Child Law in Ireland. By Lydia Bracken

AuthorFergus Ryan
PositionMaynooth University
[2019] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 3
Lydia Bracken, Child Law in Ireland (Clarus Press 2018), ISBN 978-1-
91161107, 259p.
Fergus Ryan, Maynooth University.
Recent decades have seen a strong trend towards treating child law as an important discipline in
its own right. Several academic commentators have written expertly on the topic. To the list of
the impressive treatises in this field, one can enthusiastically add Dr Lydia Bracken’s Child Law in
Ireland. Dr Bracken is a lecturer at the University of Limerick’s School of Law. She has a strong
record in the field of child law, further enhanced and consolidated by the publication of this text.
Erudite and accessible in equal measure, Dr Bracken’s book provides a most impressive account
and analysis of the law and practice in this area. It will be especially valuable to students
commencing their studies in child law, though seasoned legal practitioners, judges and academics
(as well as social workers and medical professionals) will also find it enlightening and thought-
Child Law has experienced considerable transformation in recent years. Not least of the recent
reforms has been the passage of the 31st Amendment to the Constitution, which introduced a
new constitutional provision (Art. 42A) specifically addressing children’s rights. In tandem, child
law has witnessed several significant legislative reforms in the past decade (most notably the
establishment of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla), and the passage of the Children and
Family Relationships Act 2015 (‘CFRA 2015’)), with further important reforms pending. As a
result, one might fairly compare writing a treatise on child law in the current context to painting
a moving train. The task of writing in this field is made more complicated by the fact that several
measures that the Oireachtas has passed have yet to come into operation. Notwithstanding these
challenges, Dr Bracken ably navigates the very dynamic nature of the topic, with insightful
analysis of the provisions of very recent legislation. She anticipates likely future developments,
particularly in the field of adoption information and surrogacy, with enlightening discussions of
proposed legislation in these and other areas.
The book begins with an illuminating survey of the overarching international and national
human rights frameworks and standards that apply in this context. Chapter 3 turns to address
legal questions relating to becoming a parent, including legislation and legislative proposals on
parentage following assisted human reproduction (‘AHR’) and surrogacy. Chapter 4 explores the
law on guardianship, custody and access, including the extensive changes made in this context by
the CFRA 2015. Chapter 5 addresses both domestic and intercountry adoption, including an
informative exploration of the important (and as-yet unresolved) issue of adoption information
and tracing. Chapter 6 examines the vital issue of protecting children who are (or are at risk of)
being abused and neglected. Chapter 7 takes a refreshing look at how children participate and
how courts can hear their views in legal proceedings addressing their interests. Chapter 8
contains an impressive and comprehensive review of the law and practice in relation to
Throughout the book, Dr Bracken emphasises the critical centrality of the best interests of the
child. The text astutely observes, for instance, that guardianship and custody primarily entail
responsibilities towards children, that access is a right of the child, and that the core aim of

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