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Saturday 17 March 2018

Ethnic profiling led to son's seizure, says Roma dad

Iancu Muntean (2) was taken from his parents in Athlone
Iancu Muntean (2) was taken from his parents in Athlone

THE father of a Roma child says he is not surprised that a new report will show "ethnic profiling" played a role in his son's wrongful removal by gardai.

Iancu Muntean's son Iancu Jnr was two years old when he was taken from his home in Athlone, Co Westmeath, last year.

His solicitor said Mr Muntean had not yet received an imminent report by the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, but agreed with the expected conclusion that "race profiling" played a role.

A seven-year-old girl from Tallaght, Co Dublin, was also taken from her Roma parents just days previously.

Gardai used emergency powers to remove the children, who have blonde hair and blue eyes and did not closely resemble their parents.

The children's seizures attracted international attention as they came after a Roma girl in Greece was discovered living with a family who were not her birth parents.

It is believed a member of the public raised doubts about Iancu's parentage, but DNA tests proved the suspicions about both children were wrong.

Ms Logan's report was due to be signed off by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter at a Cabinet meeting last week and is expected to be published shortly.

Paul Connellan, of Fair and Murtagh Solicitors in Athlone, said: "I would agree with the substance of the apparent findings of the report.

"It appears from my instructions to have been ethnic profiling involved in some of the decisions that were taken when the child was taken into care."

Mr Connellan said Mr Muntean believed gardai could have carried out simple local checks before taking action, "which would have clarified the issues immediately".

"There was never any suggestion that this family was a flight risk in any shape or form," he said. "That was one of the reasons given as to why the child was taken into care.

"It was a knee-jerk reaction to a certain extent, particularly as something similar had happened in Tallaght only a couple of days previously.

"You have to ask if it was an Irish family, whether the same action would have been taken?"

He said he met Ms Logan recently and was told the report had gone to the Justice Minister and would be signed off by the Cabinet last week.

It is understood the report says gardai were told Iancu had oculocutaneous albinism before he was put into foster care, and should have been returned to his parents at that stage.

The Department of Justice said it hoped to publish Ms Logan's report as soon as possible.

A spokesperson said on advice from the Attorney General's Office, certain procedures have to be followed prior to publication "to ensure the rights of the families involved are respected".

Irish Independent

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