Children's Ombudsman to investigate removal of Roma children
on 24/10/2013 09:54:15
Emily Logan will be furnished with two reports - from the Garda Commissioner and the Health Service Executive (HSE) - in two weeks' time and will review the circumstances which led to gardaí removing the children from their homes.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it was important that the incidents, in a Dublin suburb and in Westmeath, were reviewed independently, but insisted he believes the authorities acted in good faith.
"I've no doubt that in these two cases the gardaí acted in good faith," Mr Shatter said.
"Fortunately it turned out that the concerns that arose in these cases were unfounded and I'm very keen to ensure that any lessons that need to be learned are learned.
"As I said, any procedural changes that have to be implemented that they are implemented and that we have a comprehensive approach to this in the context of the connectivity between An Garda Síochána and the HSE."
The Roma family of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed schoolgirl removed from them by gardaí supported calls for an independent investigation after tests proved she is their daughter.
A lawyer said they believed the authorities had no proper basis for their action after the seven-year-old was taken into state care for two nights.
A member of the public raised concerns about her appearance compared to relatives in the south Dublin suburb of Tallaght.
DNA results last night proved she belonged to her parents, who maintained she was theirs since she was taken by authorities on Monday afternoon.
Earlier, a Roma family in Athlone were reunited with their two-year-old son, who had been removed and spent Tuesday night in state care.
The toddler, also blond and blue-eyed, was returned to his family after gardaí were satisfied he was in fact theirs.
Mr Shatter said gardaí have been criticised in the past for not intervening enough in child protection cases.
"They're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't," he told RTÉ Radio.
The Minister confirmed he had not yet spoken to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan about the cases, but he had been assured that a report would be compiled within the next fortnight.
He said his colleague, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, had requested separately that the HSE investigate the matter and return its report within two weeks.
The reports will then be furnished to the Children's Ombudsman, who "may well wish to engage with the families".
Mr Shatter promised to offer the two Roma families in question any social services they might need to help them get over any "trauma" caused.
He also insisted that no minority community had been targeted in the episode.
"I am anxious to ensure that there is no question of any group or minority community being singled out for unwarranted attention or indeed, suspicion in relation to child protection issues," he said.
"I don't believe that was an intention here."
Elsewhere, a human rights group has called for an independent inquiry amid claims that the two Roma children were "abducted" from their families by the authorities.
Pavee Point fears there is hysteria after the case of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl named Maria who was found with a Roma family in Greece, and accused gardaí and health chiefs of racial profiling.