Belfast Telegraph

Stopping allowance for Newry widow 'cannot be justified'

Marina Lennon had her case heard before Belfast High Court on Thursday
Marina Lennon had her case heard before Belfast High Court on Thursday

By Alan Erwin

Stopping the Widowed Parent's Allowance for a Newry woman because she began living with another man cannot be justified, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for Marina Lennon claimed the decision to halt the allowance she received after her first husband died has put their teenage daughter at a financial disadvantage.

Mrs Lennon is seeking to judicially review the Department for Communities over the move, claiming it also creates a deterrent to forming a new relationship.

Her challenge raises different legal points to the landmark case taken by unmarried Co Antrim mother-of-four Siobhan McLaughlin.

Last year the Supreme Court ruled the decision to deny Ms McLaughlin a widowed parent's allowance when her partner died breached the family's human rights.

But Mrs Lennon, the mother of a 15-year-old girl, had been granted the benefit after her first husband passed away in October 2012.

It was only when she started cohabiting with another man - who she went on to marry - that the payments were stopped, according to her legal team.

They contend that the Department's decision unlawfully breaches her private and family life entitlements under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Ronan Lavery QC told the court: "The essence of our case is whether the child, now aged 15, should suffer a disadvantage because her mother has cohabited or married.

"We say that there is no justifiable reason for that."

Mr Lavery, instructed by Ciaran O'Hare of McIvor Farrell solicitors, insisted that the girl's new family situation will never replace the father she has lost.

He also set out how Mrs Lennon's current husband has six children of his own - three of them under the age of 18.

"If one takes the justification to its conclusion, somehow he's supposed to be able to also then contribute to another child who has lost their father," the barrister went on.

"The nature of the benefit is one that is directed towards the child, and in other European countries is payable directly to the child.

"The fact of whether the surviving parent is married or not should be irrelevant to whether that child receives the benefit."

Following submissions Mr Justice McCloskey indicated he will deliver judgment next month.

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