More children are being abducted
Almost 150 new cases of child abduction were recorded last year, official figures reveal.
The Central Authority for Child Abduction dealt with 276 cases, 147 of which were new; five more than in the previous year. The remaining 129 cases were ongoing from 2011.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter urged divided families to try to resolve their differences before a situation gets out of hand.
"Parental child abduction continues to be a worrying problem," he said.
"Mediation remains the best way for estranged parents and spouses to resolve their differences and reach lasting agreements that work in the best interests of the children involved."
Figures from his department show that the 147 new cases recorded last year involved 192 children, 83 of which involved people trying to leave Ireland and the other 64 concerned people coming into the country. The 129 still active from 2011 comprised 69 outgoing cases and 60 incoming.
Almost half the cases recorded by the Central Authority for Child Abduction (46%) involved the UK. The remainder were spread across other European countries and 12% were linked to the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
The Family Mediation Service became part of the Legal Aid Board in late 2011, allowing disputing families to reach an agreement over child custody without having to go to court.
Mr Shatter said: "I would encourage any family in such a situation to access these services and to do so as soon as possible. I will continue to work to improve the measures available to families including through the Mediation Bill which is currently being drafted."
The Irish Central Authority was set up in response to the Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act 1991. Its job is to help return a child who has been taken from the state against the wishes of a parent.