A UK-based woman who is in a same-sex marriage has accused the country of discrimination after it refused to issue one of her daughters with an Irish passport.
Irish citizen Catherine Brancaleone-Phelan, who is originally from River valley but now living in Brighton, entered into a civil partnership with Hannah, a London-based firefighter, in 2010. The couple were later married in October 2015.
In November 2014, Catherine gave birth to daughter Kathleen after a friend agreed to act as a donor. Hannah also became pregnant through the same donor and a second daughter, Rilee, was born in May 2016.
However, the family’s happiness was shattered when their youngest child was refused an Irish passport because Catherine was named on Rilee’s birth cert as ‘parent’, as opposed to ‘father’ or ‘mother’.
Their eldest daughter was automatically entitled to an Irish passport on the basis that Catherine was named as her mother on the birth certificate. Catherine is now pregnant with twins and the couple face the prospect of not being able to secure Irish citizenship for one of their four children.
Catherine and Hannah had been hoping to move back to Ireland in the near future. However, the State’s refusal to issue Rilee with a passport due to this anomaly has scuppered their plans, particularly in light of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.
Catherine said: “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 has raised the couple’s situation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney.
In a letter to Senator Norris outlining the reason for the refusal of the passport, Minister Coveney said the question must be looked at with reference to Irish law and, in particular, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956.
He wrote: “Section 7 of the 1956 Act addresses citizenship by descent and provides that a person is an Irish citizen from birth if at the time of his or her birth either parent was an Irish citizen – although an additional requirement of registration is imposed in respect of children born outside the island of Ireland where the Irish citizen parent was also born outside the island of Ireland.
“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.”
However, Catherine has argued that the reference to having an Irish ‘parent’ in the 1956 Act is a non-gender specific way of referring to a mother or father.
“I am Rilee’s legal parent,” she added. “Therefore, by gender definition, I am her mother.”