Racism is not the most obnoxious aspect of these child snatchings
Opinion: What happened to these two families in daylight has happened to others in secret
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald speaking to media yesterday about the recent Roma children incidents. Photograph: Alan Betson
Pavee Point is worried that the snatching of two Roma children from their parents by the State might “create the conditions for an increase in racism and discrimination against the Roma community living here”. An increase in racism among whom? Trolls? Taxi drivers?
Let’s be clear. If it’s not already racist to snatch a child from the bosom of its parents on the basis of ethnic distinctions relating to tint of skin or colour of eyes or hair, then there’s no such thing as racism. We don’t have to wait on tenterhooks wondering if these incidents will “create the conditions” for racism. They are racism. We live in a racist state – rightly disgraced before the world.
But racism is arguably among the least ominous aspects of what happened this week. Far worse was the denial of due process, the misuse of the law, the trampling on constitutional rights and the cruelty to the children and families involved – all perpetrated by people charged with upholding the Constitution and protecting citizens.
The Child Care Act 1991 allows An Garda Síochána to “remove a child to safety” where there are reasonable grounds for believing that there is “an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare” of a child, and where the urgency is such as to demand a more expeditious response than, for example, an application to a court for an emergency care order. In neither of this week’s cases was there an immediate and serious risk to the children. Leaving aside that, as we now know, both children were in the care of their parents, there was no suggestion of cruelty, abuse or neglect.
In both cases, other children remained with the parents, suggesting that the authorities had no concrete child protection fears. This suggests that not only was the legislation improperly used but that the stupidity underlying the original complaint may have carried right through the investigation.
In truth, what happened to these two families in relative daylight has been happening in secret to Irish families for a long time, to the near total indifference of the Irish media and public. For many years, Irish journalists and editors have turned blind eyes to the abuses perpetrated by “child protection” authorities, with most media organisations hiding behind lawyers and pleading powerlessness to report what’s happening.
Generally speaking, journalists have a deeply reactionary record under this heading – with many perversely promoting a pernicious ideology of the-state-right
-or-wrong in respect of family rights and freedoms. Many journalists were to the fore last year in informally campaigning for the dismantling of existing constitutional protections for families. Those who campaigned against that amendment now have a right to an answer to this question: on what grounds might journalists continue to feel entitled to accuse of “scaremongering” those who express legitimate concerns about extending the powers available to the State over families and children?