Wednesday 20 September 2017

Gardai who seized Roma children from families 'acted in good faith'

Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter
Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has revealed that the confidential garda report into the seizure of two Roma children from their parents shows they acted in "good faith".

He urged people not to "jump to conclusions" about the matter after the HSE's report blamed the gardai for not consulting properly with social workers in one of the cases.

"There's nothing I have read to indicate that the gardai acted in anything other than good faith in dealing with these issues. But there may be some lessons to be learned," said Mr Shatter.

Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan is due to begin an inquiry into the actions of gardai in taking away a seven-year-old girl from Tallaght, Co Dublin, who cannot be identified; and Iancu Muntean (2) from Athlone, Co Westmeath. Gardai had acted last month after doubts were raised about their parentage but DNA tests revealed that they belonged to their parents.

Both children, who were noticed because of their blond hair and blue eyes, are back with their families after the traumatic experience.

Ms Logan has already been sent a copy of the garda report into the incidents, as well as an HSE report by its national director for children and family services Gordon Jeyes.

Mr Jeyes's report states that local social workers in Athlone were kept out of the loop in relation to the detention of Iancu Muntean (2).

Gardai used an emergency HSE helpline to report the case and a private company secured foster care for him overnight.

Mr Jeyes said that the lack of co-operation between the gardai and social workers was "worrying".

The HSE has refused to comment on the contents of the report.

As well as examining the HSE and garda reports, Ms Logan will have the power to summon gardai for interview. Mr Shatter said he was now finalising the terms of reference for Ms Logan's inquiry.

"We're going to furnish those to the Children's Ombudsman so she can produce a full report and raise any questions she wishes," Mr Shatter said.

The seizure of the two Roma children attracted worldwide attention – given that they came to light after a Roma girl in Greece had been discovered living with a family who were not her birth parents.

Irish Independent

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