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Cratloe woman Sarah Jane O'Brien has appealed to the Taoiseach through Deputy Cathal Crowe for help in getting her son back.

Taoiseach urged to intevene after Clare mother’s child taken

Champion Chatter

A CLARE TD has asked that the Irish State provide support to a French-based Cratloe woman whose son was taken from her by armed police in May, following a court sitting that she claims to have been unaware of.

The two-year-old boy was subsequently taken to Malta by his father, meaning 36-year-old Sarah Jane O’Brien has not seen him since, other than through photographs and video calls.

The matter was raised in the Dáil on Wednesday by Deputy Cathal Crowe.

A translation of the judgement from the court sitting, which took place in Marseilles in early May, stated that the boy’s father had reported the international abduction of his son in January.

The judgement stated that the boy’s father “had indicated that the family, who usually reside in Malta, had come to spend the Christmas holidays in France, but that at the end of their stay on January 6, 2022, Sarah Jane O’Brien fled with the child in her father’s car, and that since then she had only given him very brief news of the child”.

When interviewed in advance of the hearing Ms O’Brien had said that both herself and her son’s father had lived as a couple, but had their own residences, hers in France and his in Malta.

It was claimed that any long stay in Malta was due to health complications she had after giving birth and because of Covid restrictions preventing her from going back to France. She did not accept the child’s habitual residence was in Malta.

She claimed that the father had been “psychologically violent with her, but also physically abusive in his sexual demands”.

The court documents say that Ms O’Brien was summoned to appear before the family court of Marseilles on the basis of the provisions of the Hague Convention, but she has since claimed she was unaware of the hearing, and she did not appear on the day. 

The judgement document states that Ms O’Brien’s son was born in Malta, had always resided there and that there were plans to enrol him in a school in that country. 

It said that the evidence presented showed that the child had his habitual residence in Malta and that the family had not envisaged leaving Malta, other than temporarily.

Regarding the allegations of psychological and sexual violence, it said that Ms O’Brien hadn’t provided background information or filed a complaint, while the child’s father had denied them. 

The court found that the child’s habitual residence is in Malta, and that he be returned there immediately.

Ms O’Brien says she only found out about the hearing when she received written communication after it was already over. 

Her appeal against the court’s decision is due to be heard in December. There is also a custody hearing which is due to take place in October. 

Speaking in the Dáil this week Fianna Fáil’s Cathal Crowe said, “On May 17 Leonard O’Brien a two-year-old Irish child was taken forcibly from his mother’s arms in the French city of Antibes, by French gendarmes who arrived at the door unannounced and armed.”

Deputy Crowe criticised the separation of mother and child.

“Her ex-boyfriend took an action under the Hague Abduction Convention. The child was taken from its mother. We can’t cast this aside as a civil custody case, a civil matter.

“This is State-led abduction of a child. The Government are aware, the French embassy are aware.”

He urged Taoiseach Micheál Martin to take a role.

“The Government had oversight of the Ibraham Halawa case in 2017. I’m asking you Taoiseach to have oversight of this.

“I’m a Dad of three smallies and I can’t begin to comprehend what Sarah Jane is going through. This child is still being bottle fed, still in nappies, did not deserve to be taken by armed gendarmes.”

The Taoiseach said that while he doesn’t know the full background, it is “a very difficult and tragic situation where a child is forcibly removed from their mother”.

He said that consular officials normally liaise with people who have difficult situations abroad, while he said there would be legal issues to be navigated for there to be a satisfactory outcome.

Owen Ryan
+ posts

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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