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Spotlighting Research: Part Two – Voluntary Care Study in Ireland

24 Sep 2020

In this series, we spotlight exciting and impactful research currently being undertaken at the UCC School of Law. We also showcase the researchers themselves – academic staff at the School, who produce cutting-edge legal scholarship independently or through our research centres.

In Part Two of the series, we are shining the spotlight on Dr Conor O’Mahony and his research on voluntary care agreements in Ireland. Dr O’Mahony is the co-Principal Investigator in the Voluntary Care in Ireland study, an inter-disciplinary project between the UCC School of Law and the UCC School of Applied Social Studies which examines the use of voluntary care in Ireland and will make recommendations for reform.

Dr O’Mahony, along with colleagues Dr Kenneth Burns from the School of Applied Social Studies (co-Principal Investigator) and Dr Rebekah Brennan (Postdoctoral Researcher) have recorded the below video about this study, outlining the background to the project, the legal framework surrounding voluntary care agreements, risks to parental and children’s rights and recommendations for reform. The Voluntary Care in Ireland study will make detailed recommendations later this year.


The team’s first academic article, entitled “Informed Consent and Parental Rights in Voluntary Care Agreements” is forthcoming in the next issue of the Child and Family Law Quarterly. The study will form a full chapter of the 2020 Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection. Funding has been provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences and the School of Law.

Dr O’Mahony, Dr Burns and Dr Brennan wrote an article for RTÉ Brainstorm on voluntary care agreements this summer, which you can read here:

On a lighter note…

Why did you choose to study law?

It was a last minute change of mind (having long planned to study Commerce or Finance). I think I was attracted by the wide range of options a law degree would offer; I could still go into business, but I might end up doing something else. As it happened, I ended up loving the subjects that had least in common with business: constitutional law, human rights law, children’s rights, family law.

Who are your greatest academic influences?

Tim Murphy, who brilliantly taught me constitutional rights in first year and jurisprudence later on, did much to inspire my interest in teaching and research. Ursula Kilkelly has been a tremendous mentor and support throughout my career. Academics whose work I particularly admire include Gerard Hogan, Cass Sunstein, John Eekelaar and Ann Skelton (among many others).

What is your favourite law book?

The Least Dangerous Branch by Alexander Bickel.

What is your favourite non-law book?

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard – a beautifully written account of an epic tale of survival and tragedy in the most extreme conditions.

What is your proudest academic achievement to date?

My work with the Child Law Clinic on historical child sexual abuse cases – including helping to win the Louise O’Keeffe case in the European Court of Human Rights in 2014 and a subsequent ruling against the Government in 2019.

Further information

Dr Conor O’Mahony is a Senior Lecturer at the UCC School of Law. He is the Director of the Child Law Clinic at UCC, through which he works to support litigation concerning children and to advocate for law reform in the area of child law. In 2019, he was appointed by the Irish Government as Special Rapporteur on Child Protection for a three-year term. He is co-PI (with Dr Kenneth Burns) of the Voluntary Care in Ireland Study.

Dr O'Mahony's research interests lie broadly in the areas of constitutional law and child law, with a particular focus on family and children's rights. He is the author of Educational Rights in Irish Law (Thomson Round Hall, 2006) and has published numerous articles in such international journals as the International Journal of Constitutional Law, Public Law, the Human Rights Law Review, the International Journal of Children's Rights, the Harvard Human Rights Journal, the International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law and the Child and Family Law Quarterly. He has delivered papers at numerous international conferences and contributes regularly to analysis in the national media.

Read Dr Conor O’Mahony’s full research profile here:

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