Supreme Court Reaches Judgment in Important Adoption Case

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) notes the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday in a case involving involuntary adoption and the constitutional rights of the child.

The case centred on the adoption of a minor, known as B, who has a learning disability. On 18 and 19 April 2023, the Supreme Court heard an appeal brought by Ms C, the birth mother, against the making of an adoption order by the Court of Appeal, which had ruled that making the order was in the child’s best interests. Ms. C sought to have that order overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court. The Child and Family Agency (‘CFA’) and the Adoption Authority of Ireland (‘AAI’) opposed Ms. C’s appeal, saying that the adoption order should remain in place.

The Commission was grateful for the opportunity to assist the Court with reference to recent case law from the Court of Human Rights in respect of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns private and family life. The Commission submitted that Article 8, generally speaking, imposed a positive obligation to safeguard the parent-child bond and the unity of the family, with certain exceptions relating to the safety and welfare of the child.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. Delivering the judgment, Mr Justice Hogan said:

At the outset of this judgment, I said that this was a case in which human tragedy and hope were mixed. There has been plenty of human tragedy… Yet there is hope as well (…) The making of an adoption order in Ms. B’s case is also, however, a sign of hope. It cements the emotional bonds of family and security for which (C) doubtless subjectively yearns and which (they) objectively need.”

Hogan J also noted that:

If ever there was a young adult who needed the stability and security offered by a family environment, it is in fact C”.

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

“We continue to examine the Supreme Court’s decision in this important matter. Beyond the legal issues arising, the Commission is conscious that this is a personal and sensitive issue for the individuals involved. We wish all the parties involved well for the future.”


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Editor’s Note

The full written submissions made by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) in this case are published at the following link:

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.