Saturday 27 December 2014

Shatter: Lessons ‘might be learned’ from Roma child removals

Published 24/10/2013 | 09:11

Two year old Iancu Muntean pictured with his mother Loredana, father Iancu and sister Regina (4) outside their home in Meadowbrook Estate Athlone yesterday
Two year old Iancu Muntean pictured with his mother Loredana, father Iancu and sister Regina (4) outside their home in Meadowbrook Estate Athlone yesterday

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has said its important that "lessons might be learned" from the saga in which two Roma children were removed by gardai over doubts about their parentage.

Mr Shatter has ordered an independent report into the actions of the gardai in both cases, involving a seven-year-old girl from Tallaght, Co Dublin, who cannot be identified and Iancu Muntean (2) from Athlone, Co Westmeath.

He said on RTE Radio's Morning Ireland today the report will examine the "background circumstances" in the cases and "the procedures that were followed".

Procedural changes in any such future cases may have to be implemented, he said.

Mr Shatter admitted that concerns over the childrens' parentage were "unfounded", but he said he had "no doubt that gardai acted in good faith".

"The gardai and the HSE have been criticised in some cases for not acting as speedily as they should... they're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't."

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has ordered a separate report from the HSE. The two reports will then be given to the Children's Ombudsman within two weeks, Mr Shatter said.

Meanwhile, the two families at the centre of the contoversy which received international media attention, will be offered any social services assistance they may require in order to cope with the trauma of the last few days, the Minister said.

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

Siobhan Curran from Pavee Point urged Minister Fitzgerald to launch an independent review into the actions of State authorities, and whether they were "compliant with human rights standards".

She asked for questions to be addressed like whether 2racial profiling was at play" in the embarrassing episode.

Questions also needed to be asked on what evidence the authorities have, why there was "such haste" involved in the removal of the children from their families, and why it was "the first resort and not the second resort", she said.

Ms Curran said the cases are "very damaging" and have created "a fear" in the Roma community that more similar cases will arise.

"The Minister needs to take leadership on a review. Our key concern is that it would be independent and that it has to be taken in a timely manner," Ms Curran added.

Irish Independent

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