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Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Ensuring children’s interests among potential challenges

To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which he remains satisfied that the interests of children remains to the fore to the greatest extent possible in all situations where their interest might be challenged; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


As Minister with responsibility for Children, I am committed to upholding their best interests in all situations.

Ireland held the presidency of the Council of Europe last year. One of the priorities chosen for the Irish Presidency was “Hear our Voices”, which had a particular focus on youth engagement. As part of this, I was delighted to host a conference in October focusing on The Rights and Determination of the Best Interests of the Child in Parental Separation and in Care Proceedings.

Ireland is currently undertaking a number of major reforms that aim to improve the experience of children and families involved in family court proceedings.  I have been working closely with my colleagues, Ministers McEntee and Harris to ensure that children’s best interests are at the centre of their Department’s proposed Family Court reforms.  

Last year I oversaw the enactment of The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2022. In September I commenced Section 4 of this Act, which reflects the intent of Article 42A of the Constitution by confirming that in any child care proceedings under the Principal Act, the court must regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.

The main purpose of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2022 is to extend and regulate the guardian ad litem system for children involved in child care proceedings. The provisions of this Act are intended to enhance the rights of children and the capacity of the courts to make the right decisions in helping children and their families.

My Department is also reaching the end of a lengthy and in-depth review of the Child Care Act, 1991. The Child Care Act is a wide-ranging piece of legislation, which, at its core, seeks to promote the welfare of children who may not receive adequate care and protection. We have listened carefully to the concerns and suggestions of stakeholders, including children, and researched international best practice. I plan to bring Heads of Bill to government shortly to revise and update this Act, to ensure that Ireland can uphold the best interests of this very vulnerable cohort of children into the future.

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