Upper Bann Sinn Féin Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Cllr. Liam Mackle Ard Fheis Speech 2017

Published: 22 November, 2017

Every year across Ireland families break up, parents separate and children are born where parents have already separated. Thousands of the children of these families often end up the subject of acrimonious disputes between parents in our family courts at great cost to the state, to the parents but most of all to the children.

One of the most fundamental rights that a child has is the right to a family, to be loved and cared for by parents who have your welfare and happiness at their very core. On far too many occasions this is not the case, parents fall out and the acrimonious nature of their fall out often clouds how they care for their children and how they communicate with the other parent about their children's welfare.

As a country we offer far too little support to parents when they are having difficulties. At present it is left to the family courts and the lawyers to sort out the difficult questions in relation to children, where they will live, how much contact will there be, what school will they attend and the list goes on…

Courts and our legal systems are unfortunately about winners and losers and our children get caught in the crossfire. The relationships between parents can often be soured for ever by the courts process and it is the children who have to live with the consequences.

Family Mediation offers a better, cheaper and more child centred alternative to family courts. It is an enabling process where parents are encouraged to focus on the welfare of the child and their role as a parent. To put their adult differences, no matter how difficult, aside and with the assistance of specialist trained mediator reach their own agreement that is best for their family.

We must work as a party to make change that is what we as a party are about. We must use our considerable influence as policy shapers and makers to encourage the development of family mediation services across the whole country. There is now a mediation Act in the 26 counties. We must push for similar in the north and push for the implementation of Justice Gillens recommendations in his recent review of Family Justice in the north.

We need a society where children are at the centre of everything we do and a society that works with and for parents to help them to do what is best for their children. A society with rights at its core and the rights of children are fundamental to that.