Five-year-old Illinois-born Jack Redmond boarded an Aer Lingus plane from O’Hare to Dublin at 6:45pm last night unaccompanied by his American mother. In accordance with a court order Jack is being returned to his father in Ireland, his family told the Irish Voice.

Jack’s father, Derek Redmond, is “ecstatic” to have his son returned, his lawyer, David Schaffer, told the Irish Voice.

In contrast, Jack’s mother, Mary Redmond, and his maternal grandmother in Illinois only barely managed to stifle their sobs in phone interviews with the Irish Voice, during which the child was audible in the background. (The shared last name between Jack’s parents is purely coincidental, and the parties were never married.)

“I said to [my son] this morning, ‘I’m so sorry,’ and he said, ‘It’s okay, Mommy. I’m brave and I’m strong. It’s not your fault,’’” Mary Redmond told the Irish Voice. “It broke my heart.”

After a custody battle protracted since March 2008 and litigated in both Ireland and the United States, a federal court ruled that under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Jack must return to Ireland on or before July 9, 2012.

Jack’s mother, Mary Redmond, had removed him to Illinois after an Irish court awarded joint custody to Jack’s father, Derek Redmond of Ballymurphy, Co. Carlow,  in February 2011. Ms. Redmond was permitted by the Irish court to remove her son from the country to settle their affairs in the US on the condition that she swear under oath to return with him to Ireland by March 2011. Ms. Redmond instead remained in Illinois with her son and initiated custody proceedings in the state.

The federal court under the Hague Convention ruled that Ms. Redmond’s failure to return her son to Ireland after the Irish court’s judgment was unlawful, and ordered the child and his mother to return to Ireland, where the father could exercise his joint custody rights under Irish law.

Ms. Redmond and her lawyer stated their worry that if Ms. Redmond ever set foot in Ireland, she would face arrest and imprisonment for contempt of court due to her failure to return Jack in March 2011. The child’s grandmother, Peggy Redmond, accompanied him on the plane instead.

Mary Redmond remains behind in Illinois, where she will work with her lawyer on an appeal to the federal decision, her lawyer, Sarane Siewerth, said in an interview with the Irish Voice.

“If I can’t get my son home [through the appeal], then I’ll go face whatever they have for me,” Mary Redmond told the Irish Voice. “I just need to be near him.”

Peggy Redmond told the Irish Voice that she worries Jack will be legally required, according to his father’s wishes, to stay in Ireland until he is no longer a minor. She worries Jack’s mother will be unable to visit him without facing arrest, and said an Irish marshall was present at the federal hearing with an Irish arrest warrant for Mary.

But according to the 2011 Illinois state decision in the custody matter, for which the state court communicated with the Irish court, “The [Irish] Court indicated that it was not going to incarcerate Ms. Redmond for violating its orders, because she has a four-year-old child for which to care.”

Mr. Redmond’s lawyer also said that neither the Irish court system nor his client had any desire or intention to incarcerate the mother if she returned to Ireland. Mr. Redmond said his client had always promoted the idea of Jack spending some time in the United States with his mother and her family, and would continue to arrange a plan for Jack’s visits once his plane landed in Ireland.

The whole saga started in 1996, when Mary Redmond, who was born in the United States but additionally holds Irish citizenship through her Irish-born father, attended college in Ireland and began a relationship with Derek Redmond, of Ballymurphy, Co. Carlow.

The couple lived together in Ireland for a decade, where Ms. Redmond worked and pursued a second degree before her pregnancy in 2006.

By mutual agreement of the parents, Jack Redmond was born in Illinois on March 28, 2007. Both parents returned with the child- who holds dual citizenship- to Ireland when the child was eleven days old.

According to the federal court, the parents’ return to Ireland demonstrated their mutual intent to raise Jack there.

However, according to Ms. Redmond’s mother, Derek Redmond verbally agreed to start a steel welding business in Illinois with Ms. Redmond’s father, and his return to Ireland with Mary and their son was always a temporary arrangement for the purpose of settling his business affairs.

Mary Redmond left Derek Redmond permanently on November 10, 2011, multiple courts found, taking their son with her to Illinois.

The Cook County district court’s ruling, which was based solely on Mary Redmond’s testimony, states under ‘Findings’ that “Mr. Redmond was clearly abusive.”

Mr. Redmond’s lawyer said that his client had not had the opportunity to defend himself on the abuse allegations when that finding was issued.

The Cook County decision also found that the Irish court had jurisdiction over Jack’s custody because Mr. Redmond filed in Ireland for both custody and guardianship- equivalent to American parental rights for an illegitimate child -within six months of his son’s initial permanent departure from Ireland.

Ms. Redmond returned with Jack to Ireland in 2008, to collect her personal belongings, according to statements to the courts and to the Irish Voice.

But while in Ireland, Ms. Redmond also consulted a community welfare officer in Co. Carlow, according to the federal court record. Ms. Redmond’s legal team stated in the federal case that during the meeting, Ms. Redmond asked about maintenance payments for her son. Mr. Redmond’s legal team stated that the application was for “periodic payments” from HSE Community Welfare in Ireland, which Ms. Redmond and her child would have to reside in Ireland to receive, according to the federal record.

Planning to leave the country before Derek’s custody hearing, Ms. Redmond was stopped at  Dublin airport by Gardai on April 8, 2008, as per an ex parte Order requested by Mr. Redmond. Ms. Redmond was allowed to leave the country after the hearing.

A complex legal battle ensued in the Irish Court system as to whether Ireland had the jurisdiction to decide custody for Jack, which the Irish High Court decided it had in November 2008.

In January 2009, Ms. Redmond acknowledged the Irish court’s jurisdiction over the matter and applied for permission to remove her son permanently to the US.

Her application was heard at the same time as Mr. Redmond’s custody request. The Irish court consulted a family therapist/psychologist, who interviewed the child, both parents, the parents’ siblings, and the child’s grandparents, according to court documents. The psychologist recommended that Jack live in Ireland and have an ongoing relationship with both parents.

At this time, Ms. Redmond swore under oath that she would return to Ireland with Jack by March 2011. She admitted to the federal court last month that she never had any intention of keeping that promise, according to federal court documents.

Ms. Redmond instead filed for sole custody in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

The Illinois court granted Ms. Redmond’s request for an emergency order of protection against Mr. Redmond, based on Ms. Redmond’s testimony that Mr. Redmond had threatened her life, dangerously held their child by his neck, and removed the child from the care of a babysitter and driven the child without a car seat while intoxicated. Mr. Redmond was not present for the proceedings to defend himself against the allegations.

The order of protection solely applied to Ms. Redmond’s stated fear that Mr. Redmond would abduct the child while court proceedings were still ongoing in Illinois, but was extended briefly to allow for Ms. Redmond to apply for a similar protection in an Irish court, which Ms. Redmond has not sought.

Mary Redmond told the Irish Voice that she worried Derek would abuse her son upon his arrival in Ireland.

“I just don’t want [Derek] hurting this little boy,” she said.

Mr. Redmond’s lawyer said that the abuse allegations had been considered by the social worker in the Irish investigation, and that the “court didn’t have a concern about it.”

The Illinois court also acknowledged the Irish court’s jurisdiction in the matter, as Mr. Redmond filed for custody within six months of his son leaving Ireland, before the child’s residence in Illinois could be legally habitual.

Mr. Redmond filed a petition for his child to be returned to Ireland under the Hague Convention on December 1, 2011.

The Hague’s June 19, 2012 decision required both Ms. Redmond and her child to return to Ireland; the judge said verbally, according to Ms. Redmond’s lawyer, that another family member could accompany the child.

“Hague proceedings aren’t to determine the best interests of the child, they are to determine jurisdiction,” Mr. Redmond’s lawyer told the Irish Voice. The Hague’s decision verifies that Ireland has jurisdiction over the case, which makes the 2011 order for Jack to reside in Ireland valid.

Schaffer, Mr. Redmond’s lawyer, said he would consider allowing his client to speak with Irish Voice reporters once his client’s son lands safely in Ireland.