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Press Release

Minister Zappone welcomes the appointment of Dr. Conor O’Mahony as Special Rapporteur on Child Protection

Published: 29 July 2019
From: Department of Children and Youth Affairs

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, today announced the appointment by the government of Dr. Conor O’Mahony as Special Rapporteur on Child Protection for a three-year term.

The Minister welcomed Dr. O’Mahony to the post saying:

“Conor has a distinguished career in the area of Child Law, Children’s Rights and Constitutional Law and I look forward to working with him during his term.”

The appointment follows an open competition run by Public Appointments Service (PAS).

The Minister said:

“The new selection process that I put in place ensures a transparent and open procedure for the selection and appointment of the Special Rapporteur.”

Dr O’Mahony is Director of the Child Care Law Clinic at UCC, where he has supported litigation concerning children and advocated for law reform in the area of child law. He has published widely on his areas of expertise and contributes regularly to analysis in the national media.

He holds a PhD from the University of Wales, Aberstwyth and has lectured in UCC since 2005. He has been invited to address sessions of the Constitutional Convention, the Citizens’ Assembly and a number of Joint Oireachtas Committees.

Minister Zappone also praised the work of the outgoing Special Rapporteur, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon.

The Minister said:

“I would like to sincerely thank Dr. Shannon for his dedication and commitment to the work in this area. He has delivered a comprehensive annual report to Government in each of the years 2007 to 2018. The child welfare and protection matters raised in his reports are relevant to a broad span of departments and statutory agencies. I consider that his reports have provided important input into the development and review of child protection policy and legislation and have provided an objective and independent expert view of the child protection system in Ireland.”


Notes to the Editor:

The terms of reference of the Special Rapporteur are as follows:

  • The Rapporteur shall, in relation to the protection of children and on the request of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs:

Review and report on specific national and international legal developments for the protection of children

Examine the scope and application of specific existing or proposed legislative provisions and to make comments/recommendations as appropriate

Report on specific developments in legislation or litigation in relevant jurisdictions

  • The Rapporteur shall report on relevant litigation in national courts and assess the impact, if any, such litigation will have on child protection.
  • The Rapporteur shall prepare, annually, a report setting out the results of the previous year’s work in relation to 1) and 2) above.
  • The Rapporteur will provide, if requested by the Minister, discrete proposals for reform, prior to the submission of the annual report.
  • The annual report of the Rapporteur will be submitted to the government for approval to publish and will be laid before the Oireachtas and published.

The Rapporteur is accountable to the Oireachtas and is entitled to consult with departments of Government and the Ombudsman for Children about any legislative initiatives designed to enhance child protection.

All of the reports of the Special Rapporteur are laid before the Oireachtas and are published here on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Background Information on Dr. O’Mahony


  • 2002 – 2005: PhD, University of wales Aberystwyth: “A Comparative Study of the Legal Provision for Special Educational Needs in England & Wales and in Ireland” (Award, no corrections required; recipient of PhD scholarships from UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and University of Wales Aberystwyth).
  • 2001 – 2002: LLM (Masters) by Research, University College Cork: “The Right to Education in Irish and international Law” (First Class Honours: recipient of Ronan Scholarship).
  • 1998 – 2001: BCL, University College Cork (First Class Honours).


  • 2014-present: Senior Lecturer in Law, University College Cork.
  • 2005 – 2014: Lecturer in Law, University College Cork.
  • 2002 – 2005: Graduate Tutor in Law, University of Wales Aberystwyth.

Responsibilities in Current Role (UCC)


  • Child Law, Children’s Rights and Constitutional Law at both undergraduate and LLM level; Director of Child Law Clinic.


  • Chair of Academic Council Graduate Studies Committee, 2014 – 2018; Director of PhD programme in Law, 2009-2018 (rated 5/5 in Research Quality Review, 2015); Director of LLM in Children’s Rights and Family Law, 2014 – 2015 and 2017 – 2018.


  • Extensive portfolio of internationally and nationally recognised published output, funded research, impact and outreach work. One monograph: 33 peer-reviewed journal articles; 12 chapters in edited collections; one published report; six book reviews.
  • Cited in over 280 published sources, including academic literature; Government and civil society reports; by the High Court of Ireland; and in both the Dáil and the Seanad.
  • Significant policy and law reform engagement, including invitations to address the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality (2019), the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children (2015), the Constitutional Convention (2013) and the Citizens’ Assembly (2018), as well as expert advisory roles with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla.
  • Regular contributor to debate and analysis in national media.

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