Anti-discrimination training for gardaí to be developed after report - O’Sullivan

Acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan apologises to two Roma families for removal of children

Acting Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan speaks to media after the publication of the report of the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the taking into care of the children of two Roma families

Acting Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan speaks to media after the publication of the report of the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the taking into care of the children of two Roma families

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 01:00

Acting Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan last night pledged to develop anti-discrimination training for members of the force, following the publication of a report into the Garda’s decision to remove two Roma children from their families last year.

In her report published yesterday, Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan found ethnic profiling played a role in the Garda’s decision to remove two fair-haired Roma children from their families in Tallaght and Athlone last year after concerns were raised by members of the public who said they did not resemble their parents.

Ms O’Sullivan told reporters in Dublin she had personally apologised to the two families concerned and that they had “graciously accepted” the apology. She said the force “very much accepts” the findings and recommendations of the report, and outlined measures to reduce the likelihood of it happening again.

“We’ve set up an implementation team to immediately . . . implement the recommendations,” she said. “Discrimination won’t be accepted in the Garda. There is ongoing work with the Roma community in particular. Members of the Roma community have given us their time and input in developing training courses. We’re very, very anxious that we get a better understanding of interculturalism.”

Building trust

Sergeant Dave McInerney of the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office said the anti-discriminatory training involved four members of the Roma community speaking to ethnic liaison officers for six hours at Garda Headquarters.

“They talk about the life of the Roma in Ireland and their interaction with the police,” he said. “We try to challenge attitudes. We look at what are the issues on the ground for them: the human rights considerations and anti-discriminatory protocols being ratified here.

“It’s about anti-discriminatory policing . . . working with minority communities to try and build confidence and trust.”

Excellent relationship

Ms O’Sullivan said it was “with a sense of relief” she read the report’s finding there was no evidence of ethnic profiling at an organisational level within the Garda. “Such discriminatory profiling would be against everything that we stand for,” she said. “Indeed, the report highlights that we have an excellent relationship with many minority communities, particularly in Tallaght.”

She said “mistakes were made” in the handling of the two incidents but that it was “really important to remember that on occasion only partial information is available”.

“We in the Garda are all about protecting vulnerable children. We take extremely seriously all reports . . . concerning child welfare issues. In order to protect children, such decisions often have to be made quickly, in highly pressurised, stressful and unusual situations, and with imperfect information.

“The ombudsman’s report acknowledges that the members involved believed they were acting in the best interests of the children.”