During June 2021 the Department of Justice carried out two public consultations to both of which Men’s Voices responded:
- The Future of Family Justice
- Third National Strategy on Domestic Sexual and Gender-based Violence, DSGBV.
The first was on The Future of Family Justice and was relatively short. It began by informing us that in September 2020, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, T.D. established the Family Justice Oversight Group. The main role of the Group is to identify ways to modernise and improve family justice and people’s experience of the system.
It went on: As part of its work, the Group wants to hear from you about your experiences of family justice to help it to decide what a future family justice system might look like. Your contribution lets you have your say on how we can improve things for the benefit of all.
It wants to address issues such as Separation, Divorce, Access, Maintenance and other Family relationship issues.
We stated our views on a number of issues:
The Family Law Act of 1995 and how it leads to the removal of men from their homes and to difficulties of access later.
In our dealings with men who have contacted us we have been constantly reminded of the lack of support services for men undergoing separation;
That there should be automatic guardianship for unmarried fathers;
Parental Alienation should be taken into account. It is recognised as a serious problem by experts but is not recognised by the state.
Denial of Access should be penalised.
The rights of children to have ongoing continuous and meaningful relationships with both parents
We underlined our belief that: The family justice system should strive by all means possible to help families resolve processes of separation and divorce without resort to the courts and endeavour to bring about separation which is amicable.
The system should support:
The rights and responsibilities of parents to play a fulfilling role in the lives and development of their children.
The rights of children to have ongoing continuous and meaningful relationships with both parents.
We concluded by emphasising the lack of appreciation of the importance of fatherhood in the lives of children. This issue has been hugely neglected. The research on this matter is overwhelming and unequivocal. Boys in particular suffer when the connection to the father is broken or impaired.
The Second Consultation
The Second consultation was on the Third National Strategy on Domestic Sexual and Gender-based Violence, DSGBV as officialdom has it. The Second National Strategy is nearing its end and the department is drawing up a third to cover the next 4-5 years.
Fortunately MVI had already contributed to the earlier strategy and so was able to comment in an informed way on what had occurred.
As three key barriers to the Second Strategy we cited:
- Lack of the male viewpoint in the monitoring committee comprising NGOs and State bodies.
- A continuing lack of basic understanding of Domestic Violence as cited in the literature: At least 50% of DV is reciprocal.
- The underlying document, The Istanbul Convention, is full of ideology and is utterly flawed, discredited.There is a refusal to acknowledge this.
Invite representatives of male, female and other advocacy groups to debate DV and test the evidence. This has never happened
As barriers which undermine preventive measures we cited:
Pathetic level of services for men. Services are inadequate in the extreme and are available only 9 to 5 Monday to Friday
No public discussion of the true nature of DV on RTE or the media
Tusla is not open to approaches from male advocacy groups
We called for a real debate on DV generally and specifically on the Istanbul Convention.
The Convention has not been the subject of real debate in any country where it has been ratified, including Ireland. Turkey has withdrawn, Poland has expressed grave reservations, the UK has not ratified it. Just 33 countries have ratified it out of 47 in all.
In regard to specific actions we called for these:
Invite representatives of male, female and other advocacy groups to debate DV and test the evidence. This has never happened.
Recognise that men and women perpetrate domestic violence for similar reasons and that women are as controlling as men.
Recognising that at least 50% of Domestic Violence is reciprocal, talk of a victim-perpetrator matrix is not realistic. There may be two victims and two perpetrators in a particular case.
Training offered to Gardai, Judges and other court professionals needs to be balanced and impartial.