by Niall O Connor
The Irish Independent, Thursday 26th February 2015
Some mothers involved in custody battles use their "children as pawns" and cause fathers to have "nervous breakdowns", former Justice Minister Alan Shatter has claimed.
During an extraordinary Dáil performance, Mr Shatter launched an attack on elements of the Government's Children and Family Relationships Bill.
He said the bill did not go far enough in terms of enhancing the rights of fathers, adding that the legislation in its current form favours the mother engaged in a custody battle.
According to Mr Shatter, some mothers go out of their way to "destroy relationships" between the child at the centre of the dispute and "go to war" with the father involved.
"There is an enormous problem where people are estranged of the primary custodial parent, who most often is the mother, deliberately obstructing fathers from accessing children," Mr Shatter said.
Speaking during yesterday's debate on the bill, the Dublin South TD furiously attacked some mothers involved in custodial cases.
"Using children as pawns. Going to war with fathers, causing some fathers to have nervous breakdowns. Destroying relationships deliberately between children and fathers," he said of some mothers.
Mr Shatter, a lawyer who specialised in family law, warned of cases where courts were unable to act.
"And, yes, it's right, and the provisions about this bill about counselling and sending people off to mediation which were all in the draft bill are all absolutely right," he told the Dáil.
"But the courts have nothing of practical use they can do where you have the obstinate, obstructive, venomous, hate-filled parent who is determined to destroy the other parent and to destroy the other parent's relationship," he added.
The comments by Mr Shatter are significant given that he compiled the draft heads of the landmark bill before he resigned as justice minister last year in light of the findings of the Guerin report.