Shatter asks social services to aid families over ‘very difficult events’

Important to establish whether any lessons can be learned from cases, says Minister

Minister for Justice, Equality, and Defence Alan Shatter said: “We must all be particularly conscious of the regrettable distress that arose for the two families and their children.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Justice, Equality, and Defence Alan Shatter said: “We must all be particularly conscious of the regrettable distress that arose for the two families and their children.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 21:38


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he was “pleased and relieved” that concerns about two children had proved to be “unfounded” and that they had been reunited with their Roma families.

In a statement last night, Mr Shatter: “We must all be particularly conscious of the regrettable distress that arose for the two families and their children. Quite clearly no fault of any nature attaches to the two families concerned for the events which took place.” He said he asked that the social services provide any support or assistance that the families required to cope with “these very difficult events”.

Mr Shatter said it was not the practice of Ministers to comment on the detail of individual child protection cases, and that it would be wrong to depart from that.

In light of the information that had come into the public domain, however, he said it was important to make a number of points.

“An Garda Síochána and the HSE have to deal with very difficult situations and have to make very difficult decisions when dealing with issues of child protection,” he said. “They can be open to criticism for either doing something or doing nothing. In the past, for example, the authorities have been criticised for not intervening to protect children at risk. In each of these cases, the gardaí responded in good faith to concerns expressed to them.”


Procedures
Referring to procedures available to the authorities to ensure that the safety of a child can be assured while inquiries are being made – understood to have been used by gardaí in these cases – Mr Shatter said these could be “understandably distressing” for parents but that not invoking them “can involve a risk with the safety of a child”.

He added: “ The Gardaí keep their practices under continuous review in the light of their experiences in this very complex area. Everybody should be assured that their entire motivation is to ensure that the best interests of a child are treated as paramount and that is as it should be.”

Mr Shatter said it was important to establish whether any lessons could be learned from these cases, and for that reason he had asked for a full report on the background circumstances that led to each of the children being taken into care and the procedures that were followed.

“It is important that any lessons which might be learned do not detract in any way from the willingness and preparedness of the authorities to take appropriate action when they believe that children are at risk,” he said.

The two incidents this week followed a high-profile case in Greece in which a young girl living with a couple who claimed to be her biological parents was found not to be theirs.

Mr Shatter said it was important that no group or minority community was singled out for “unwarranted attention or indeed suspicion in relation to child protection issues.”