Children’s ombudsman begins independent inquiry into Roma child cases

The investigation into the removal of two Roma children from their families has begun following the publication of the terms of reference of the Ombudsman for Children’s inquiry.

Emily Logan and her team have been tasked with conducting a wide-ranging examination into the circumstances of the two cases, in Dublin and Athlone, at the end of October. The children, aged seven and two, were taken from their families by gardaí using emergency powers under section 12 of the Child Care Act based on concerns over their identities.

The seven-year-old girl, fair haired and blue-eyed, was removed from her Tallaght home on Oct 21 and returned two days later after DNA tests proved she was the child of the purported parents.

The two-year-old boy, blond and blue-eyed, was taken from his family in Athlone on Oct 22 and returned, following enquiries, the next day.

Ms Logan was appointed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter on Oct 25 to investigate the role of the gardaí after he gave her the powers to do so under a little used section of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, amending the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

He allocated the investigation to the Ombudsman for Children rather than the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Ms Logan is also looking at the role of the HSE in both cases.

Mr Shatter sent her a copy of the Garda reports into the cases a fortnight ago. This week, he published the terms of reference, considered by sources as “wide-ranging and comprehensive”.

It states her inquiry is to look into the events in question having regard to all relevant matters, including:

* Information available to An Garda Síochána at the relevant times;

* Nature of any consultation or coordination between the gardaí and other relevant organisations involved;

* Systems and policies for the sharing of information between An Garda Síochána and other relevant bodies;

* Systems and policies for ensuring the maintenance of appropriate confidentiality in relation to the utilisation of section 12;

* All relevant child protection considerations.

A spokesman for Mr Shatter said the ministerial order allowing Ms Logan to conduct an independent inquiry, was made last Monday and laid before the Oireachtas on Tuesday.

“Ms Logan can require a member of An Garda Síochána, or any other person, who possesses information or possesses or controls a document or thing relevant to the inquiry to provide the information, document or thing to her and, where appropriate, she may require the member or other person to attend before her for that purpose,” he said. “The section also provides strong powers to compel, if necessary, persons to cooperate with the inquiry.”


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