‘Ethnic profiling’ played role in Roma children raid

Children’s Ombudsman carried out inquiry after removal of children from parents

New protocols must be put in place to ensure a situation where two Roma children were wrongly taken from their biological parents is not repeated, the co-director of

Pavee Point

has said following

a newspaper report that ethnic profiling occurred in both cases.

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The Sunday Times yesterday published details of a special inquiry report by Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan, which it said found ethnic profiling played a role in the removal of the children from their parents.

In October last year, a seven-year-old girl in Dublin and a two-year-old boy in Athlone were removed from their families by gardaí and placed into HSE care following suggestions they were not the parents' biological children. DNA tests later confirmed the parentage of both children.

'Panic among Roma'

Ms Logan’s report was submitted to the Minister for Justice and Equality in April but has not yet been published.

Martin Collins of Traveller support organisation Pavee Point said he could not comment on the detail contained in the Sunday Times story, but said it was clear lessons needed to be learned.

“There needs to be an acknowledgment that mistakes were made along the way. Whatever recommendations Emily Logan makes will have to be implemented to ensure that something like this can cannot happen again,” he said.

Mr Collins said the events had not only impacted on the families involved but had caused “panic” in the wider Roma community and a fear that their children could be taken away “on the basis of assumptions and stereotypes”.

The organisation called for the newly appointed Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, to set up an independently chaired national steering committee to develop a progressive national Traveller Roma integration strategy.

In December, then minister for justice Alan Shatter made an order appointing Emily Logan to carry out the special inquiry under Section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, which conferred powers on her to investigate the Garda.

As part of the investigation, the Ombudsman met 42 people involved in the case including the affected children and families, members of An Garda Síochána, social workers and the foster parents in whose care the children were placed temporarily.

'Stereotypical images'

Ms Logan furnished her report to the Minister for Justice

on April 2nd, a week before Mr Shatter made comments about racial profiling at the conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents.

“On occasions people . . . adapt stereotypical images of individuals from minority communities [and] don’t always engage in a manner that’s appropriate,” Mr Shatter said.

“Indeed on occasions [they] would jump to conclusions that the basic factual background would not warrant had they been dealing with individuals who perhaps were born in Ireland and whose families had been in Ireland going back many generations,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said yesterday the full report on the cases would be published “as soon as possible”.

A spokesman for the Garda Press Office said it was not in a position to comment prior to the publication of the report.