Evelyn: Changing The Law In Ireland - Summary

A father’s fight to get his children back home is the subject of the international bestselling book and major motion picture Evelyn. Set in Ireland in the 1950’s, Desmond Doyle’s (Pierce Brosnan) struggle to reclaim his family results in a change in Irish law. The Doyle family is poor, but together until Charlotte Doyle decides to abandon her motherly responsibilities. Left with six children and no one to provide childcare, the father Desmond Doyle tries to get governmental assistance. Instead, his children are sent to an “industrial school”. 

An industrial school is a boarding school for criminal, or potential criminal, children. Desmond feels he has no choice when he agrees to split his children up and send them away. Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur) is sent to a convent, while her 5 brothers go to the Boys Industrial School. Unaware of Irish laws, Desmond thinks this separation is a temporary fix. Desmond goes to England, where he finds work and “female assistance”. 

Returning to Ireland, Desmond first tries to get custody of his daughter, thinking the boys will follow. Government officials respond that this will not be in the child’s “best interest”. Desmond hires an attorney, but soon discovers that it will take the consent of both parents to release Evelyn. Evelyn’s mother is out of the country, and unavailable. The fact that Desmond is Catholic and his “housekeeper” is Protestant adds to the problems. 

Since all of his children are detained against his will and will remain so until they are sixteen, Desmond decides to challenge the Irish Supreme Court. He wants them to declare portions of the Children Act of 1941 unconstitutional. Although the odds are against him, Desmond wins his case in December of 1955. Not only does he win, but also the court orders the government to pay his court costs. It is the first time anyone challenges Irish constitutional law involving children and wins. 

Even though Desmond Doyle wins his case, the Irish laws regarding children does not change. Evelyn tells the story of Desmond’s fight for his children in her book and the movie, and this provides her with an opportunity to talk about her father’s struggles to reclaim his family. Controversy over the Irish industrial schools continues today. In 2009 a commission investigates charges of abuse, but no charges are filed. The victims of these industrial schools believe that the abuse of justice has been  “white-washed”, meaning that the problems have been ignored.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Apr 30, 2019

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"Evelyn: Changing The Law In Ireland" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 01, 2002. Jan 19, 2020.
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