MhicMathúna v Ireland
Liam Thornton, “MhicMathúna v Ireland” in Máiréad Enright, Julie McCandless and Aoife O'Donoghue (eds.) Northern / Irish Feminist Judgments: Judges' Troubles and the Gendered Politics of Identity (Oxford: Bloomsbury, 2017), pp. 147-157.
22 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2015 Last revised: 13 Feb 2017
Date Written: December 18, 2015
This is a feminist re-imagining of the Supreme Court decision MhicMathúna v Ireland  1 I.R. 454. The actual Supreme Court decision in this case continues to have a profound impact upon how the Irish superior courts view constitutional socio-economic rights claims. This feminist judgment seeks to re-situate the legal analysis of constitutionalised socio-economic rights claims. However, this, as is seen from the feminist judgment, has not been an easy task. The plaintiffs’ in this case attempted to argue for increased socio-economic rights protection, by, in the main arguing that “unmarried mothers” were being treated too ‘generously’ in comparison with the hetero-normative marital family ideal of a working father, stay at home mother with child care responsibilities. This re-imagined judgment comes to the same conclusion as the Irish Supreme Court on the plaintiffs’ claims-that nothing prevents the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) from providing financial allowances and supports to one parent families. However, this feminist judgment re-evaluates past jurisprudence and re-positions the legal place of one parent families (in particular “unmarried mothers”) as being capable of having constitutional rights protections, that can result in the Oireachtas providing special supports in recognising the significant caring function of this vulnerable group. A conclusion, albeit arguably obiter, reached in this feminist re-imagined judgment, is that.
“While not proven in this instance, there may be occasions, where, due to the absolute failure of the State to ensure individuals and families have a standard of living appropriate to this society, where human dignity is debased and/or bodily integrity is not respected and/or individuals right to develop as a human person is seriously hampered, that the Courts are constitutionally mandated to intervene.”
Keywords: Feminist judging, feminist judges, socio-economic rights, social and economic rights, Welfare State, Irish Constitution, Family, Equality
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