P4p Wales/Cymru Campaigning for Parents Rights in Family Law
P4p Wales/Cymru

Campaigning for Parents Rights in Family Law

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No more men in tights

Matt O'Conner    

Matt O'Conner

Listen to the

interview to find

out about Matt's

experience of the


BBC Radio 4



More F4J:

Judge targeted as fathers start new campaign
Lotto Draw delayed by F4J protest
Cambridge News; No more men in tights
F4J Say Shoot to Kill Campaign
F4J Past Present and Future
Fathers Fear Gov Crackdown in Election
Purple Powder Protest against Tony Blair
F4J Protest thwarted by Police
Fathers 4 Justice Group clash with Police
Fathers gets Conservative Support
Protesting in the name of Fathers


Cambridge News on Matt O'Conner


BEST known for its trespassing superheroes and powder-bombing Tony Blair,

Fathers 4 Justice catapulted the issue of men's parental rights on to the front pages.

But, according to its founder, the group soon lost its way with some members caring more about the limelight than the issue at its core.

Matt O'Connor, 38, says this summer marks a new, more mature start for Fathers 4 Justice. He has expelled 30 of the campaign group's 12,000 members, a cull he says was necessary if the group was to survive and achieve its aim of transforming the law to give fathers more rights to see their children.

Matt, from Cavendish, near Haverhill, said: "We have almost had to purge the organisation like a forest fire and cull the dead wood so we can see where we are going. We are not about men in tights or superheroes, we are about trying to change the law.

"There was a danger we were going to become a parody of ourselves.

"At a local level F4J had lost its integrity. We had people stealing money and people accused of sexism, racism and violence.

"I felt like Dr Frankenstein, I had created this monster. People became addicted to the publicity. F4J had become the high-wire act of protest groups but we had no safety net. We had to go from being boys to becoming men."

But the future is bright for F4J. While the comic book heroes are taking a back seat, Matt is confident the group will not stay out of the headlines.

It is planning to take a roadshow on a tour of Britain from John o'Groats to Land's End, calling at cities, including Cambridge, in between. The main purpose of the tour is to highlight the link between young offenders and fatherless families.

Matt said: "Children growing up without fathers turn to crime."

But he assures those who will miss the antics of Batman and Spiderman the tour will not disappoint. He said: "It will be very theatrical and spectacular in trademark style. It will be the biggest thing we have ever done but it won't involve us lawbreaking."

F4J will be visiting schools, colleges and universities and is keen to get a mention in the Guinness Book of Records with a record-breaking stunt.

More is planned but it is all top secret and no doubt Matt will be drawing on his campaigning background - he used to work for the Labour Party - to make sure the message hits home.

The campaign group is currently in talks with CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and the Child Contact Bill being debated in the House of Lords is largely down to F4J, according to Matt.

He said: "We have a more mature approach that doesn't necessarily involve powder-bombing Tony Blair. That was then, this is now.

"Everyone thinks we are packing up and going home and I don't mind them thinking that. The police are expecting us to pull a stunt at the G8 summit but I prefer to do things when the police have got their trousers around their ankles."

Personally, Matt is much happier. He started F4J after a messy divorce during which he feared he would lose contact with his two children, Daniel, nine, and Alexander, seven. Now his ex-wife is remarrying and he has settled down with a new partner, Nadine Taylor, 34.

"I was in danger of losing my children. Now, my kids come to stay with me and we have a fantastically close relationship. I have had a difficult couple of years. I was consumed by the cause. It was a kamikaze mission and sooner or later, I was going to crash and burn," he admitted.

"I had to save myself and take time out."

His life story could make it on to the silver screen. Harbour Pictures, the team behind the British smash hit Calendar Girls, has bought the film rights to his tale.

He said: "There were a few offers on the table. I wanted to work with a team I knew was good. It is very surreal. I didn't realise my life was that interesting."

And he is writing a book about his experiences.

As for any potential F4J splinter groups formed by dissatisfied or expelled members, Matt isn't worried.

He said: "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. There will only ever be one F4J. We run a military campaign and we are here to do a job, go in, change the law and get out again. No-one ever said it was a democratic organisation."