What’s up with the FTAI? Mothers who lost custody of their children in the Family Court because of pseudo-science pushed by some FTAI members call for a public inquiry

The Family Therapy Association of Ireland FTAI is the professional organisation which represents family therapy and therapists in Ireland.

Parental Alienation

Some experts appointed by the Family Court claiming to be accredited by the FTAI cite parental alienation in their recommendations to the Family Court and request that custody of the children be removed from the mother and given to the father.

The Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice has been shown prima facie evidence that this is what happened in a number of cases when mothers reported child sexual abuse to Tusla or the Gardai and ended up losing custody of their children.

Deputy Bernard Durkan has raised this issue in the Dáil on more than twenty occasions beginning last September.

He has described how claims of parental alienation by court experts has resulted in the loss of custody for parents, mostly mothers.

“I bring to the attention of the House the scandalous situation of the treatment of women who are mothers who are going through the family law courts, wherein their rights are being abolished virtually. Under the in camera rule, they are being subjected to the kind of abuse that was used in prisoner of war camps in years gone by and which is totally alien to the Irish Constitution and justice system and to human rights,” he told the Dáil on 23 February.

Yesterday, 6 July he asked the Tanaiste, Micheál Martin:

“Again I raise a question I have had to raise on several occasions with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, namely parental alienation and the degree to which it continues to be used in family law.

I have gone through this to some extent. Parents – mostly women but in some cases men – continue to have decisions made about them by way of reference to so-called expert witnesses.

They are maligned in their submissions. Now a large number of people, maybe up to 200, both women and men, have been condemned to experience the outcomes.

How can we arrive at circumstances in which these cases can be taken on en bloc to reverse the damage done to family life, particularly that of women who are mothers?”

On 11 June the FTAI published a 𝑆𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑟𝑒 𝑃𝑎𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝐴𝑙𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 on their website. The statement ends:

𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝐸𝑥𝑒𝑐𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝐵𝑜𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑎𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑑𝑟𝑎𝑤𝑛 𝑎 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑠𝑢𝑏𝑚𝑖𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑖𝑡 𝑚𝑎𝑑𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐷𝑒𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝐽𝑢𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑒 𝑂𝑝𝑒𝑛 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑢𝑙𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑛 𝑃𝑎𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝐴𝑙𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑛𝑜 𝑓𝑢𝑟𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑜𝑟 𝑝𝑢𝑏𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑜𝑝𝑖𝑐 𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑔𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑝 𝑎𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐸𝑥𝑒𝑐𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝐵𝑜𝑎𝑟𝑑.”

It’s noteworthy that A 𝑅𝑒𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑝𝑒𝑐𝑖𝑎𝑙 𝑅𝑎𝑝𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑢𝑟 𝑜𝑛 𝑣𝑖𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑎𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑤𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑔𝑖𝑟𝑙𝑠, 𝑖𝑡𝑠 𝑐𝑎𝑢𝑠𝑒𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑒𝑞𝑢𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑠, by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls,  Reem Alsalem was published 12 May 2023.

This report is unequivocal in its condemnation of parental alienation and how it’s being used in countries, including Ireland to remove custody of children from mothers.

Dr. Alsalem’s report says parental alienation “has been dismissed by medical, psychiatric and psychological associations, and in 2020 it was removed from the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization.

Nevertheless, it has gained considerable traction and has been widely used to negate allegations of domestic and sexual abuse within family court systems on a global scale.”

𝘍𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 is the journal of The Family Therapy Association of Ireland.

Jim Sheehan is listed on the editorial committee of past issues of 𝘍𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬.

Chapter 7 of his book 𝐹𝑎𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑦 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑓𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑡 𝐴𝑓𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑆𝑒𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐷𝑖𝑣𝑜𝑟𝑐𝑒 published in 2018 is titled:‘Parental Alienation and Justified Rejection of a Parent’.

On 13 Oct 2022, speaking under Dail privilege during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill 2022, Deputy Bernard Durkan said: “If the activities of Mr. Jim Sheehan in the courts are allowed to continue, there will be serious consequences.”

Garda Vetting

The Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice is aware that some FTAI therapists posing as experts in the Family Court are presenting FTAI Garda vetting in order to interview children for Family Court ordered reports.

Currently there is a requirement under law that a person must have separate Garda vetting for work with different bodies and agencies.

Garda vetting for an accreditation body does not meet the Garda vetting requirement for the Family Court.

Separate Garda vetting must be obtained for the Family Court where children are being interviewed by expert for reports commissioned by the Family Court.

The Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice has seen a letter from the FTAI dated 1 June 2023 in response to an email which says:

“It is not within the remit of the FTAI to oversee Garda vetting within organisations such as Family Law Court. We would suggest that you contact the Family Law Court direct in this regard.”

The President of the District Court, Judge Paul Kelly was then contacted about Garda vetting of experts appointed by the Family Court.

His response is evasive and does not answer the questions posed to him.

“The law relating to the appointment of experts to provide reports to the Court pursuant to s32 Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 (as amended) is set out in that section, and in the Statutory Instrument made pursuant to it, s.l.587/2018. The Court is bound by these provisions. There is no reference in the legislation for Garda vetting,” he wrote.

Judge Kelly in his response didn’t refer to the legislation requiring separate Garda vetting for each activity undertaken in different organisations or entities.

FTAI closed until further notice

The response to an email sent to the FTAI yesterday says:

𝑇ℎ𝑎𝑛𝑘 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑒𝑚𝑎𝑖𝑙.

𝐷𝑢𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑐ℎ𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝐴𝑑𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐹𝑇𝐴𝐼 𝑜𝑓𝑓𝑖𝑐𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑐𝑙𝑜𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 1𝑠𝑡 𝐽𝑢𝑙𝑦2023 𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑙 𝑓𝑢𝑟𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑛𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑒.

𝑌𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑠 𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑦,


On the face of it, the FTAI would appear to be coming under pressure as a result of questions raised with it in recent weeks.

Mothers who have lost custody of their children as a result of expert reports submitted to the Family Court by some FTAI accredited members, have told Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice they are now wondering if there has been any breach in their Family Court cases of the FTAI’s Code of Professional Conduct and Practice and Code of Ethics published on their website http://www.familytherapyireland.com/organisation/code-of-ethics/

The Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice, Ireland’s leading non-Tusla funded advocacy group for mothers in difficulty with Tusla, Gardai and Family Court is calling for a public inquiry into the issues raised in the Dáil by Deputy Bernard Durkan.

Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice Co-Founder and Convenor, Anna Kavanagh says that nothing short of a public inquiry will expose the rot that’s at the heart of the Irish Family Court.

“We are coming to the end of yet another Dáil term and we are no closer to a resolution for mothers who have lost custody of their children and are blocked from seeing them, in some cases for years. Deputy Durkan has raised the issue on a weekly basis since last September. We will be taking steps in the coming week to formally call for a public inquiry into the Family Court before the Dáil breaks for the summer recess,” she said.