The 2019 Conference featured a very distinguished list of speakers. We wanted to address some familiar topics, such as mental health, suicide, the perennial topic of family law and a relatively new topic in the same circle of ideas that of parental alienation.
We were particularly keen to challenge two major pieces of legislation confronting men today: the first is the Istanbul convention which is actually in place since July 1 2019 and which we fought hard to thwart. It has the distinction of being among the very few major international conventions never to have been discussed even once in Irish media, print, radio or television. Domestic Violence is at the heart of the Convention, another issue which the media is equally reluctant to discuss in a fair objective and impartial manner. We engaged Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan an international expert on the subject to speak and give for once a scientific take on the matter.
The second is potential legislation arising from the review of the prosecution of sexual assault cases which was initiated in September 2018 but has the backing of influential lobby groups, notably the RCNI, and which shows all the signs of having the support of the Minister. Following the Belfast trial in March 2018 and the outbreak of fury on social media which greeted the acquittal of the accused men, a document appeared, commissioned by the Rape Crisis Network which was very conveniently prepared in advance and ready and waiting for release at the opportune moment. This document draws heavily from work already in existence in England which proposes changes which would impact greatly on the system of due process and the related presumption of innocence, cornerstones of out legal system.
In England these changes are being “trialled” we are told.
We were very glad that Karen Straughan the Internationally known Canadian activist on men’s rights, was able to come to Dublin and to speak on this topic from the point of view of experience in Canada.
Proposed changes would impact greatly on the system of due process and the related presumption of innocence
The conference opened with an address from chairman David Walsh.
The second speaker was Professor Patricia Casey, who spoke from her clinical experience on mental health problems particularly as they relate to men. Her title was:
Mental Health, Men and Society.
The third speaker was Karen Straughan who gave her trademark, carefully phrased and crafted, highly informative speech which raised a number of deep questions. Her speech is here. Karen was followed by Frank McGlynn who first spoke from an Irish perspective
on the same issue: “Review of Procedure in Sexual Assault Cases”. He then took up a second legal matter which was the subject of a Law Reform Commission report. This dealt with the issue of honest belief in rape cases and whether this defence be allowed to stand.
The report appeared in November and recommended the abolition of the honest belief defence as expected. Frank’s talk is likely to be required reading for those interested in how the prosecution of sexual offences evolves in the near future.
The three talks were then followed by a Q and A which went on for about 45 mins.
We are accustomed to hearing just one side of the DV debate with the other side carefully screened out
The afternoon session kicked off with Brian O’ Sullivan’s talk
“Parental Alienation— Time for Change”
Brian has been very active in bringing this topic to public attention; he set up an association and has been lecturing about it since 2015. He was one of the organisers of a conference about it in TCD in May.
Brian was followed by Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan from the University of Central Lancashire. She is an established expert on Domestic Violence with numerous publications and has worked with some of the best known figures in the field.
Her title was: Understanding Domestic Violence: Comparing what we think we know to what the evidence tells us.
This talk was one of the highlights of the day. It shed a great deal of light on a sensitive issue, one which has never been treated with the impartiality and objectivity it deserves, and one on which we are accustomed to hearing just one side with the other side carefully screened out. It was all the more impressive in that all its claims were carefully backed up by evidence. The slides have already appeared elsewhere but they are supplemented here by her commentary.
The final talk was given by Ken Joyce who has taken a keen interest in the workings of the family court system. His title was
Men’s experience in the Family Law Courts – what needs to change and why
and his talk is here.
There was a Q and A session for the three speakers to wind up a memorable day.