Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter has published draft legislation containing what one expert has called the most radical reform of family and children's law in Ireland in almost a century.

He said the Children and Family Relationships Bill would clear the way for same-sex couples in civil partnerships to jointly adopt children.

He said it would remove the current anomaly where single lesbian and gay individuals can adopt children, but civil partners cannot jointly adopt.

In a statement, Mr Shatter said the Bill, if it became law, would enable parents who are estranged or living apart, where possible, to maintain a meaningful relationship with their child.

The measure proposes to make it easier for grandparents and relatives to maintain contact with a child in the situation of relationship breakdown.

On guardianship, it would enable a step-parent caring for a child on a daily basis, for example, to sign a school note or to consent to emergency medical treatment.

It would also facilitate step-parents of children born outside marriage in acquiring parental rights and responsibilities following their marriage to a child's biological parent.

It would no longer be necessary, as currently happens, for a biological single parent to jointly adopt his or her own child following marriage, together with their marital partner, for this to occur.

However, the draft bill does not create any barrier to such adoptions being effected, the minister said.

Commenting on the bill, the Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shannon said it was the most radical reform of family and children's law in Ireland in almost a century.