Ombudsman receives HSE report into Roma children controversy

Gardaí and social workers face inquiry over their role in handling of cases

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan , and Dr Niall Muldoon, director of investigations. Ms Logan was given special powers to investigate An Garda’s role in the handling  of two cases in which children were removed from Roma families. Photograph: Eric Luke /The Irish Times

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan , and Dr Niall Muldoon, director of investigations. Ms Logan was given special powers to investigate An Garda’s role in the handling of two cases in which children were removed from Roma families. Photograph: Eric Luke /The Irish Times

Sat, Nov 9, 2013, 11:53

Gardaí and social workers are likely to be interviewed soon as part of an independent inquiry into the State’s handling of two cases in which children were removed from Roma families.

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan yesterday received an internal report from the HSE over its role in the case and is due to receive a report from the Garda Commissioner soon. A spokeswoman declined to comment on the contents of any of the reports.

Ms Logan, who has been given special powers to investigate the force’s role in the handling of the cases, is heading up the independent inquiry into the controversy.

In both cases, two children who had fair hair and blue eyes were taken into care on the apparent basis they did not resemble their parents.

Tests later confirmed they were the parents’ biological children and they were returned to their families.

Expanded remit
Ordinarily, Ms Logan’s remit would be confined to the HSE’s role in the cases. However, under provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has expanded her authority to include the Garda’s handling of the cases.

Yesterday, Mr Shatter said it was necessary under the legislation to draw up terms of reference for the inquiry and to ensure the terms of reference were “appropriate”.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said this process was now under way and Mr Shatter hoped to finalise the terms of reference and provide Ms Logan with the Garda’s internal reports shortly.

“In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment on what the reports from the Garda Commissioner contain,” the statement added.

The terms of reference are likely to focus on what information was available to State authorities at the time the children were removed from their families; whether childcare laws were properly used; and if there are any recommendations on necessary changes in law or protocols.

Media leaks
Mr Shatter said in recent days the inquiry should also focus on how information regarding both cases ended up being passed to the media.

“It is a matter of concern that these matters concerning two children appeared in newspapers in the context of an issue that, under the childcare legislation, should be dealt with confidentially,” he told the Dáil in recent days.

“That is one of the matters that I will be asking the Ombudsman for Children to look into.”

Ms Logan said recently that additional powers to investigate the Garda’s role were necessary to conduct a thorough investigation.

“As always, I intend to conduct an independent, impartial investigation from first principles.

“I will not be rubber-stamping the reports of other agencies.”