Taoiseach apologies to families of Roma children

Child and Family Agency say provision of Act invoked to take children “has and will continue to be” a force for good

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday apologised to the Roma families whose children were taken into care last year amid fears they had been abducted.

“I do apologise to those families, particularly the children who had to put up with these events,’’ Mr Kenny said in the Dáil. “These kinds of events should not happen to anybody in our jurisdiction, and nobody can afford to stand over that or can stand over it. My Government colleagues and I are determined that such events will never happen again.”

He added there was a cross-departmental review of Ireland’s migrant integration strategy under way.

Opportunity

Minister for Justice

Frances Fitzgerald

said the launch of the report was “an opportunity to do something important”.

“To say sorry,” she said. “That’s the first thing I wanted to do today. To meet the two families who briefly lost their children and – in private and in public – to apologise to them on behalf of the State. The State is sorry.

“We regret the pain that they went through. It should not have happened. It just should not. It happened out of a determination to protect children, but that determination got skewed. The best of intentions played out in a distressing manner affecting two children and two families.”

Child and Family Agency chief executive Gordon Jeyes said the provision of the Child Care Act invoked by the Garda to remove children from the two Roma families "has and will continue to be" a positive force for children in Ireland.

Tusla – the Child and Family Agency – is the dedicated State agency responsible for improving wellbeing and outcomes for children. Mr Jeyes said the decision to remove children from a family was “always a difficult one” which involves “balancing the rights and freedoms of individuals against the statutory duty to protect and safeguard young people”.

“The Garda play a key role in child protection in Ireland, not least when they use their judgment to act quickly to remove a child to safety,” he said. “Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 has been, and will continue to be, a positive force for children in Ireland.

“Clearly aspects of the cases were unfortunate, not least the apparent lack of cultural sensitivity. Cultural awareness is a challenging area, and in a rapidly changing Ireland, it is essential that our approach is routinely scrutinised.

Review

“Learning from past experience is key, and in this regard the Child and Family Agency is in the process of reviewing actions taken when a child is taken into care under section 12.”

Immigrant Council of Ireland chief executive Denise Charlton said the findings of Emily Logan's report were "shocking" and said the recommendations made ought to be treated as "a blueprint to bring down the barriers which exist between many communities and gardaí".

“We have been concerned about the issue of ethnic profiling and had sought assurances in advance of these cases that safeguards were in place to prevent such practices,” she said. “Looking to the future we are asking that the measures to end profiling are prioritised to ensure that confidence is restored in the force”.