Father loses bid to keep sons in Ireland due to concerns about masks in French schools

Judge rejects application to prevent boys being returned to mother’s custody

A father who failed to return his two young children to his estranged wife in France over concerns about the wearing of masks in French schools has lost a High Court challenge to allow them to remain in Ireland.

Ms Justice Mary Rose Gearty rejected an application by the father for a stay on a court order directing the two boys be returned to their mother's custody.

The mother had applied to the Irish courts for the return of her sons when they did not return as scheduled last November from a visit to their father.

The man claims his older son faces grave risk if he is obliged to wear a mask in school in France.

Ms Justice Gearty said an analysis of 149 pages of text messages between the couple showed they loved their children but held differing views on masks.

The court was provided with a note from an Irish doctor that the two boys were claustrophobic with the recommendation that the older boy should be exempted from wearing a mask.

However, Ms Justice Gearty said the text messages provided evidence that he wore a mask on at least one occasion without any apparent ill effects and there was no suggestion he had a medical condition.

The judge said it was clear that the man was opposed to masks and refused to allow his children to wear them.

In one text, the wife accused her husband of filling their sons’ heads with “the conspiracy theories that you like”.

The judge said the weight of the doctor’s note was diminished by numerous text messages which never suggested that the older boy had become anxious, breathless or distressed while wearing a mask.

She said the father had no expertise to reach a conclusion that masks were a waste of time and more likely to cause illness than to protect from Covid-19.

The man had cited the views of an anti-mask group which suggested requiring a child to wear a mask constituted the criminal offences of endangerment and deception.

The judge said such a statement showed “a very poor understanding of both law and logic”.

“As a matter of common sense, any source that produces such advice is one to be treated with scepticism,” she added.

She said the man’s claims which questioned his wife’s ability to care for their children were contradicted by their shared custody of them over the past year.

“The sole catalyst for his actions appears to have been the announcement that French schools would require pupils over the age of six to wear masks,” she said.

She also noted the boy had been interviewed by a psychologist and had shown no objection to moving to France.