The Courts Service has advised that emergency sittings of the District Court are arranged regularly all around the country for various purposes, including emergency family law applications. The Courts Service are not aware of any difficulties with emergency sittings in the family law area.
However, the Deputy will be aware that the Government recently approved in principle my proposals for reforms to our courts structures which will, in due course, require the holding of a Constitutional referendum. The proposed reforms are intended, if approved in a referendum, to facilitate the establishment of a new separate Family Courts structure which will streamline family law court processes and make them more efficient and less costly. Considerable work will be necessary to develop these proposals and this has already commenced in my Department. A decision on the timing of the necessary referendum will be made at a later date.
The Programme for Government commitment - to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation, in a way that provides protection to victims - will be progressed as soon as possible having regard to the need for consultations and the need to dispose of urgent legislative matters in my Department including under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for the State.
Funding for front-line domestic violence services is provided at present by the Health Service Executive for whom the Minister for Health has responsibility. I understand that responsibility for funding these services will transfer to the Child and Family Support Agency when established and that agency will come under the remit of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.