As the Deputy may be aware, 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 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. However, I am very much aware that parental alienation is a complex issue and that further analysis may be desirable.
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality published a report last year on Reform of the Family Law System which includes parental alienation among a broad range of issues in the area of family law.
My department has 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. As part of its work, the oversight group will consider the various recommendations, including the recommendation on parent alienation, contained in the Report of the Joint Committee.
The oversight group includes representation from the judiciary, the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth as well as officials from my Department.
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to enact a Family Court Bill. In the preparation of the General Scheme of that Bill, account has been taken of the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on the 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.