Ms Maria Corbett

PhD in Law candidate



Maria Corbett commenced her doctoral research in NUIG in April 2016.

Maria has twenty years’ experience as a children’s rights advocate, legal and policy analyst and researcher.

For 14 years from 2001, she led the policy work of the Children’s Rights Alliance which unites over 100 members working together to promote and protect the rights of children and young people in Ireland. As the organisation’s Legal and Policy Director and Deputy Chief Executive, Maria authored numerous legislative and policy submissions and engaged in advocacy at national, EU and UN level, including working to secure constitutional change and influence the development of Better Outcome: Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014) and the Ryan Report Implementation Plan (2009).

Prior to 2001, Maria worked as a researcher, in a homelessness NGO and in residential care.

Maria holds a Bachelor Degree of Social Science from UCD, a Bachelor Degree of Law from DIT and a Master Degree in European Social Policy Analysis from NUI Maynooth and McMaster University, Canada.

Alongside her studies, Maria undertakes court reporting for the Child Care Law Reporting Project. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Ark Cultural Centre, Dublin and the Child Care Law Reporting Project.


  • NUIG Hardiman – Child Care Law Reporting Project Research Scholarship (2016)
  • Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship (2016)


Research Interests

  • Human rights law
  • Child law
  • Child protection
  • Children in care
  • Poverty
  • Access to justice
  • Public policy

Research Projects

PhD Thesis

“Child Protection Decision-Making Mechanisms: A Comparative Human Rights Analysis”


To vindicate a child’s right to be protected from parental abuse and neglect, the State may be required to intervene in family life, including by placing a child in State care. Under international human rights law, when determining child protection cases, the State must balance the child’s right to be protected from harm, the child’s right to be reared in his or her family and also ensure that any decision made is in the child’s best interest. States have adopted diverse models of decision-making ranging from: court-based judicial decisions; family alcohol and drug courts; administrative social work arrangements and family group conferencing. The decision-making mechanism adopted can vary both within and between jurisdictions.

My research will examine which decision-making mechanism or combination of mechanisms best vindicates the rights of the child. This will involve examine how mechanisms in Ireland and in a small number of other jurisdictions comply with international human rights. Specific issues addressed will include how the mechanism respects the principle that State intervention in family life must be proportionate and in the best interests of the child and how it upholds the State’s positive obligation to work towards family reunification. Having undertaken this international comparative analysis, my research will develop an evidence-based best practice framework for Ireland which is in accordance with human rights standards and cognisant of Ireland’s legal structure.

Research Publications


  •  ‘The Public Law Aspects of the Brussels IIbis Regulation Through an Irish Lens’ in Boele-Woelki and Martiny (eds) Plurality and Diversity of Family Relations in Europe (Intersentia and CEFL 2019)
  • Children in Voluntary Care: An essential provision but one in need of reform, Irish Journal of Family Law, Volume 21, Number 1 2018
  • An Analysis of Child Care Proceedings through the Lens of the Published District Court Judgments, Irish Journal of Family Law, Volume 20, Number 1 2017

Conference Presentations

  • Sixth conference of the Commission on European Family Law (CEFL) on Pluralism and Diversity of Family Relations in Europe, Hamburg, Germany, 1-3 November 2018 Judicial Child Protection Proceedings: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Children in Decision-Making in Ireland and Germany
  • Fifteenth International Conference European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF), Porto, Portugal, 2-5 October 2018 – A Human Rights Analysis of Removing and Maintaining a Child in Care under a Voluntary Agreement in Ireland and England
  • Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development (SWSD 2018), RDS, Dublin, 4-7 July 2018 – What role does international human rights law play in setting the threshold for removing a child into State care?
  • Seventeenth Annual Doctoral Seminar, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway, 23-27 April 2018 – Human rights compliant decision-making in child protection: A comparative case study analysis of Ireland, England and Germany
  • Sixth National Child Protection and Welfare Social Work Conference, University College Cork, 27 October 2017 – Lessons for Child Protection Reform from District Court Child Care Proceedings
  • Graduate Conference of the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) 2017 Annual Conference, University College Dublin, 4 September 2017 – An Analysis of Child Protection Decisions-Making Mechanisms Across Jurisdictions to Assess their Human Rights Compliance
  • Seventh World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights, PhD Symposium, Dublin, 4-7 June 2017 – An Analysis of District Court Child Protection Decisions in Ireland to Assess their Human Rights Compliance
  • Ninth Trinity College Dublin Law Student Colloquium, Dublin, 4 February 2017 – An Analysis of District Court Child Protection Decisions in Ireland to Assess their Human Rights Compliance.

Poster Presentation

  • Seventh World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights, Dublin, 4 - 7 June 2017 – An Analysis of Child Care Proceedings Through the Lens of District Court Judgments