The Constitutional Status of the Unmarried Family and its Constituent Members
As part of Treoir’s role to create awareness of the issues affecting unmarried families we were delighted to have Prof. Gerry Whtye from Trinity College give the keynote address at our 2017 AGM.
Prof. Whyte spoke about the legal situation for unmarried families and how the non-marital family is not recognised as a family under Articles 41 and 42 of the Constitution and therefore does not enjoy the same inalienable and imprescriptible rights that are attributed to the marital family.
By virtue of Art. 41.1.1 of the Constitution, the State recognises the Family as “the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society … possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law”. The Supreme Court has concluded “that the family referred to in [Article 41] is the family which is founded on the institution of marriage”
However, Prof. Whyte suggested that changes over the past 20 years to the provisions of the Constitution dealing with the family and children have amended the philosophical influence of Catholic Social teaching on the Constitution. Coupled with the fundamental shifts in our society since its adoption, these changes warrant a recognition that members of a non-marital relationship and non-marital parents of both sexes in particular, enjoy acknowledgement of inherent constitutional rights in relation to their children and each other on a wider basis than has been recognised thus far.