'It's Almost Kafkaesque': Newspaper Coverage of Social Work's Role in the 'Grace Case' in the Republic of Ireland

Michelle Hughes, Stanley Houston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In many countries, the media portray the social work profession in a negative light. The impact of such coverage has been an enduring concern with many commentators signifying the profound consequences for practice and professional morale. However, more investigation is required into how social work has been represented in the Irish ‘print’ media in the wake of severe maltreatment to children, especially following claims of professional negligence. Within Ireland, this is a matter of huge significance for social workers, policymakers and service users. In this context, the media’s recent coverage of the ‘Grace Case’ has led to a watershed moment in the country’s public and private spheres. Using a documentary approach and thematic analysis informed by social constructionism, the study investigated the dominant representations of social work practice in selected Irish newspaper articles in the aftermath of this tragic case. Four major themes were adduced from these sources depicting the profession as ‘failing’, ‘deceptive’, ‘unaccountable’ and ‘divided’. These results were analysed with reference to a growing moral panic within Irish society centring on the role of the state in protecting vulnerable children. A way forward for the profession was subsequently considered drawing on ideas promulgated by social constructionism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2019


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