Shatter seeks report as Roma children returned to families

Girl's parents say case raises ‘serious questions’

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has sought a report from the Garda Commissioner after he confirmed that two children who were taken into State care had been reunited with their Roma families.

The children were removed from their homes in west Dublin and the midlands by gardaí this week on the basis of claims that they did not resemble the couples who claimed to be their biological parents.

A seven-year-old girl taken from her family in west Dublin was reunited with her family last night after DNA tests proved the couple who claimed to be her parents were telling the truth.

In a statement released on their behalf last night, the girl’s parents said after a Family Law Court hearing that they were “absolutely delighted” their daughter was coming home but said what happened to their family should never have happened. “They do not accept that this was any proper or sufficient basis to take their daughter away from them,” it added.


'Serious questions'
"They believe that there are very serious questions arising about the procedures used in this case but are going to wait for things to settle and then consider their position and that of their daughter in light of recent events and will be taking legal advice in respect of this."

They added that they hoped no other family had to “go through the experience that they have just suffered”.

Earlier, a two-year-old boy who was removed in similar circumstances was returned to his family in the midlands after spending a night in HSE care. His father said the family had provided all documentation requested by the authorities, and that officers had checked with the hospital where the child was born before returning him to his family. Both families belong to the Roma community.

Speaking in the Seanad last night, Mr Shatter said concerns about the identity of the two children had proved groundless. He said he had no doubt gardaí acted in good faith in both cases, but added he had "concerns in relation to each of these matters". Mr Shatter said he would ask the Garda Commissioner for a report on the background to the cases with a view to reviewing procedures.

Protection of children
He wanted to ensure gardaí continued their important role in the protection of children while also trying to ensure that the type of situation that had arisen in these cases "can be avoided insofar as that is possible".

The investigation in west Dublin came after concerns reported to gardaí about whether a child was a couple's biological daughter. The investigation came after a tip-off to the Paul Connolly Investigates programme on TV3 was passed to gardaí by Connolly on Monday.

When gardaí went to the home of the girl in west Dublin to investigate, the couple told officers the girl was their biological daughter. The couple gave a date of birth for the child at a Dublin hospital, but the hospital initially had no record of the birth when checks were made. It later emerged there was a record of a child’s birth under the mother’s maiden name.

The girl was taken from the house on Monday evening and placed in the care of the HSE, which went to the courts seeking an emergency care order.

A statement from the Garda Síochána said it would continue to work with the HSE and other agencies to ensure children's safety.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is the Editor of The Irish Times

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times