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May 29, 2010 permalink
When an Irish couple met in a nightclub it was love at first sight. They had a son together and were preparing for a formal wedding when they found they had too much in common: they were half-brother and sister. Two decades ago an Irish family court decided that the boy should have only his stepfather's name on his birth certificate, and never know his real father. Since the couple already have a son, they cannot rectify their situation by finding new partners. Out of fear of community ostracism or worse, they want to keep their names out of the press.
An earlier story dealt with the same theme, twins marry. As today's couple point out, even if the chances of accidental incest are akin to winning the lottery, someone wins the lottery every week.
Couple discover they are siblings: Child courts blamed after strangers fall in love, have a son - and then find out they are half-brother and sister
A young couple have revealed how they fell in love after meeting at a nightclub, moved in together, had a child – and then discovered they were, in fact, half-brother and sister.
The extraordinary discovery was confirmed by DNA testing just last month. It has left the couple stunned and shaken – but they are nonetheless vowing to stay together and have more children.
They both blame the legal system which prevented the young man from being told his true identity. He only discovered who he really was long after he and his half-sister had got together and had the child.
Aged in their 20s and living in Leinster, they have decided to speak out in a bid to help others who might find themselves in a similar situation.
But they have to remain anonymous for fear of the impact it might have on their son – or on their lives. Some who know them fear there could be legal repercussions over their relationship, which is illegal in the eyes of the law.
Now they are considering taking a landmark civil case against the judge and a child psychologist involved in the family law case that ultimately sealed their fate by refusing let a child be told the truth about his parentage because of the secrecy that shrouds Irish family law.
Speaking to the Irish Mail on Sunday this weekend, the young man at the centre of this staggering tale said he understood how his story might initially make people feel.
‘I’m not blind and I’m not oblivious to what people might think,’ he said. ‘We’re not from a bad background and if someone had said to me that they were in a relationship like this, I would have said they were sickos.
‘When we found out that we were half-brother and half-sister, we were devastated. When I got the phone call with the DNA tests, it was like when you hear about someone you know has died or like when you are in a car crash.
‘The shock is not physical. It’s that sinking feeling in your stomach which comes all over you. If we didn’t have a child, we would have left it.
'Before we found out that my girlfriend is my half-sister, we were talking about getting married and we would like more children. But we will get married and we will have more children.’
The couple do not want their identities revealed because they fear that to do so would have a devastating impact on their young son. They believe their little boy would be stigmatised by society and singled out for ridicule by his school mates.
And, naturally, they also want to protect themselves until they’ve had a chance to come to terms with their extraordinary situation. So instead of using their real names, they have asked to be known as James and Maura.
They have asked that their son be referred to as Mark; James’s mother as Carmel, and his stepfather as Vincent. The name ‘Tom’ is given to the man who, it turns out, fathered both James and Maura.
James and Maura met several years ago in a nightclub. Even though they live 100 miles apart, both were out socialising with friends in a town which neither is from.
They were instantly smitten and so strong was their mutual attraction that just one week later they both felt they’d known each other for a lifetime.
Recalling the first time they met, James explained: ‘We grew up in separate towns about 100 miles apart. We met by chance in a town neither of us is from. We’d never met before and there is about two years between us.
‘We got on very well. We are very similar in what we like and dislike. We really hit it off. We agreed on everything. I’d been in relationships before but I just knew this was different. We met that night and after a week it felt like we’d known each other forever.
‘You know when you meet certain people you just click? It never happened in that way before. After the first week we met every evening. We would drive to see one another and I’d either go to her place or she’d go to mine.’
Two years after they met, Maura became pregnant and they moved in together. Later that year their son, Mark, was born. By then James’s fraught relationship with his mother, Carmel, was nearing breaking point.
He had not seen Vincent – the man he had been brought up to call ‘father’ – for years. Vincent had left the family home when James was about 10 or 11.
So strained was their relationship that the young boy was relieved when his ‘father’ walked out the door. He and his mother had drifted even further apart since then.
‘I have always been evasive about my parents,’ said James, ‘and when Maura would ask me when she was going to meet my parents, I would put her off knowing it would never happen.
‘My mother has always done everything wrong and with girlfriends I would be evasive so my mother wouldn’t be able to upset them.
'I was dreading the Christening because I thought the priest might ask about my mother and I thought people at the Christening would be asking me about my parents.
‘When my mother didn’t come to the ceremony, I just thought that’s it. We don’t get on and I didn’t see her until the day before last Christmas Eve. It was Christmas and I knew she was by herself and I thought I’ll just call in and see her.’
Maura, who had a happy family background, encouraged James to make peace with his estranged mother.
Sadly for them, the encounter, engineered from the best of human motives, uncovered a secret past that both of them will struggle with for many years to come.
‘My mother was by herself and I was just going to call in and see her before Christmas,’ said James. ‘That was it. I started to tell her about my girlfriend and our child.
'She asked me who my girlfriend’s parents were, what their names were. She asked me what was my girlfriend’s father’s name was, where was he from and what did he do.
‘My mother got hysterical. She just put her hands on her face and said: “You’re not serious.” I thought: “She has lost it.”
‘She went upstairs, closed the door and wouldn’t come out. I stayed in the kitchen. It was just weird; then I went up and asked her if she was okay. She said to me to stay away from Maura, but she wouldn’t come out of the room so after a while I went away.
‘I turned my phone off for a few days and, when I turned it on after Christmas, I thought there might be a text from her but there wasn’t. Three or four days after Christmas, my mother rang and told me that Maura’s father was my father.
‘I thought she had really lost it and I told Maura so. I thought maybe she was saying these things because she was lonely and that this would get me to go and stay with her.
‘But somehow in the back of my mind I knew it was true. When I was growing up, I always knew something was being held back. The man I thought was my father, who I now know is my stepfather, always treated his nephews better than me. It wasn’t that he was physically abusive, it was more mental.
‘I remember doing something, I can’t remember exactly what it was. It was Christmas and I didn’t get anything for Christmas. I couldn’t cry in front of him. It wasn’t because I wouldn’t please him to cry in front of him, it was because I would get a belt.
‘When I was in the house, I didn’t know what time he would be coming home from work but I could sense when he was and then I would change. My mother always went with what he said.’
Since Christmas, and with the help of DNA tests and gentle questioning, James and Maura have discovered the following:
Carmel had met Tom on a night out during the 1980s. She was 19. They dated for the next four to five weeks but the romance soon fizzled out and they went their separate ways.
But they did sleep together – and during her month-long relationship with Tom, Carmel became pregnant with James.
However, she didn’t tell Tom that she was expecting his child and, by the time James was born, she was already involved in a relationship with Vincent. So it was Vincent who was named as James’s father on his birth certificate.
It was not until about four years later that Tom discovered that Carmel had a child. Keen to find out whether he was the little boy’s father, he made contact but many of the details about what happened next are sketchy.
However, what is clear is that even though Tom was by now married and the father of a young daughter, he was so determined to be a part of his son’s life that he embarked on a legal battle to win access. It was the late 1980s and no doubt court cases like this were few and far between.
But Tom was undeterred and, when the case was heard behind closed doors in the family law court, Carmel admitted that Tom was indeed James’s father. She conceded that Vincent was not James’s father but his stepfather.
However, the court ruled that James should not be told who his real father was or be given access to him.
Even though James was only about five, he does have some recollections of the time. ‘I didn’t know what was going on but I remember thinking there was something strange,’ he said. ‘I met a child psychologist with Vincent and my mother, then with my mother and me, and then by myself.
‘The child psychologist asked me to point to my father, which was Vincent, and he said in court that it would be too upsetting for me to have my real father come into my life.
‘My father was not seen by the child psychologist and the judge said he admired Vincent for standing by my mother. I now look at Maura’s father, who is my father, and he is a broken man. He has failed physically and I can see how it must have been for him when this happened years ago.
‘We don’t look alike but when I am standing beside one of his brothers who is about 20 years older than me, I can see that we are identical.
‘Tom and I always got on well before we knew all this. In fact, I used to be jealous of Maura going home to her family and having a father who would ring her up and see how she is and what was happening.
‘I never had a father like that. Tom knows it isn’t right for us to be together so Maura and I don’t go to see him together.
‘Maura’s mother has been good about it. Her brother, who is my stepbrother, does not know about this and he will never know. We have decided to keep it between ourselves for now.
‘People reading this will think our situation is a one-off and that the chances of this happening are the same as the chances of winning the lottery – but every week someone wins the lottery.
‘There are others like us and I think that if mothers were forced to name the child’s father on the birth certificate, then this would not happen.’
Meanwhile, James has contacted the General Registrar of Births to rectify his birth certificate and he is also considering taking a civil case. ‘I would like to meet the judge and the psychologist and ask them how they thought this was the right decision. They would not do this to their own families.’
This disturbing case was first raised by MoS columnist John Waters, who has long campaigned for more rights for fathers in the courts. He said last night it illustrated what could happen if fathers are not given equal rights under the law.
“The facts of this case reveal the moral destination point of our corrupt and inhuman system of family law. Such cases are inevitable in a culture which regards with contempt the bind of blood and soul that exists between a father and a child.
‘It is a crime committed by the State, but the crime does not hinge only on this outcome and on these facts. It is committed every day, in courts all over the country, by lawyers, judges, social workers, so-called experts. It is the crime of contempt for the humanity of certain categories of people.’
He added: ‘Back in the 1980s, we had major stories like Joanne Hayes and Eileen Flynn, which the Irish media were anxious to prosecute because they exposed aspects of our society that needed to change.
'This is that type of story, and yet, since I first publicised it on Friday, it has been ignored by everyone apart from the MoS. Why? Not because it isn’t shocking, that’s for sure. No, because it isn’t ideologically convenient for those who decide what we should be shocked by and why.’
Source: Daily Mail
Addendum: They are getting married. You can send the music to your media player or click cancel.
Brother and sister who had child together to get married... despite knowing incestuous wedding is illegal
A brother and sister who had a child together are to break the law and marry later this month, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal.
They first spoke to the newspaper in May about their shock on discovering that they shared a father and were involved in an incestuous relationship.
And even though the couple – known as ‘James’ and ‘Maura’ – realise it is illegal for them to marry, they say they are still determined to spend the rest of their lives together and will break the law to do so.
This weekend, the couple, whose identities the Irish Mail on Sunday has protected by changing their names, as well as those of their close relatives, spoke about their wedding plans.
James said: ‘We have applied to get married and there are no mistakes in the paperwork so we will be able to wed at the end of this month.
‘We were aiming for Christmas but we have decided to do it sooner. Maura has got her wedding dress, we’ve ordered identical suits for myself and our son. We’ve also ordered a cake and we plan to go on a honeymoon a few weeks after the wedding.
‘It will be a very small wedding. We have two witnesses who we know very well and they know about our situation. I don’t know whether our father will come or whether any of our parents will be there.
‘Our son is getting excited about the wedding. He knows what is happening. As for Maura and me, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’re getting married.’
In a story that made headlines around the world, James and Maura revealed how they met and fell in love completely unaware that they shared a father.
The couple, who hailed from different towns, about 100 miles apart, were both out with friends when they met in a nightclub in a third town several years ago.
So strong was their mutual attraction that just one week after meeting, they both felt they had known each other for a lifetime.
Two years later, Maura became pregnant and the couple moved in together. Later that year their son, Mark, was born. By then James’s fraught relationship with his mother, Carmel, was nearing breaking point.
He had not seen Vincent – the man he had been brought up to call ‘father’ – for several years. Vincent, with whom James had a strained relationship, had left the family home when James was aged about 10 or 11.
In the years that followed that separation, James’s relationship with his mother deteriorated.
Maura, who had enjoyed a happy family background, encouraged James to make peace with his estranged mother and he called to her house just before last Christmas.
But, as his mother questioned James about his partner’s background, she became agitated and cut short the meeting, saying she could no longer speak to him. Mystified, James left the house.
A few days later, she made contact with the devastating news that Maura’s father was also his own father.
Since Christmas, with the help of DNA tests and gentle questioning, James and Maura have discovered the following: On a night out in the Eighties, Carmel, then aged 19, met Tom, and the pair dated for four or five weeks before going their separate ways.
However, after discovering she was pregnant with James, Carmel opted not to tell Tom she was expecting his child.
By the time James was born, she was in a relationship with Vincent, and it was he who she named as James’s father on the baby’s birth certificate. It was not until about four years later that Tom discovered Carmel had had a child.
Keen to find out whether he was the boy’s father, he made contact. Many of the details about what happened next are sketchy. However, what is clear is that even though Tom was by now married and the father of a daughter, he was determined to be a part of his son’s life and embarked on a legal battle to win access.
However, it was the Eighties and court cases like this were few and far between. But Tom was undeterred and, when the case was heard behind closed doors, Carmel admitted that Tom was indeed James’s biological father.
However, the court ruled that James should not be told who his real father was, and that Tom should not be given access to the young boy.
Now, even though James and Maura are half-brother and sister, they are determined to get married. They say they have no qualms about breaking the law after James’s biological father was denied access to him.
James said: ‘The way I see it, if the system can know about things and hide the facts, then I can do the same. They turned a blind eye and so can we.
‘People can criticise and say it is not right but they should say the same about what was done to me in the family law courts.’
Source: Daily Mail
Painted by Annibale Carracci 1560-1609, now at the Borghese gallery.