Dublin People reports that Catherine Brancaleone-Phelan, originally from Swords, entered into a civil partnership with her firefighter wife, Hannah in 2010, later marrying in 2015.
The couple, who now live in Brighton, welcomed their two children Kathleen in 2014 and Rilee in 2016. Catherine gave birth to Kathleen and wife Hannah gave birth to Rilee, with the couple using the same donor for both girls.
Now, the couple face a bureaucratic nightmare to secure an Irish passport for Rilee (whose biological mother Hannah is from London), due to the layout of the UK’s birth certificates.
For children of same-sex couples, birth certificates contain a section for ‘mother and parent’ or ‘father and parent’ instead of ‘mother and mother’ or ‘father and father’.
Rilee was refused an Irish passport because Catherine is named as ‘parent’ (not ‘mother’) on Rilee’s birth certificate. Elder daughter Kathleen was “automatically entitled” to an Irish passport due to Catherine being an Irish citizen.
Catherine, now pregnant with twins, said that the couple had hoped to return to Ireland in the future, telling Dublin People:
“Despite Ireland being seen around the world as a champion of same-sex marriage, I believe that the State is discriminating against one of our children based on our family status. Our particular scenario should have been provided for when the legislation for marriage equality was being prepared.”
She added: “We have been fighting this for over a year now. I am absolutely sickened at how we have been treated by my country. As far as I am concerned, this ends any thoughts of ever returning home – my home is in the UK now. I am utterly ashamed of Ireland.
“The fact is that the Irish passport office has decided against issuing my second daughter with an Irish passport because my wife Hannah gave birth to her rather than me, but within our marriage. I am her legal parent and named on her birth cert.
“There are no similar issues with getting my first daughter a British passport, as although I gave birth to her, the UK has the decency and fairness to recognise both her legal parents and their respective nationalities.”
Senator David Norris brought the couple’s situation to the attention of Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who cited the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 as the reason for the refusal to grant Rilee an Irish passport.
In a letter responding to Norris, Coveney wrote: “We note that Rilee’s birth mother is Hannah Branceleone-Phelan who, you advise, is not an Irish citizen. For the purposes of Irish law, and in particular in this case, for the purposes of the 1956 Act, a parent is understood to mean either the ‘mother’ or ‘father’ of the child.
“Under Irish law, the mother of a child is the person who gives birth to the child or a female adopter of the child. As the birth mother is not an Irish citizen, Rilee cannot be regarded as an Irish citizen.”
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