'That little girl is my sister, she belongs here with our family'
Roma couple take DNA tests to prove that Dublin child (7) is their daughter
A seven-year-old girl has spent her second night in the care of the HSE while DNA tests are carried out to determine if she should be returned to the Roma couple who claim to be her parents.
A decision is expected to be taken this afternoon and will hinge on the outcome of DNA samples taken from the adults and the child.
Her sister insisted last night that she was a member of their family and had been wrongly removed from them.
"I don't know why she was taken," said the 21-year-old.
"My sister was here, she was crying and very scared, she was choking."
The girl was dramatically removed from a Roma family's home in Tallaght, Dublin, on Monday after a tip-off to gardai that she did not look like the rest of the family.
Initial checks carried out at a Dublin maternity hospital did not appear to support the couple's claim the little girl was born there.
Events unfolded in the midst of worldwide publicity about a blond child, Maria, who was taken from a Roma couple in Greece.
Tests there have shown that the girl is not the couple's biological daughter, and the couple have been charged with her abduction.
In the Dublin case, the Roma couple last night gave their consent to DNA tests being carried out.
They were taken to a garda station where they gave samples through mouth swabs. The girl was also tested in the presence of HSE officials.
The results were sent immediately to the forensic laboratory at garda headquarters, and a decision on the outcome is due to be made by late afternoon.
The girl was taken from the house in Tallaght, in south Dublin, on Monday afternoon and placed in the care of the HSE.
The girl's sister said she belonged in the Tallaght house and had been living with them since the day she was born in 2006.
She said the girl attended a local school and had been watching TV on Monday afternoon when around a dozen garda officers and HSE officials arrived.
"Everybody was shocked, even all the children in the house," said a brother-in-law of the young girl.
"She didn't want to go with them. She was asking us, 'Why? Why they take me?"
Gardai visited the house after they received a claim from a TV3 journalist - via the public - that the seven-year-old girl was not the householders' daughter.
The journalist was given the information about the girl, who is blond and has blue eyes, on Facebook.
During a two-hour visit to the house, officers interviewed the two adults about the girl and sought proof that she was their daughter.
They had concerns about the child's identity, and as a result of the interview and their attempts to check out the information given by the adults, they decided after two hours to use emergency powers contained in section 12 of the Child Care Act to take the girl from the family and hand her into the care of the HSE overnight.
The family produced a passport for the girl, but the photo used was of a small child and could not be immediately matched with the girl.
Gardai were also told by the family, who have other children, that the girl was born at the Coombe Hospital in 2006, but preliminary checks could not confirm that.
However, an independent examination by the Irish Independent of the Coombe records yesterday showed that the woman had given birth to a daughter on the day she mentioned in 2006.
At the time of the birth, the parents of the infant did not live in Tallaght, but had another address in Dublin. They have been residing in Tallaght for several years.
The child's first name on the birth record differed from the name used by the girl, but it was accepted that this was not unusual.
Gardai said last night that plans to carry out a more detailed interview with the Roma couple were being put on hold, pending the DNA results.
The garda investigation was launched after another Roma couple, accused of abducting 'Maria', a four-year girl with blond hair and blue eyes, told a Greek court that the child's biological mother had given her to them as a baby because she could not look after her.
DNA tests showed that 'Maria' was not born to the couple, who were arrested after police raided a Roma camp in search of drugs and weapons and found the girl.
The couple denied they had snatched the child.
Meanwhile, in response to the Tallaght case, Travellers' rights group Pavee Point said yesterday that it should be handled in accordance with standard HSE/garda procedures and the best interests of the child had to be prioritised.
The organisation said actions by the State needed to be evidence-based and due process should be accorded to all communities living in Ireland.
by Tom Brady, Conor Feehan and Breda Heffernan