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Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee)

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Snippet Contents:

I propose to take Questions Nos. 701 and 707 together.
The Government is committed to modernising the operation of the Family Justice system, to ensure we have more efficient and user-friendly family court system that puts the family at the centre of its work.
I have noted that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality Report on Reform of the Family Law System includes recommendations on a range of issues connected with family justice including the recommendation referred to by the Deputy on parental alienation.
As the Deputy may be aware, there is no specific legislative provision regarding parental alienation in Irish family law. However section 246 of the Children Act 2001 provides for an offence of frightening, bullying or threatening a child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child's physical, mental or emotional health or wellbeing. There are also legislative provisions in place to deal with child welfare particularly regarding the relationship between a child and his/her parents or guardians, providing the framework for a legal response to a wide spectrum of child welfare issues.
As this is a complex area, I am planning for research to be carried out on parental alienation by my Department this year.
My Department has also recently established the Family Justice Oversight Group which will agree a high-level vision and key medium and longer-term objectives for the development of a national family justice system in parallel with the establishment of a dedicated Family Court structure as envisaged by the forthcoming Family Court Bill and set out in the Programme for Government. As part of its work, the oversight group will consider the various recommendations, including the recommendation on parental alienation, contained in the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on Reform of the Family Law System.
The Family Court Bill will be a key element of the development of a more efficient and user-friendly family court system that puts families at the centre of its activities, provides access to specialist supports and encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution in family law proceedings. The development of sensible, comprehensive and sensitive family law procedures, particularly for vulnerable families, will be central to the new system.