Transgender recognition Bill ‘flawed’, human rights lawyers say

Dr Lydia Foy expresses concern over exclusion of young people

Leading human rights lawyers have described the Government’s gender recognition Bill as “flawed” and “very disappointing” and have urged that it be brought into line with “international best practice”.

Transgender woman Dr Lydia Foy, who led the legal challenges on gender recognition in Ireland, has welcomed the Bill, but has said it includes "unnecessary obstacles".

“I am delighted we have reached this stage, but it seems crazy to confine legal recognition of gender to single people, when we are holding a referendum on civil partnerships,” Dr Foy said, speaking at a public seminar at NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights.

She also expressed concern that it would exclude young transgender people at a very difficult and vulnerable time in their lives.


“We don’t want to slavishly copy legislation that is wrong in other countries,”she said.

The Bill, on which debate began in the Seanad last month, is intended to bring Ireland into line with Europe as the only EU member state that does not permit legal recognition of transgender people.

A High Court ruling in 2007 found the State to be in breach of its positive obligations under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in failing to recognise Dr Foy in her female gender and failing to provide her with a new birth certificate.

However, the legislation is “inadequate” and very disappointing and does not reflect well on Ireland’s commitment to human rights, Irish Centre for Human Rights director Prof Michael O’Flaherty said.

“We have an opportunity now to make it a model of international good, rather than international also-ran, practice,” Prof O’Flaherty said.

Free Legal Advice Centre senior solicitor Michael Farrell, who represented Dr Foy, said the Bill had flaws which would force married transgender people to divorce if they sought official recognition. It did not cater adequately for children under 16 years of age, who were often bullied and victimised in school, he said.

Mr Farrell said while he was glad in “principle” the Bill had been published, it was “unfortunate” the Government could not have come up with a better document.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times