Saturday 20 January 2018

Inquiry on legality of HSE keeping Roma baby in care

Tim Healy

A JUDGE has ordered an inquiry into the legality of keeping a one-year-old Roma baby girl in the care of the HSE when her mother wants to take the baby home to Romania.

The child was placed in care by the mother, aged in her 20s, last July when she was trying to deal with various matters, including warrants, but she has fully resolved those, Feichin McDonagh SC, for the child, told the High Court yesterday.

When the child was placed in care, there were also concerns related to the woman's then partner and the fact that the mother was sleeping rough in Dublin at the time and had no family support, counsel said.

The woman now has no matters outstanding related to the warrants, is not living rough and there is nothing to stop her returning to her family in Romania with her daughter, to whom, it was accepted, she is very close, he said. The woman's former partner was not going back to Romania, he added.

While an interim care order related to the child was due to expire on November 11, the HSE had indicated that it would seek an extension as it was not satisfied as to what would face the child in Romania.

When the mother asked the district court to discharge the interim care order in the context of her wish to return to Romania, the HSE had opposed that, saying it had not been established what social services were available to help the child, Mr McDonagh said.

While the HSE had rightly pointed out that the mother had been sleeping rough and was not receiving social welfare payments, it was also not letting her go home and she was puzzled as to why not, he said.

The District Court had accepted that she wanted to go home, but had said there was insufficient evidence as to what awaited her there and as to whether the child's interests would be adequately protected, counsel added. The HSE had not called any evidence to show that the child faced harm in Romania, Mr McDonagh said.

LAWFULNESS

In those circumstances, and also because social services in Romania moved very slowly, he said he was bringing these proceedings on behalf of the child, suing through her mother.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said that while he had reservations whether the correct legal procedure was being pursued, he would direct an inquiry, under constitutional rights, into the lawfulness of the baby's detention on foot of the interim care order.

The judge adjourned the matter until Monday.

Irish Independent

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