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Father loses legal challenge to allow sons remain in Ireland over concerns about the wearing of masks in French schools

The man claims his older son faces grave risk if he is obliged to wear a mask in school in France.

Image: Shutterstock/evergreentree

A FATHER WHO failed to return his two young children back to his estranged wife in France over concerns about the wearing of masks in French schools has lost a High Court challenge to allow them to remain in Ireland.

Justice Mary Rose Gearty rejected an application by the father for a stay on a court order directing the two boys, aged 11 and 4, be returned to the custody of their mother in France.

The mother had applied to the Irish courts for the return of her two sons when they did not return as scheduled last November from a visit to their father in Ireland.

The man claims his older son faces grave risk if he is obliged to wear a mask in school in France.

Justice Gearty said an analysis of 149 pages of text messages between the couple showed they loved their children but held differing views on the wearing of masks.

Despite their own disagreements, the judge said there was ample evidence of their efforts to plan for their sons’ welfare, schooling and holidays so that both parents got to spend time with them.

The court was provided with a note from an Irish doctor that the two boys were claustrophobic with the recommendation that the older boy should be exempted from wearing a mask.

However, Justice Gearty said the text messages provided evidence that the older boy wore a mask on at least one occasion without any apparent ill effects and there was no suggestion he had a medical condition.

The judge said it was clear that the man was opposed to masks and refuses to allow his children to wear them.

In one text, the wife accused her husband of filling their sons’ heads with “the conspiracy theories that you like”.

The judge said the weight of the doctor’s note was diminished by numerous text messages which never suggested that the older boy had become anxious, breathless or distressed while wearing a mask.

She said the father had no expertise to reach a conclusion that masks were a waste of time and more likely to cause illness than to protect from Covid-19.

The man had cited the views of an anti-mask group, Reaction 19, which suggested requiring a child to wear a mask constituted the criminal offences of endangerment and deception.

Justice Gearty said such a statement showed “a very poor understanding of both law and logic.”

“As a matter of common sense, any source that produces such advice is one to be treated with scepticism,” she added.

The judge said no reliable evidence on the risks of wearing a mask had been presented to the court, while there was a large amount of public statements by recognised medical experts supporting their effectiveness in protecting public health.

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She observed that the man’s claims which questioned his wife’s ability to care for their children were contradicted by their shared custody of them over the past year.

The judge also noted that the man had undermined his stated concerns and worries about his wife by claiming in an affidavit that he fully intended to return the children to France once the requirement to wear a mask was lifted.

She said one of his complaints that his younger son had started crying after finding himself alone when his wife had left their apartment for a short time to take a dog outside was “trivial” rather than a grave risk to the child.

Justice Gearty said police reports recording allegations of assault and neglect by his wife were only made in January 2021 after he had received papers about the current court proceedings.

If he harboured serious concerns about his wife, the judge said the man would have contacted the police at a much earlier stage given the events had allegedly taken place on or before a date in March 2020.

“The sole catalyst for his actions appears to have been the announcement that French schools would require pupils over the age of six to wear masks,” the judge remarked.

She also noted the older boy had been interviewed by a psychologist and had shown no objection to moving back to France.

About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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