IRELAND'S reputation as a "safe haven" for parents who abduct their children has been confirmed by new figures which show that there has been a 50pc increase in international child abduction cases here.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show there were 46 new Hague Convention cases in the High Court last year.
This compares with 31 in 2005, and just 27 cases three years ago.
The figures have raised further fears that Ireland, whose written Constitution affords greater protection to married parents -- particularly birth mothers -- is becoming the international child-abduction centre of choice for warring couples.
Earlier this year, the Irish Independent reported that the High Court refused to repatriate several children in high-profile abduction cases, even though they were habitually resident elsewhere.
Ireland is a signatory to the Hague Convention, an international child abduction law which requires the immediate return of children wrongfully removed from signatory countries, including Britain and America.
But experts are concerned that the Government is not tracking the extent of child abduction to and from non-Hague countries, including Muslim countries.
Parental abduction of Irish-born children, and children of Muslim immigrants, is a growing phenomenon in Ireland, and is endemic throughout Europe.
But recovering children from Islamic countries is an almost impossible task, as fathers' rights take precedence over the wishes of mothers and children in almost all circumstances.
"The fact that Hague Convention cases are on the rise is hugely worrying," said a Government adviser.
"Because of the convention, there is now a huge incentive to abduct children to countries where the laws do not apply."
Last year, 46 of the cases which started in the High Court concerned 63 children, of whom 22 were aged under five years, 26 were aged between five and 10 years and 15 children were 10 years or older.
Of the 46 cases, final orders were made for the return of children in 25 cases.
Judges also ruled that children should stay in Ireland in 15 cases, and interim orders were made in the remaining six cases.
Some 2,000 children have been embroiled in abduction proceedings here in the past 15 years, which last year reached a record high involving 160 children.
Early indications from those familiar with the work of the Central Authority for Child Abduction say those figures are set to rise.
Almost twice as many children are abducted into Ireland as are removed from the country.
And 70 per cent of new cases involve children who have been abducted outside the State and brought here.
But Ireland's apparent reluctance to repatriate abducted children has led some legal experts to privately complain that Ireland has become a safe haven for abductor parents.