Sunday 25 February 2018

Roma furore won't stop us doing job, says garda chief

Martin Callinan urged caution over comments on case of Roma children.
Martin Callinan urged caution over comments on case of Roma children.
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan has insisted that state agencies will continue to put the welfare of children first despite the controversy over two Roma youngsters being taken into care.

Two separate investigations are now under way into the circumstances in which a two-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl were briefly taken into care from two Roma families in Dublin and Westmeath earlier this month.

The children were taken into care under Section 12 of the Child Care Act (1991) before being returned to their families after issues over their biological relationship to their parents were clarified.

The two cases, in Athlone and Tallaght, made international headlines in the wake of a young blonde girl called 'Maria' being taken into care in Greece after it emerged she was not related to the couple who claimed to be her parents.

Mr Callinan also stressed that he has no difficulty with independent oversight of garda matters, with at least one of the cases to be externally reviewed.

"We have to be very, very careful here because the Children's Ombudsman is now going to examine this matter," Mr Callinan said.

"As the commissioner, I have been asked by Justice Minister Alan Shatter to provide a report on the circumstances surrounding those two instances. That is something I will be doing in the coming days.

VULNERABLE

"But of course our policy is quite clear here in terms of children and vulnerable adults. It has to be the case, and it will continue to be the case, that the welfare of the child or vulnerable adult will be up front and central to everything we do.

"They are the primary consideration. Beyond that it wouldn't be safe to go at this stage.

"Whatever I may say or do might interfere or have a bearing on what inquiry the Ombudsman is conducting and I wouldn't wish for that to happen."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny rejected any suggestion of institutionalised bias against the minority Roma community in the wake of both children being taken into care before being returned to their families.

"This is about children . . . it should not be about any group of children, any minority group of children or any categorisation of children. There is a very careful balance to be struck," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Callinan also dismissed suggestions he opposed any independent oversight of garda matters.

"I have no issue at all with oversight . . . Nor will any of my officers. We are here and we are fully accountable. That is what we intend to be in this particular instance as well."

Mr Callinan said he did not believe any external oversight of garda handling of the Roma cases heralded much wider oversight of garda operations.

He urged caution over commenting about the cases before the facts are properly known.

Irish Independent

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