of the child’s birth parents to the adoption.

B’s birth mother opposed the application for an adoption order.

In the High Court, the trial judge was not persuaded that B understood the significance of adoption, especially its effect on the child’s legal relationship with their birth mother. The Court ruled that it was not in B’s best interests to be adopted.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal disagreed, and found that adoption was in B’s best interests. In making the adoption order, Ms Justice Whelan dispensed with the requirement for parental consent. She found that the High Court had placed too much weight on statements made by B’s birth mother.

In its role as amicus curiae on appeal to the Supreme Court, the Commission addressed several important human rights issues arising in the case, including the interpretation of Article 42A of the Constitution, the extent of the courts’ obligation to ascertain the views of the child, and the best interests of the child.

The Commission also argued that, since B’s birth mother had addressed considerable adverse personal circumstances, which led to her putting B into voluntary care originally, there was an increased obligation on the Child and Family Agency (the ‘CFA’) to facilitate family reunification between her and the child B. If the CFA had failed in that duty, the Commission said, then this was a relevant consideration in deciding whether the birth mother had failed in her parental duty towards B.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“This is an important case.  Adoption involves the severing of a constitutionally protected relationship and the creation of a new one. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will assist our understanding of Article 42A of the Constitution and its relevance to the practice of adoption. We are mindful, first and foremost, that the effects of this case will be felt most immediately by B and the families involved. We are grateful to the Court for the opportunity to assist it in its deliberations in this sensitive matter.”


For further information, please contact:
Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The function of amicus curiae is an important legal power of the Commission. It allows us to address the court in a non-partisan role, on issues concerning human rights and equality that have wider consequences for society in general. Recently, we have used this power to assist the courts on various human rights and equality issues in the public interest, including on the right to a fair trial, immigration, the use of search warrants and anti-social behaviour orders.

You can read our Legal Submissions on this case by clicking the link below

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures