This article reports on research carried out into the nature and position of social work in the child protection and welfare system in Ireland. Employing a methodology of a history of the present, this research sought to crtically examine the nature and position of social work within the social as a 'psy expert'. Selected findings relating to the genealogical and archaeological construction of social work discourse in Ireland are provided to illuminate how its particular historical pathways both enabled and constrained its development. It was found that, to some extent, conceptualizations of social work in the context of its space within the social were applicable to the Irish context. however, it was also found that a number of other factors were also significant, implying the need for problematization of existing theories of the social. Although some of the findings relate directly to the particular spatial context of Ireland, others are transferable to the UK and international contexts. The research asserts that, while social work represents a diffuse and complex activity, enabled and constrained by its genealogical context, the potential exists in the profesion for greater attention to be apid to its archaeoloigcal construction. In light of contemporary neo-liberal conditions of governance, the need for such attention is emphasized.