Children's rights in Ireland - Law policy and practice' (Tottel Publishing, 2008) Dr Ursula Kilkelly

AuthorPeter Smithwick
PositionFormer President of the District Court
2009] Book Review: “Children’s Rights in Ireland” 189
(Tottel Publishing, 2008)
Dr Ursula Kilkelly
Dr Kilkelly’s book is a comprehensive study of children’s
rights in Ireland, and examines in commendable detail all the
relevant law on the topic. This includes our own constitution,
all international conventions and associated instruments, our own
case law, that of other jurisdictions and of the European Court of
Human Rights and the European Court of Justice, and our own
legislation and government initiatives.
The author concludes that “the infrastructure necessary to
underpin effective protection of children’s rights in Ireland is
largely missing”. She blames the absence of independent rights
for children in the Constitution, particularly their right to a say in
their lives. She seeks a shift away from the paternalistic approach,
whereby adults know best, to the recognition that children are
rights-holders with a right to a say in their lives. She emphasises,
indeed she labours, this point in considering it from various
aspects. First in considering the law of other countries, where she
cites with approval the decision of the Canadian Supreme Court
in Baker v. Canada1 in holding that the Immigration Officer did
not adequately consider the best interests of the children.
In considering our own constitutional law, she criticises the
overwhelming majority of the jurisprudence as ignoring or
underplaying children’s rights when they come into conflict with
those of the parents. She contrasts unfavourably the decisions of
Geoghegan J. and Hardiman J. in the Baby Ann case2 where the
Supreme Court returned a child from her adoptive parents after
Former President of the District Court.
1 [1999] 2 S.C.R. 817
2 N. v. Health Service Executive [2006] IESC 60.

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