Lydia Foy settles transgender birth cert case against State

Effective end of 21-year action based on Government intention to enact laws next year

Transgender woman Lydia Foy has effectively settled her long-running action against the State aimed at securing a birth certificate in her acquired female gender. The settlement was reached on the basis of the High Court been told the Government's "firm intention" is to enact the necessary laws "as soon as possible" in 2015.

Dr Foy was not in the High Court when the settlement of her 21-year battle was announced to Mr Justice Paul Gilligan but her solicitor Michael Farrell said afterwards she was "very pleased" with the development.

The settlement was achieved on the basis of the State telling the judge it was the “expressed intention” of the Government to secure the enactment into law of the Gender Recognition Bill 2014, which would enable Dr Foy to get the certificate.

In a statement read by Nicholas Butler SC, for the State, it was stated it is the "expressed intention" of the Government to publish the Bill by the end of this year. It is also the "firm intention" of the Government to introduce the Bill into the Oireachtas and have it enacted "as soon as possible in 2015", the statement added.


On those and other terms, Bill Shipsey SC, for Dr Foy, said the case, which was listed for hearing next Tuesday, could be taken out of the High Court list and listed for mention again on January 29th, 2015.

Mr Shipsey said he wanted the case taken out of the for hearing list as “substantive agreement” had been reached with the State and it was not expected the action would proceed. His side wanted the matter to remain in the list for mention because matters were “to take place outside the realm of the judicial process”.

The judge listed the case for mention on January 29th.

Last March the court was told Dr Foy wanted the case to proceed given the State’s continuing failure to enact laws recognising her rights as a transgendered person despite a declaration six years ago that failure breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

In her action Dr Foy sought a birth certificate in her acquired female gender and damages for breach of her rights, personal injuries and humiliating and degrading treatment.

As the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 provides a mechanism for compensating people whose rights are transgressed, the Government has appointed Eoghan Fitzsimons SC to deal with that aspect, the court heard in March.

Dr Foy’s bid for a birth certificate in the female gender, dates back to March 1993 when she first wrote to the registrar general for that certificate.

When that was refused she, supported by the Free Legal Advice Centres, initiated court action culminating in a 2007 High Court finding that the State’s failure to legislate to recognise transgender persons in their preferred gender breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

In July 2013, some six years later, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton published heads of a Gender Recognition Bill.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection has recommended the Bill be altered so the minimum age at which persons may apply to change their registered gender is 16, not 18. It has also voiced concern over a provision requiring married transgender persons to divorce their spouses as a precondition for recognition in their preferred gender.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times