Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has welcomed a new project that will allow the reporting of child care cases in the district court for the first time.

The five-year independent research project will be carried out by former Irish Times Legal Affairs Editor, Dr Carol Coulter.

Currently, child care cases, involving applications by the HSE for care orders, are heard behind closed doors in camera, and there are no written judgments in the district court.

Dr Coulter said she would attend a representative selection of cases and publish reports on a designated website.

Both Dr Coulter and the minister stressed that the anonymity of the children and families involved would be protected.

Dr Coulter said the purpose of the project was to gain a greater understanding of such cases and gauge the effectiveness of current systems, with a view to informing future policy.