Preliminary discussions with Children’s Ombudsman over Roma investigation
Gardaí and HSE will co-operate fully with Ombudsman, Minister for Justice says
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: Garda authorities “will co-operate fully with any inquiries the Children’s Ombudsman may make and fully respond to them” and the same would apply to the HSE.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has had preliminary discussions with the Ombudsman for Children over the investigation into the removal of two Roma children from their families.
He said the Department of Children had also been in contact with the ombudsman, who would independently examine what occurred and be free to raise any questions. She would also speak to the parents of the children.
He said the Garda authorities “will co-operate fully with any inquiries she may make and fully respond to them” and the same would apply to the HSE.
Mr Shatter was responding during rowdy scenes in the Dáil to TDs who said gardaí should not be investigating themselves.
Independent TD Clare Daly said “the only conclusion that could be drawn from the evidence presented was that racial profiling occurred” and the children were taken because they were Roma and did not look like their parents.
“There is no way that had they been the adopted Vietnamese children of white parents that this would have happened,” adding that “the last resort became the first option.
“Elements in the gardaí are feeding their pet poodles in the media” as she hit out at “a media frenzy and irresponsible journalism”.
Independent TD Mick Wallace claimed “the ombudsman will only be reviewing a biased report and this is not primary evidence as she can’t ask questions”.
The Wexford TD also accused the Minister of “looking for a sheen of legitimacy on this flawed approach by asking for the ombudsman’s stamp of approval on another internal review”.
Hitting out at the two TDs, Mr Shatter said: “You can’t call for an independent inquiry and at the same time reach conclusions and give the reasons why events have occurred.”
He said it was a “gross misrepresentation to suggest gardaí are being asked to investigate themselves and the children’s ombudsman is being asked to rubber-stamp that investigation”.
Gardaí had been asked to provide a full and detailed report into the background of what occurred and the ombudsman would be “free to raise and ask any questions of any nature relevant to what has occurred, and to publicly report and make recommendations”.
He said the two TDs “can’t make up your minds whether you want to actually protect children or just attack An Garda Síochána”.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin said: “What is really at the core of this whole episode has been a pure, raw, naked, poisonous racism that lies at the heart of Irish society.”
Independent TD Denis Naughten raised concerns about child trafficking, saying that in the last decade more than 500 children had “disappeared from HSE accommodation. Some were traced to brothels and six out of seven children were never traced.”
Earlier Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore insisted that gardaí and the HSE should provide the first reports about the circumstances of the removal of two children.
He said there might well be issues to be addressed when the reports went to the ombudsman. However, the facts should be heard first to get the basic questions answered.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy asked: “Would these extreme actions be acceptable if the families involved were Irish nationals?”