Concern voiced in Dáil over removal of children

Fianna Fáil asks if same ‘extreme actions’ would be allowed if the children were Irish nationals

Tánaiste  Eamon Gilmore: gardaí and the HSE should provide the first reports about the circumstances of the removal of the two children.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore: gardaí and the HSE should provide the first reports about the circumstances of the removal of the two children. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 12:35

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore today insisted gardaí and the HSE should provide the first reports about the circumstances of the removal of two children from their homes this week.

Those reports should then be given to the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan, he told the Dáil today.

Mr Gilmore said they would then await the Ombudsman’s report on the issue. “There may well be issues to be addressed at that stage. But let’s in the first instance hear what the facts of what happened here, get the basic questions answered.”

He was responding to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said it was not appropriate for the gardaí to investigate the gardaí and for the HSE to investigate the HSE. Such an approach would “not build public confidence”, she said.

“Why not just give this investigative process in the first instance to Ombudsman Emily Logan and have her independent office, charged with the rights and welfare of children and bring this inquiry from start to finish?” she asked.

“We need to reflect on what’s important here. What’s important first of all is the safety of children.”

Mr Gilmore insisted every child should be treated equally and the safety and welfare of children should be at the heart of the entire children protection system. That had to be operated in a way that was accountable.

The Tánaiste said they needed first of all to find out the facts, because there were many people who felt there were very basic questions to be asked. “What was the information had that led the gardaí to go to the house in the first place?” he asked. “What happened in the house? How was the decision made? What was the risk, the danger? Who made the decision?”

He said he would not rush to conclusions until Ms Logan’s report is published. ill be”.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy said the reports of how and why the Garda removed two children from their homes were very disturbing. “Would these extreme actions be acceptable if the families involved were Irish nationals?” he asked.

Welcoming the children’s return to their families, he said: “We must acknowledge the extreme distress the families went through over the last few days.”

The Fianna Fáil spokesman asked: “Why were the other children left with the families and why could one of the parents not have stayed with the child while their DNA was tested?”

Mr Troy said that while gardaí acted in good faith, following the press coverage of a child in Greece, there was obviously an increased number of reports to gardaí focused on Roma families.

Mr Gilmore acknowledged the removal of the two children was disturbing and asked if there were other ways of dealing with the issue, short of removing the children from the family setting.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said he applauded the Tánaiste’s “passion” for equality and for non-discrimination.

“It’s obviously very real. However, it is a bit hard to take when tomorrow you’re going to vote through a piece of legislation (Social Welfare Bill) that discriminates on no other ground, other than age.”