Written Answers. - Parental Rights.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

147 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received representations from the Unmarried Fathers of Ireland group on recognition and the establishment of increased rights for such fathers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26831/01]

I recently received correspondence from this group and I will respond to it shortly. I agree with the points made by the group on the desirability of children having contact with both parents. Of course, this has to be subject to the overriding consideration that the welfare of the child must be paramount.

Under section 6A of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964, as inserted by section 12 of the Status of Children Act, 1987, an unmarried father may apply to the court to be appointed a guard ian of his child. Alternatively, where there is agreement between the parents, they can make a statutory declaration under section 2(4) of the Act, as inserted by section 4 of the Children Act, 1997, conferring on the father the status of guardian. Under section 11 of the 1964 Act, a guardian may apply to the court for its direction on any question affecting the welfare of the child. Examples of such proceedings are applications for custody and access orders. In making such orders and in determining whether an unmarried father should be appointed guardian, the court has to regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration. These legislative provisions are appropriate as they permit the court in cases of disagreement to decide on arrangements for the child's upbringing having regard to the child's best interests.