A decision that two children, whose Irish father refused to allow them to return to their mother in France because of the compulsory wearing of the mask in French schools, must be sent home has been confirmed by the court of appeal .
The court heard that the two children were born in France, where they normally reside, to an Irish father and a French mother. The children, two boys who are both in primary school and their parents cannot be named for legal reasons.
Their parents separated and their father returned to Ireland. Last year, while the children were visiting Ireland, their father decided he would not return them to their mother.
This was due to concerns he had about one of his sons having to wear a face mask, as part of efforts to counter the Covid-19 pandemic, while attending school in France .
While he did not want them to stay in Ireland permanently, the boy’s father argued that being required to wear masks would harm his son and cause him to suffer from anxiety and distress.
As a result of the father’s refusal to allow them to return to France, their mother, through the French courts, filed a request under the International Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Kidnapping, commonly known as the Hague Convention. .
In a judgment earlier this year, High Court Judge Mary Rose Gearty dismissed the father’s claims. She ruled that the two children had been wrongly detained and should be returned immediately to France.
The decision was appealed by the father, who said he was seeking a stay until the order requiring French schoolchildren aged six and over to wear a mask to school was lifted. .
In its judgment, the three-judge tribunal consisting of Judge Mary Faherty, Judge Maurice Collins and Judge Teresa Pilkington dismissed all of the father’s grounds of appeal.
Giving the court decision, Justice Collins said the evidence presented to the court was grossly insufficient to establish serious risk or harm to any of the children.
There was no plausible or significant evidence that the requirement to wear a face mask in school will have a negative impact on the child, the judge said.
He added that it was not disputed that the evidence required to order the return of the children under Article 12 of the Hague Convention had been satisfied.
The court heard that the boys’ parents had been in a relationship for some time and resided together in France.
When the relationship ended, the Irish father returned and the children resided with their mother in France. By arrangement, the children traveled to Ireland at the end of last year.
However, their father decided not to return them after announcing in October 2020 that masks would become mandatory for all children aged six and over.