NEWS — 30 October 2013

Shelley Marsden

THE GARDA SIOCHANA in Ireland is facing an inquiry after forcibly removing two Roma children from their families following tabloid hysteria prompting charges it over-reacted and acted on racial stereotype.

An ombudsman has been given special powers to investigate whether their actions were justified after a girl, 7, and a boy, 2, were taken from their families in Ireland recently.

They followed the discovery of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl in Greece with a Roma couple who claimed they were her biological parents, but were discovered not to be.

The Irish children were taken from their homes as Garda suspected them to have been abducted, but in both cases DNA tests proved they were members of the families looking after them.

Following responses that they were heavy-handed in their management of the cases and reactions were more a result of public hysteria than concerns for the children in question, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has now given Ireland’s Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, powers to investigate.

A lawyer for the parents of the seven-year-old girl said her parents believed the authority had no proper basis for taking her into state care for two nights. Gardai became involved after a member of the public raised concerns about her appearance – she too had blonde hair and blue eyes and used Facebook to contact a reporter, who then reported it.

Amnesty International, as well as traveller rights organisation Pavee Point, has called for an independent inquiry to be carried out.

Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland said: “The eyes of the world are now on Ireland, and it must show institutional discrimination will not be tolerated. Roma are one of the largest and most disadvantaged minorities in Europe. The Roma community in Ireland needs to be reassured they will not be discriminated.”

The Garda Ombudsman has asked for a copy of a report ordered by Mr Shatter from the Garda commissioner Martin Callinan on the force’s management of the cases.

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