Gardaí suspect a mother at the centre of a search operation for her children may have feared the HSE was about to take the children into care.
It is understood the HSE had been engaging with the woman before her sudden disappearance from her home in Roscommon, taking her three children with her.
The woman was spotted at around 8.20am yesterday by an off-duty policeman in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, resulting in an operation leading to her detention and the children’s safe custody.
Garda sources praised the woman’s neighbour for raising the alarm at 9pm on Wednesday, but expressed concern at what they claim were difficulties in trying to contact the HSE overnight for its assistance.
It is understood that senior gardaí are to seek a meeting with HSE bosses in a bid to address communication arrangements in Child Rescue Ireland Alerts.
This is only the second CRI Alert issued since the warning system was set up in May 2012. It was first used in July, following which two children were found dead.
“We are happy with the outcome in this case,” said a senior garda source. “The whole idea was to get them back safely and they are.”
He said that a “good friend and neighbour” raised the alarm, concerned for the children.
Gardaí activated an investigation. Sources said the woman had a history of mental illness and the HSE staff had been engaging with her.
“She may have feared they [the HSE] were going to take her children and that may have tipped her over the edge,” said one garda.
The HSE declined to comment on the case or on claims gardaí had difficulties contacting it.
In a statement, the HSE West said: “The Social Work Department provide comprehensive services to all children where concerns are raised. This is in line with Children First 2011. We cannot comment on individual cases but can assure the public that we are working to ensure the best outcomes for all concerned.”
CRI Alerts can only be issued where the child is under 18, where there is a reasonable belief the child has been abducted, where there is a reasonable belief that there is an “immediate and serious risk to the health and welfare of the child”, and where there is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist gardaí.
CRI Alerts involve the mass dissemination of information to media outlets, social media platforms, road transport authorities, and the HSE.
The first alert was sent out at 3am, followed by seven more, the last at 8.40am. The alerts received a huge response, with 137,000 hits on the Garda Facebook page.
An off-duty PSNI officer returning home from work spotted a woman, children, and a car fitting the descriptions in the appeal at the forecourt of a petrol station. He contacted colleagues in Enniskillen who responded quickly.
The woman has been detained under the Mental Health Act, while the children have been taken into care in the North. It is understood the HSE may seek an emergency care order here.
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