Ireland remains decades behind neighbours in private family law services

Courts should be last resort for separating families

One Family CEO, Karen Kiernan, has said, Ireland is decades behind the rest of Europe in supporting families and protecting children who use the family law system.  Ms Kiernan’s comments come ahead of a free seminar of leading Irish and international experts on Family Law this Thursday, 2 July from 3pm – 5pm live online. The seminar Building a Family Law System for Families examines how the proposed family law reform as set out in the Programme for Government will work and will offer a vision for how radical change could be implemented for the better in the future.

Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family explained: “Many of our family law systems are antiquated and overly focussed on conflict and court. What children and their separated parents need is support to share parenting well such as appropriate policies, legislation, mediation as well as necessary parenting and therapeutic services. They do not need to be unnecessarily funnelled into court hearings because there are no alternatives to resolve difficulties. Court should be the last resort.”

Speaking ahead of the seminar, Anthony Douglas CBE, former CEO of The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in England (Cafcass) explains how the organisation re-engineered the entire family law system in England and Wales over the last ten years to provide a system rooted in the need for children’s safety and well-being:

“In England and Wales there was willingness amongst policy makers, practitioners and Government for a radical change in the provision of family law. There was a feeling that court practices were out of touch with the way children and families lived their lives. Working together, we transformed the system to reduce delay, be more child-focussed and to understand both the advantages and limitations of family courts in resolving family problems. Our goal has been to provide a therapeutic justice system focused on conflict resolution rather than having your day in court where there are rarely winners and losers. Ireland can learn a lot from the English and Welsh experience.”

Ms Kiernan added, “We have opportunities in the coming years to begin building a reformed family law system that focuses on the needs of families rather than on the courts, the legal practitioners or the state. The implementation and adequate resourcing of the proposed legislation on the Family Law Courts by the new Government is absolutely critical to begin this process. We need more family support services such as the counselling and parenting programmes provided by One Family and others funded to help families navigate the difficulties of separation and divorce.”

Speakers at the seminar include:

  • Oonagh Buckley – Deputy Secretary General, Department Justice & Equality
  • Anthony Douglas CBE – Former CEO of Cafcass
  • His Honour Judge Colin Daly – President of the District Court
  • Peter Mullan – Head of Circuit & District Courts Directorate, Court Service of Ireland.

For more information on the seminar click:

For Editors:
One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services.
For further information visit:


Cafcass stands for the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Cafcass is a national arms-length Government body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, providing a court-based service to 140,000 children a year in public and private law cases throughout England. Their remit is to understand and advise courts about the needs wishes and feelings of individual children.

Anthony Douglas CBE:

Anthony Douglas was Chief Executive of Cafcass from 2004-19 and now has a small consultancy business working in the UK and internationally. He took Cafcass from an ‘inadequate’ to an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating and from working with 60,000 children a year in 2008 to 140,000 in 2019. Anthony was an economist and a journalist prior to becoming a social worker and has written 4 books on UK social care and is now writing a fifth on the importance of social care in a civilised society. He was Director of Social Services in Suffolk between 2002 and 2004. He is now a Visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia and was a member of the Family Justice Board and the Adoption Leadership Board in England and Wales for many years. He was awarded a CBE in 2008 for services to family justice and adoption and was given the ‘outstanding contribution to social work’ award at the Social Worker of the Year Awards in November 2018. He is currently a member of a small advisory group to the President of the Family Division for England and Wales about transparency in the family courts.

For Interview:

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 086 850 9191

Anthony Douglas, former CEO of Cafcass

Further Information/Scheduling
Noel Sweeney, Communications and Events Manager | t: 085 7241294