18-year transgender case ends as recognition bill discussed in Seanad

29 January 2015

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The long-running Lydia Foy case ended in the High Court today (Thursday), with  Senior Counsel for Dr Foy, Bill Shipsey SC, telling the court that the case could be struck out after 18 years of litigation because a Gender Recognition Bill had been introduced in the Oireachtas.

Dr Foy, who began legal proceedings in 1997 seeking a new birth certificate showing her female gender, said she was delighted that the Government had at last introduced legislation to end the long nightmare experienced by transgender persons, who were forced to live marginalised lives and subjected to harassment and abuse.

Settlement terms in the case had been agreed last November committing the Government to publish a Gender Recognition Bill before Christmas and introduce it in the Oireachtas before the end of January.  That had been done and debate on the Bill had commenced in the Seanad last week.

FLAC Senior Solicitor Michael Farrell, who represented Dr Foy, said the result was a landmark victory for transgender persons who had been isolated and scorned by society for far too long.  “Regrettably, however, there are flaws in the Gender Recognition Bill which would force married transgender persons to divorce if they want official recognition and which do not cater adequately for children under 16, who are often bullied and victimised in school,” he commented.

“The Government should take the opportunity to make this Bill comply with best practice and include all transgender persons rather than have to come back and amend it in the months or years ahead,” said Mr Farrell.

He added that Dr Foy’s success was based on the European Convention on Human Rights and it showed that the Convention could be an important tool to end injustice, but it was “unacceptable” that Dr Foy had had to wait for seven years before a High Court decision in her favour had been implemented.  “The legislation incorporating the Human Rights Convention into Irish law must be strengthened to ensure that judgments are acted on when they are delivered, not years later when they might have lost their effect,” concluded Mr Farrell.


Editors’ notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. FLAC is an NGO that relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
  2. FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250) and free legal advice through its network of 80 volunteer evening advice centres – more at  It also campaigns on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
  3. There will be a public talk co-organised by FLAC and UCD Human Rights network on “(Trans)Gender Recognition in Germany: The Role of the German Courts” on next Thursday, 5 February 2015, in the Sutherland School of Law at UCD,Belfield, Dublin 4.  A keynote address will be given by Prof. Dr. Johanna Schmidt-Räntsch, Judge of the German Supreme Court, and chaired by the Hon Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness. Michael Farrell of FLAC and Broden Giambrone of TENI will also speak.  More info at
  4. The Gender Recognition Bill 2014 is on the Oireachtas website at  and a statement from the Department is at .
  5. A transcript of the recent Seanad debate on the Bill is at
  6. You can download a comprehensive briefing note on the Foy case (Feb 2013) at  A press release on the settlement of her second case in October 2014, based on the government’s pledge to introduce a Transgender Recognition Bill, is at