Minister insists no ethnic group should be targeted
on 25/10/2013 00:00:00
The minister accepted the cases, which a Garda spokesperson told the Irish Examiner were "purely coincidental", came against the "international backdrop" of an alleged child abduction case involving a white blonde child and a Roma family in Greece.
However, she said it is essential that no section of society is wrongly targeted in Ireland when it comes to legitimate concerns over the safety and welfare of children.
Ms Fitzgerald said she is "extremely concerned for the families of the children" affected and stressed what is "really important now" is to "assess what exactly happened".
She said Emily Logan, the Children's Ombudsman, has already asked the HSE and gardaí to provide detailed information on why they made the decisions to remove the children.
Despite concern that the bodies will effectively be examining their own actions, the minister said the Ombudsman's involvement means this review will be independent.
A large number of groups have heavily criticised the authorities for their actions.
Roma Support Group Ireland condemned the incidents "in the strongest possible manner".
"The Minister for Justice defends the actions by saying that the authorities acted in good faith. What does this mean? Is it now good faith to abduct children from their families if the colour of their hair and eyes does not match that of their parents?
"If this is not racial profiling can anyone point to a situation where a member of the majority Irish population have been treated in a similar way? We certainly cannot remember one situation where families were treated in this way because of the colour of their hair or eyes," a spokesperson said.
Human rights group Doras Luimni said "the issue of racial profiling has to be addressed head-on by the agencies involved".
The view was mirrored by Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, who said officials must ensure they "do not allow themselves to be caught up in a wave of hysteria or to reflect some of the xenophobic attitudes that exist in society in relation to the Roma community".
Amnesty International and the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights made similar claims.
Geoffrey Shannon, Ireland's special rapporteur for children, said the actions of gardaí should be central to any investigation.