Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Child Protection

4:05 pm

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I am thankful for the opportunity to raise this issue again. It is an issue with which all public representatives are familiar. I was somewhat at sea on the last occasion because I did not have as much information as I would have liked to have been able to present to the House. Since then, I did some research and was astounded at some of the things I found. It was suggested to me that there might have been the development of an anti-women element in the courts.

Women were not getting their rights as mothers as in the case I mentioned. She has particular rights as the primary carer and custodian of the children and rights under guardian ad litem. These were not observed and were dismissed or rejected by the court. Subsequently the children in this case were accosted in school by gardaí on foot of an order from the courts and were brought to the other side - to the respondent in the case, which was obviously a case in the divorce courts. The children were taken away from their mother and placed in the custody of the former spouse of the litigant.

I concluded, as you would conclude, a Cheann Comhairle, having dealt with these matters for many years - and other Members as well - that there must be something there that we did not observe. I did some more research and I then discovered that the mother was accused of attempting to turn the children against the father, who had been removed from the house some years previously on foot of a serious issue. The case persisted, to the extent that the mother was warned that if she approached a public representative, Tusla or anybody else, to plead her case there would be recriminations for which she would pay in the short and long term. It would appear now that her offence is that she is accused by an accuser, supported by the court, of trying to turn the family against the father. The most important point is that allegation was never challenged. The judge in question decided not to hear the case, which went against her, and since last May she has not had an occasion to meet her children except by way of telephone call. There were repeated admonitions from the solicitor for the other side pointing out that if she persisted, this would be taken into account against her.

I did some other research. You will be interested in this as well, a Cheann Comhairle. I researched a number of cases that I had dealt with over the years. I found that there was a pattern, which appeared to be misogynistic and to address what was referred to as the women's issue, whereby women were seen to be too powerful and were getting too much of their way in the courts and the aim was to redress that. Everybody is entitled to their day in court and to due process and natural justice. They might not always win, but there must be an opportunity where the questions are asked quite strongly by the opposing side in order to verify the case. That is their right. It is also their right to have an alternative court-appointed child psychologist, psychologist or messenger of the court, as it may be, to deal with the issue if necessary in order that justice prevails. That is the information I have so far. You will be interested, a Cheann Comhairle, in the next piece of information that I will not have for another week.


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