Friday 24 January 2020

Heartbreaking failures in Marioara case are an embarrassment to Irish society

Our wider assumptions about the Roma people are highlighted by the tragic case of Marioara Rostas, writes Donal Lynch

The father of Marioara Rostas (inset) arriving at court last week
The father of Marioara Rostas (inset) arriving at court last week
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

There was only one picture ever taken of Marioara Rosta — the photograph in her identity card.

When her distraught brother brought it to gardai after her disappearance they thought that the 13-year-old, whose English was very broken, was trying to find out if his sister had been arrested. It was an innocent mistake. As soon as the Gardai realised that she had disappeared, they acted swiftly. Their efforts are an example to us all.

Although Marioara’s father described us as “merciful”, we do not look on the Roma people with any great kindness. To many they are criminals and parasite urchins and here, as in the rest of Europe, they face discrimination at every turn — who could forget the Italian case, which occurred in the year Marioara arrived here, in which people were photographed sunbathing close to the bodies of two drowned Roma girls.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the largest attempted genocide of the Roma by the Nazis, and the myths used to justify their internment in concentration camps — that they are inherently criminal — still have popular currency.

While other groups targetted by the Nazis have moved towards the heart of society, the Roma still live on the outskirts of acceptability. Discrimination in the education system and in the workplace as well as old-fashioned racism make it difficult for Roma to prove a strong pattern of employment, while low literacy levels and language barriers make it very difficult for applicants to respond to the Department of Social Protection.

Marioara was a girl who fell through the cracks in a society that was not looking out for her and into the arms of a deviant psychopath. 

The heartbreaking images of her family looking forlornly at the coffin a wake-up call that allowing a people to live on the margins of society often has tragic consequences.

Sunday Independent

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