Gardaí: Flight risk forced us to take Roma girl

Gardaí believed there was a risk the girl at the centre of the Dublin Roma case could have been removed from the country if they did not take her into care while her identity was being confirmed.

Regarding claims of racial profiling, the officer leading the case said the “only consideration of ethnicity” was his knowledge of other Roma and “new community” families in similar cases.

The Garda report into the Tallaght case, revealed to the Irish Examiner, said emergency powers allowing gardaí to remove children from families under section 12 of the Child Care Act were invoked 15 times in Tallaght in 2013. Nine were indigenous Irish, five were “new communities”, and one was Roma. It was used 24 times in 2012; one case involved a Roma family. Gardaí also referred 234 welfare cases to the HSE in 2012: 158 indigenous Irish, 28 Traveller, 20 African, eight European, and eight Roma.

The report is being studied by Justice Minister Alan Shatter before he forwards it to Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan. She is conducting an inquiry into the roles of gardaí and the HSE in the Tallaght case and a similar one in Athlone.

A 7-year-old girl, fair-haired and blue-eyed, was removed from a Roma couple in Tallaght on Oct 21 by gardaí under section 12. She was taken into care after a HSE request to the courts, but was returned on Oct 23 when DNA tests proved she was the couple’s child.

The Garda report details contacts with HSE social workers from the outset of the investigation and says the HSE was informed, contrary to media coverage citing a HSE report.

The Garda report said the officer leading the investigation began inquiries after concerns from a member of the public about the Roma girl were passed on to them on the morning of Oct 21.

Garda inquiries showed they were involved with the family on unrelated matters. The officer contacted HSE social workers, who were also in contact with the family on other issues. The agencies checked for foster care in the event of a section 12 order.

When the officer and two other gardaí called to the house, the mother showed the birth certificates for the couple’s other children, but could not find documents for the girl. The mother said she was born in the Coombe Maternity Hospital on a given date.

The officer contacted the Coombe, which said there was no record of a child of that name born on that day.

The officer sought the advice of a senior nurse in the hospital, as well as a doctor and a consultant in Tallaght Hospital, and was told it was “very unusual” or “highly unusual” for brown-eyed brunette parents to give birth to a blue-eyed fair-haired child, but “not impossible”.

The officer said there was “a risk of the child being removed” from the State if gardaí left the house and said two family members either lived in or travelled to Europe. He said his knowledge of other Roma and new community families was his “only consideration” of ethnicity.

He said the family produced the girl’s birth certificate, in which she had a different name, 90 minutes after they arrived.

Lawyers for the family have said they did not accept there was “sufficient basis” to take their daughter.


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