Rights watchdog welcomes Supreme Court ruling on separated parents and housing assistance

Laurence Bond
Laurence Bond

The Supreme Court has set out how separated parents exercising joint custody of their children should be treated when applying for social housing assistance in a judgment welcomed by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

The human rights watchdog exercised its role as amicus curiae in the case of Fagan v Dublin City Council.

The court unanimously ruled that Dublin City Council had exceeded its discretion under law in assessing that Mr Fagan, a separated father-of-three, belonged to a one-person household and needed a single bedroom unit.

Mr Fagan argued that the council should have considered the fact that he had three-night per week custody and co-parenting rights to his children.

In its legal submissions, the human rights commission agreed that the approach taken by Dublin City Council to automatically exclude Mr Fagan and his children from the definition of ‘household’ prevented them from being considered together for social housing eligibility.

The commission cited rights under the Constitution (Article 42A) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR Article 8) in relation to family life, parental and children’s rights, and the council’s obligations as a public body to implement these rights.

While the Supreme Court held that was not necessary to engage with these arguments, it concluded that “this judgment is one which would undoubtedly be consistent with the rights, if any, espoused in Article 42A of the Constitution or Article 8 of the ECHR”.

Laurence Bond, director of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said: “The commission played a role in this Supreme Court case to focus attention on important human rights and equality provisions supporting families and protecting the rights of children around housing.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is significant as it moves beyond traditional views of the division of parental responsibilities, to recognise joint parental roles and entitlements.

“The court has recognised the importance of allowing children to form lifelong bonds with both parents, regardless of any separation.”

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