Tuesday 16 January 2018

Shatter plans inquiry into handling of Roma cases

Justice Minister Alan Shatter insisted he believes the authorities acted in good faith
Justice Minister Alan Shatter insisted he believes the authorities acted in good faith
Justice Minister Alan Shatter: planning an in-depth inquiry

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is preparing the ground for an inquiry into how two Roma children were taken from their families by gardai after receiving a report from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Another report on the role of the HSE's child and family services in the case has been submitted to Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Mr Shatter is now preparing to draw up the terms of reference for an inquiry by Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan into the actions of gardai in both cases.

They involved a seven-year-old girl from Tallaght, Co Dublin, who cannot be identified, and Iancu Muntean (2) from Athlone, Co Westmeath. Gardai had acted after doubts were raised about their parentage, but DNA tests revealed that they belonged to their parents.

TRAUMATIC

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

The cases attracted worldwide attention – given that they came to light after a Roma girl in Greece had been discovered living with a family who were not her birth parents.

Ms Logan's inquiry is expected to investigate whether "racial profiling" was a factor in the embarrassing episode and why the children were removed from their families so quickly.

Mr Shatter told the Dail this week that he did not want to undermine faith in the child protection services and that people should report any concerns they had about children's welfare.

But he said it was important that no group or minority community was singled out for "unwarranted attention" or "suspicion".

Mr Shatter has now forwarded the garda report into the handling of the cases of the two Roma children to Ms Logan.

His spokeswoman said it would not be appropriate for him to make any further comment given that an inquiry was being set up.

There is no deadline for Ms Logan to complete her inquiry, with Mr Shatter saying that she will take the time necessary to address the issues fully to her satisfaction.

Ms Fitzgerald said she would also be sending Ms Logan a copy of the HSE report into its role in the cases. She added she would not be publishing the report or commenting on it in advance of the inquiry.

"I look forward to the conclusion of this process so that the issues of public concern are comprehensively addressed," she said.

Michael Brennan  Deputy Political Editor

Irish Independent

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