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Thursday 28 August 2014

Second Roma family set to sue over wrongly taken girl

Shane Phelan

Published 03/07/2014 | 02:30

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Two-year-old Iancu Muntean  pictured with his mum Loredana  and sister Regina. His family are suing for distress and defamation
Two-year-old Iancu Muntean pictured with his mum Loredana and sister Regina. His family are suing for distress and defamation

A SECOND Roma family is poised to sue the State over a child being wrongfully taken into care, despite indications from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald that a settlement would be offered to them.

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Lawyers acting for the family of the girl known as Child T say they are "actively considering" a lawsuit after a report by the Ombudsman for Children highlighted a host of failings by gardai.

The family of Iancu Muntean, or Child A, who was also wrongly taken into state care last October, has already initiated legal proceedings against the State for distress and defamation.

Ms Fitzgerald, who has met with and apologised to both families, indicated, in comments to the media, that "a fair and adequate settlement could be reached with the families".

However, Waheed Mudah, a solicitor representing the family of Child T, said no settlement had been offered to his clients to date.

He said a lawsuit was being considered and the advice of a barrister had been sought.

"At this moment there are no proceedings instituted, but that is not to say there are no proceedings planned," said Mr Mudah.

Child T was seven when she was taken from her home in Dublin last October at the height of the international furore caused by the 'Maria' case in Greece, where a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Bulgarian girl was found on a Roma camp site, having been allegedly abducted.

Gardai acted in the Child T case following a 'tip off' given to a journalist about a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl living with a Roma family in Tallaght.

The case was complicated by the fact the Coombe hospital could not initially find records matching Child T's birth certificate.

The girl was placed in care for three days before her identity was confirmed and she was returned to her family.

Role

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan found gardai should have evaluated concerns "far more critically".

However, her report did not find racial profiling was a factor in Child T's case, something the family believes played a role.

Mr Mudah said a decision on a potential lawsuit would be made "in the next few weeks".

He said the report had brought some comfort to the family and they were glad to receive apologies from Ms Fitzgerald and Interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

"They are happy that at least the State realises that the manner in which things happened was wrong. They are happy that lessons have been learnt and hopefully there will be no repeat of such incidents in the future, because it was a horrendous occurrence, a horrendous situation," he said.

"Every time they remember it, the scene and the manner in which the child was taken away from them, it sends shivers through their spines.

"They don't want any other family to go through that experience again."

Two-year-old Iancu Muntean was taken into care in Athlone the day after Child T. He spent a day in care before being returned to his parents.

Ms Logan identified a number of shortcomings in the way gardai acted and said racial profiling was involved in the Athlone case.

Irish Independent

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