Since the mid-1990s Ireland has been described in government documents as a 'multi-cultural society'. This is partly in response to the significant number of migrants who have recently come to live in a country that has traditionally viewed itself in mono-cultural terms and as a country of emigration. This representation of Ireland as a multi-cultural society, which includes a growing number of ethnic minority groups, is also evident in government child care legislation and policies. In the area of child care, the National Children's Strategy states that children from minority ethnic communities have 'special needs' that should be met. However, as yet, these 'special needs' identified with those seen as culturally different have largely remained unnamed and unrecognised in research, policies and social work practice in Ireland. In 2008, the Irish government published three reports that reviewed Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. This article analyses how black and minority ethnic groups are represented in the national guidelines and the three review reports, and argues that the identification of 'special needs' re-centres the dominance of white Irishness as the universal norm against which all child care practices are judged. The article raises questions about how 'race' remains unnamed in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland child protection policies and practices.