Rights for unmarried fathers in spotlight following baby's life support case

The government is being urged to fast-track legislation to close the legal loophole - stopping unmarried fathers from having automatic legal guardianship.

It comes after a Dublin maternity hospital had to seek an order from the High Court - to allow it withdraw life support from a baby boy with severe brain damage.

The child's mother - who was legally the sole guardian - died on Tuesday night shortly after the baby was delivered by emergency caesarean section.

The Justice Minister Alan Shatter is proposing to give unmarried fathers automatic guardianship - if they've been living with the mother for a year before the birth.

Geoffrey Shannon - a Child Law Expert - says the new Children and Family Relationships Bill will address the legal anomaly.

"The unmarried father has neither an automatic right to the day-to-day care f his child, nor has he … a say in the upbringing of his child - whereas the birth mother enjoys both."

"No matter how lengthy the relationship, our law tends to regard the unmarried father as a legal stranger [in relation to] his child."

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