'They took my baby - now we are just glad to have him back’
A Roma family has described how they were left devastated as their crying toddler was taken from their home by authorities.
The father of the blond and blue-eyed two-year-old boy, from Westmeath, claimed he and his partner were left in the dark about why the child was put in State care.
"I was upset, I just felt so sad - they took my baby," he said.
Gardai were believed to be acting on concerns about the little boy's appearance, but were satisfied about his identity after carrying out inquiries.
The family was reunited at around midday today following an agonising night apart when the toddler was placed in the care of the Health Service Executive.
"A guard knocked on my door on Tuesday night and told me he wanted to bring my son to the health centre," the father said.
"I said, 'Why? Not a chance,' but he said, 'Please, we just need to take a sample, and a swab from you and your partner'."
The father, who moved to Ireland with his extended family from Romania nearly a decade ago, said they had been living in a Midlands town for five years. He said his son had been born in a hospital in a nearby town.
The toddler was the second child this week to be removed from a Roma family and placed in State care.
The father said neither he nor his family had heard about a seven-year-old girl who was taken from her home in Tallaght, Dublin because they do not watch Irish TV or listen to the news.
"The guard said something to me about a girl in Tallaght but I did not know what he was talking about," he said.
"We watch Romanian TV. Irish people don't watch Romanian TV and we don't watch Irish TV so we didn't know what happened."
The man and his partner stayed with their son while DNA samples were taken from all three at a health centre near their home, but the child was taken away at around 10pm on Tuesday.
"He was crying for his mother and we were both so worried, but they told us he would be safe," the man said.
"That is all I care about. That he was okay."
The couple, who have another child, said she was confused and cried for her brother.
"They play together all the time, and my son, he loves to play with his little cars. I just wanted to get him home."
The parents returned to the same health centre this afternoon where they were reunited with their child.
The father said he was not angry with gardai - just glad to have his boy back home.
The child's grandparents, who live with the family, said no one should have to experience such an ordeal.
"Imagine someone taking your wallet, or your coat or something like that, you worry about it," the grandfather said.
"But for someone to take away a child, it is very bad."