Two children whose return to their mother has encountered opposition from their Irish father because of the compulsory wearing of masks in French schools must be returned to France, ordered the court of appeal.
The two children were born in France, where they normally reside.
After their parents’ relationship broke down, their father returned to Ireland. Last year, when the children, who both attend primary school in France, were visiting their father in Ireland, he decided not to send them back to France.
This was due to his concerns about one of the children having to wear a face mask at school, as part of the efforts announced in France in October 2020 to counter the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the father did not want the children to stay in Ireland permanently, he argued that the requirement to wear masks would harm his child and lead to anxiety and distress in the child.
Because of the refusal to allow them to return to France, the mother of the children, before the French courts, requested orders under the International Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction, the Hague Convention.
In a judgment earlier this year, High Court Judge Mary Rose Gearty said the children had been wrongly detained and should be returned to France immediately. The decision was appealed by the father, who requested a stay of return until the order requiring French children aged six and over to wear masks at school was lifted.
The three judges of the Court of Appeal, including Judge Mary Faherty, Judge Maurice Collins and Judge Teresa Pilkington, dismissed the appeal.
Giving the court judgment, Justice Collins said the evidence presented in court was grossly insufficient to establish serious risk or harm to the child due to wearing a mask.
There was no plausible or significant evidence that the requirement for a mask will negatively impact the child, he said. It is not disputed that the evidence required for an order for the return of the children under Article 12 of the Hague Convention has been satisfied, he also said.