A massive Garda operation was put in place after the incident due to “serious concerns” for the safety of the children.
Gardaí were concerned at the man’s psychological condition — including previous comments to do himself harm — and the aggressive way he removed his children from school.
Children’s charity ISPCC yesterday praised gardaí for their reaction, pointing out that the first two hours were crucial in such situations.
The father took his three children aged 12, nine and seven, from their home in Co Wicklow, and brought them to school at 9am.
However, in what has been described as “bizarre” behaviour after this, the man:
* Drove back to the school after 10am and forcibly removed his children in a row with staff, during which he pulled out a phone line.
* He left at 10.30am and obtained a second car.
* By 10.45am, he had transferred the children to this car and drove off.
* Gardaí, who had been looking for his original vehicle, discovered he had switched cars and later tracked him to the N11.
* They pursued him on the southbound lane. At 1.05pm, he lost control of the car on the off ramp, collided with a road sign and ended up on a roundabout.
Gardaí said they had “serious concerns” due to the full circumstances of the case.
This included the concerns of teachers and the man’s aggressive behaviour at the school. Gardaí also discovered that he had made worrying comments in recent days, including that he might do himself violence.
A Garda source said: “We were hell bent on trying to find his [first vehicle], then we discover he had switched cars.”
Gardaí had been on the verge of sending out a public appeal regarding the first car and had to change that. The urgent media appeal was sent out at 12pm to locate the second.
The Garda helicopter was dispatched. Gardaí had a general idea of the possible directions the man was travelling in and set up a series of checkpoints.
They also used phone tracking technology to trace movements of his mobile phone.
“All these pulled together and we tracked him to the N11,” said a source.
The man tried to evade gardaí and took a turn off, but crashed into a road sign.
Gardaí said none of the children were injured.
The father is being detained under the Mental Treatment Act. He was being examined by psychiatrists yesterday and it is expected he will be transferred to a secure psychiatric hospital, allowing gardaí to work on a file for the DPP.
Mary Nicholson of the ISPCC said: “We absolutely commend the gardaí in responding so quickly. The first two hours in child abductions are crucial.”