Two Slovakian boys to be adopted in Northern Ireland
Two "damaged" Slovakian boys whose mother is in jail for drug smuggling are to be adopted in Northern Ireland, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice O'Hara backed a health and social care trust's case that the move will best protect the half-brothers' future. He held that the mother and fathers of the children, aged eight and four, were all unreasonably withholding consent.
The judge said: "I do not believe that anything short of adoption is appropriate or acceptable."
The boys' mother, referred to as Ms H, has twice married Slovakian men since coming to Northern Ireland in 2007. Her relationships were scarred by alcohol abuse, domestic violence, financial pressures and neglect of the children. Ms H's position worsened in 2014 when she was jailed in Portugal for cocaine smuggling. Following her expected release in May next year she intends to return to Slovakia to her mother and daughter from a separate partnership.
Opposition to the adoption proceedings came from the father of the youngest boy, identified only as CH. He wanted his son placed into the care of a paternal uncle's family in Slovakia - even though it was made clear they did not want the boy's half-brother, AC.
Lawyers for the trust argued both children should be raised in Northern Ireland. It was submitted that the most important and protective relationship in CH's life has been that provided by AC.
The judge said: "The fact of CH's Slovakian heritage is relevant and must be acknowledged in practical terms, but in most ways he is really a Northern Irish boy. I conclude that it is better for these two damaged boys, particularly AC who endured longer and more difficult times at the hands of three parents, that they be adopted."