The human rights of two Irish children at the centre of a custody battle in the US are being violated in the "most appalling" manner, Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea has said.
Limerick-born siblings Jack (10) and Sarah (8) Corbett were taken into the care of US social services after their father, Jason Corbett, died on August 3rd.
Mr Corbett (39), originally from Janesboro in Limerick, was found dead at his home in Wallburg, North Carolina, following what the authorities described as a domestic disturbance.
Move to US
The father of two moved to the southern US state with his young children four years ago, following the death of their mother, Mags.
He married local woman Molly Martins (32), who has been questioned by the police following his death.
Mr Corbett’s sister Tracey Lynch and her husband, David, who were appointed legal guardians to the Corbett children, are among the family members who have travelled to America in an attempt to gain custody of the children.
Mr Lynch confirmed yesterday that his brother-in-law's remains will be flown home to Ireland this week, arriving in Dublin today or tomorrow. However, he will not be buried until his children are back in Ireland.
Not allowed contact
None of the Corbett family have been allowed any contact with the children since they arrived in North Carolina over a week ago.
A custody hearing will take place on Friday.
“We are holding up okay. The support from home, especially from people in Limerick, has been a real help,” said Mr Lynch.
“We still haven’t had any contact with the children. We just have to wait until Friday’s custody hearing.”
Mr Corbett's body is to be returned home with the help of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which was established by the parents of a young man from Co Down who was killed in a hit-and-run in New York two years ago.
The trust aims to help families whose loved ones have died suddenly and in similarly tragic circumstances while abroad.
Mr O’Dea said he had been approached by concerned members of the Corbett family and asked to speak out about their situation.
“It is incumbent on somebody in the Government, particularly the Minister for Foreign Affairs I would say, to talk to their American counterparts directly rather than let the consular section deal with it exclusively, and try to bring forward that [custody] case from Friday.
"And, secondly, to point out to the Americans that it's alright to be talking about human rights in the Ukraine and elsewhere, but Irish citizens in the United States have human rights too, and in this case it seems to be that the human rights of these two children are being violated in a most appalling manner.
“Somebody at ministerial level should intervene to point out that this is a humanitarian matter and to point out the tragedy that has befallen this family, and to point out the psychological impact on these children who want to join their father’s family and come back to Ireland.
“They have no interest, as I understand it, to remain in the United States.”
A fund has been set up in Limerick to help Jason Corbett’s family with travel expenses and legal costs which are expected to be tens of thousands of euro.