Mother felt ‘torture’ when newborn forcibly taken from her

Boy taken from woman in hospital by gardaí and social workers over fears for his safety

A breastfeeding mother said she experienced "torture" when social workers and gardaí entered her hospital room and forcibly removed her newborn child, the High Court has heard.

Alternatives to that removal were not actually considered, she claims.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan was told a social worker had said physically removing the child was "the absolute last resort" arising from fears the parents and child could flee the jurisdiction if they learned of proceedings to have him taken into care.

The parents have several children in care arising from concerns over domestic violence, a chaotic lifestyle, neglect and limited engagement with social workers.


Social workers also referred to the mother having a strong sense of spirituality, having made the sign of the cross on the children’s heads with nail varnish and saying the newborn was the “third Immaculate Conception baby God has given her”.

The woman claims the forcible removal earlier this month of the day-old infant, whom she was anxious to continue breastfeeding, breaches their personal and family rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Sunniva McDonagh SC, for the mother, secured leave last week to bring proceedings against the Child and Family Agency (CFA) over how emergency and interim care orders were made for the child.

When the hearing opened, Ms McDonagh said that if the court upheld her side’s claims, it was not automatic the baby would be returned to his mother and the court could make such orders as it considered to be in the child’s best interests.

The agency opposes the proceedings.

‘Serious risk’

The child’s father is a notice party and the baby’s court appointed guardian is maintaining a watching brief.

The baby remains in the care of the agency under an interim care order, made two days after being taken from his mother on foot of the emergency care order made by the District Court on grounds of “immediate and serious risk” to the child.

Because the mother resisted the baby’s removal, some force, which the District Court order permitted if necessary, was used.

Three female gardaí from a child protection unit and two social workers were involved in the removal and one garda said she tried to persuade the mother to hand over the child but the mother resisted.

The mother had a bible in one hand and the baby in the other and she was concerned whether the baby’s head was adequately supported, the garda said.

In theie action, the mother and child claim the baby’s forcible removal breached the obligations of the Child and Family Agency under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, particularly family life rights, including by not operating a proper and transparent procedure for the removal of newborn infants from their mothers.

It is also alleged the District Court judge prejudged whether the child was at immediate risk in the absence of any evidence the agency had concerns relating to the mother’s care of the baby from the time of birth to the hearing of the interim care order application.

Ms McDonagh said the agency contended the woman had not engaged in “safety planning” before the child’s birth. However, she said the mother did engage with social workers, albeit on a limited basis, and the court “could well ask what is meant by safety planning”.

Physical assault

She also queried what the agency said about the woman having made references to fleeing the jurisdiction if she was not given social housing or hotel accommodation. The woman had disputed that she is subject to physical assault by her husband but had said, due to verbal assaults, she wants to live separately from him.

Such issues fed into whether the agency had a “less restrictive” option other than seeking an emergency order and removing the baby from his mother at one day old, counsel said. There was “obviously a troubled history” but the real issue was whether there was an immediate and serious risk of harm to the child which warranted this order, made without notice to the mother.

The hearing continues on Thursday.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times