Parents in County Wexford who are isolated from their children following separation or divorce, have welcomed the unanimous passing of a motion by Wexford County Council, calling on the Irish Government to recognise Parental Alienation as a form of child abuse requiring specific legal measures.
Wexford became the 24th county in Ireland to officially request that the relevant Government departments recognise Parental Alienation as a crime and a form of coercive control and implement recommendation 36 of the October 2019 Report on the Reform of the Family Law System.
The move follows the lobbying of Wexford TDs, senators and councillors by alienated parents including a Wexford mother who described the council decision supported by all members as 'an important day for me and many other parents and their children'.
'The most important and terrifying thing is that it is our children who suffer the most and the negative effects of this suffering will affect their lives and indirectly the whole of society in the future.'
The mother-of-four who experienced domestic violence and coercive control, is alienated from her two older children and said her heart is broken 'every minute of every day' by the estrangement.
One father who wrote to local TDs has not seen his three children for seven years.
'Parental Alienation has ruined my life and my three children's lives and the State, instead of rectifying the wrong, has compounded this,' he said.
'Can you imagine your children taken away from you, turned against you and then, to pour fuel on the fire, to have to fight the Family Law Court system that compounds the injustice?'
The motion was brought by Mayor of Wexford Cllr Leonard Kelly, who explained that Parental Alienation arises where a child whose parents are separating or divorcing is influenced by one parent into rejecting any relationship with the other previously-loved parent.
'This leaves the rejected parent at breaking point with court the only option to try fight for access to see their own children.'
Welcoming the council's unanimous support, Cllr. Kelly said 'it is great to see that we are supporting alienated parents, this is something that is very important.
'I was contacted by parents seeking to have it recognised as a real and serious issue. It's something we really need to have a look at and I hope the Irish Government will address it and put the necessary interventions, supports and services in place.'
Wexford Fianna Fáil TD James Browne raised the issue in the Dáil in mid-July, asking the Minister for Justice and Equality Helen McEntee to make a statement on the position regarding Parental Alienation and its impact in Ireland.
The Minister replied that Parental Alienation has been described as a situation where a child's resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent. 'The issue of parental alienation is highly complex and I am aware that some professionals advocate for the classification of parental alienation as a clinical disorder affecting children, while others raise concerns that taking this action could act as a means of masking other serious issues such as genuine allegations of child abuse. The phenomenon most commonly occurs in the course of family break-up or divorce,' she said.
'While there is no specific legislative provision regarding parental alienation in Irish family law, 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 is also a range of legislative provisions in place for dealing 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. Deputy McEntee said she was also aware that the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on Reform of the Family Law System, which was published late last year, considered the issue of parental alienation among a broad range of issues in the area of family law. She added that all of the recommendations in the report are currently being examined by her Department. Alienated Children First is an organisation in Ireland offering support to parents who need it and can be contacted at email@example.com.