Second Opinion: Did racism protect the Roma children better than Irish children?
During the days following the removal of the children from their Roma families, outraged commentators accused the Garda of racism and suggested less traumatic ways in which they could have ascertained the children’s parentage without taking them away from the family, including believing the parents or allowing a parent to remain with their child.
The Garda did the right thing because it might not have been possible to ensure the children’s safety in any other way had there been anything untoward.
People seem to have forgotten what happened in Kilkenny, Mayo, Monageer and Roscommon. In all four cases the parents constantly lied to the gardaí and the HSE.
The fathers were all highly controlling and dominant and the mothers either participated in or colluded with the abuse, or were passive and compliant. In all four cases the parents ran rings around anyone who tried to help the children and were deft at deflecting attention away from the children’s welfare.
In the Monageer case Adrian Dunne asked the Clonroche Curate who visited the family shortly before the murders/
suicide, if he [the curate] had made a will.
The curate told the inquiry he had “recoiled a little feeling that perhaps he had overstepped the mark”.
In the Roscommon case the parents were devious, manipulative, and able to stage-manage and orchestrate things to their own advantage.
“The views and opinions of the parents were accepted largely at face value.”
All four reports concluded that the authorities – An Garda Síochána and the HSE – must be more forceful and assertive where child protection is concerned.
Did racism play a part in the decision to immediately remove the children from their Roma families before investigating parentage? Possibly.
The Ombudsman for Children will eventually decide whether the Garda acted in the best interests of the children.
In the meantime we need to face the uncomfortable truth that racism, if it played a part, paradoxically provided the Roma children with a better service than was given to Irish children from Kilkenny, Mayo, Monageer and Roscommon.
These children needed immediate action and protection. They didn’t get it. They had white Irish parents who did what they wanted and got away with it. Is this inverse racism?
Dr Jacky Jones is a former HSE regional manager of health promotion