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Authorities red-faced after 'rush to judgment'

THE State has left itself open to accusations of a 'rush to judgment' in its handling of the Roma children cases that have drawn world media attention over the last two days. Now tests have proved that both children, a seven-year- old in Tallaght and a two-year-old boy in Athlone, are in fact the children of the parents they were living with and the parents are now rightly asking why the children were virtually 'snatched' from them in circumstances where there was absolutely no evidence to the contrary, beyond the suspicion of anonymous callers to the gardai.

While the greatest care must be taken where cases of suspected wrongdoing are notified to the authorities it does not seem that having a blond-haired, blue-eyed child living with a dark-skinned family can in any way merit the sort of attention that it drew from the authorities.

In both cases the children had been living happy normal lives with their families and there was no evidence that anything untoward was going on in either case.

The authorities have acted with undue haste and do not appear to have carried out proper risk assessment before barging in and taking the children away from their families.

The Children's Ombudsman in a recent report revealed that the HSE failed to intervene over several years after a child made multiple allegations of rape. Yet there was little or no hue and cry over this abysmal and distressing situation.

That the authorities have been proved to be wrong in both cases is a matter of acute embarrassment.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter last night said: "An Garda Siochana and the HSE have to deal with very difficult situation and have to make a very difficult decision when dealing with issues of child protection". While that is true it is clear that there needs to be far more care taken by the gardai and the HSE in assessing risk to children before embarking on the kind of action that was engaged in over the last 48 hours.

The minister has now said that while he believed the Garda acted in good faith he has concerns over the way the cases have been handled and he will be asking the gardai for a report on the handling of both of these cases.

It is up to the HSE to make sure that HIQA targets are met or exceeded in both rural and urban areas for 2014.


IRELAND's planned exit from the EU-IMF bailout on December 15 next is a cause of great hope for all of us but it also brings new challenges. Prominent among these is whether to avail of a precautionary line of credit to ease the transition into the brutish world of the money markets.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan originally appeared keen to have this 'insurance policy' from the troika but more recently he has given the impression that he is less enthusiastic.

Yesterday Mr Noonan concluded talks with European Central Bank Governor, Mario Draghi, in Frankfurt, following a similar meeting with EU Economics Commissioner, Olli Rehn, in Strasbourg on Tuesday night. Next week he is due to meet the IMF chief executive Christine Lagarde in Washington.

A crucial issue in this decision will undoubtedly be the terms and conditions which may govern this credit line. Some people may argue that not taking this credit line may lessen the level of outside economic supervision we have been under since the bailout began in November 2010. But this argument is not very convincing as a strong element of post-bailout supervision will continue for quite a number of years and the EU's system of enhanced surveillance, agreed to avoid a return to reckless policies, will also apply to Ireland.

For many observers the key issue may well be the cost of such a credit line to Irish taxpayers. If this can be got right it would appear sensible and prudent for Ireland to have this, or some other form of backstop, in place in time for December 15.

Irish Independent