· Minister apologises to the two Roma families affected

· Government commits to full implementation of report recommendations

· “Every one of us can and must play a role in tackling stereotypes” says Minister

· Minister commits to more dynamic and effective approach to Roma integration in Ireland; including a new culture of consultation with the Roma Community and Traveller interests

 

 

Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice& Equality has today published the Report of the Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the removal of two Roma children from their families. The Minister committed to full implementation of report recommendations as well as calling for a more dynamic and effective approach to Roma integration in Ireland.

 

The inquiry was conducted by Ms. Emily Logan under Section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended). Ms. Logan also holds the office of the Ombudsman for Children. The Minister thanked Ms. Logan for her work on this Inquiry. The Minister added that “this Report gives a comprehensive picture of the events which led to An Garda Síochána taking the actions they did and makes some important recommendations which will guard against similar situations arising in the future.”

 

The Report finds that An Garda Síochána failed to critically evaluate the information provided to them about the children and families in question; and that more extensive and discrete inquiries should have been carried out by An Garda Síochána prior to calling on the family homes and removing the children.

 

The Minister noted that: “the Report highlights the distress that was caused to these children and their families.”

 

The Report makes a finding that the fact the families concerned were members of the Roma Community played a part in the decision-making process. The Report found that the members of An Garda Síochána concerned believed they were acting in the best interests of the children but that the Gardaí involved did not receive specific training in relation to the Roma community. However the Report also found no evidence of ‘ethnic profiling’ at an organisational level in An Garda Síochána

 

The Report found that the use of DNA testing to establish parentage in these cases represented a disproportionate interference in the family members’ private lives

 

Commenting on the Report’s findings, Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Every day Gardaí make hard decisions in real time. They don't always have a full and perfect set of facts to work on. Occasionally, they make the wrong call - and what the Report has found is a succession of errors in how Gardaí dealt with these issues: Gardaí, acting in what they thought were the best interest of the children concerned made a series of mistakes. With unintended consequences for two families."

 

Minister Fitzgerald today met with both families. The Minister stated: “Meeting with the families was the first thing I wanted to do today. To meet the two families who briefly lost their children and - in private and in public - apologise to them.

 

“We are sorry. We regret the pain they went through. It should not have happened. It just should not. It happened out of a determination to protect children, but that determination got skewed. The best of intentions played out in a distressing manner affecting two children and two families, as highlighted in the report I am publishing today.”

 

Minister Fitzgerald confirmed that the Acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan had also today met with and apologised to the Families for the role played by An Garda Síochána in these events.

 

Minister Fitzgerald stated: “The Government and I accept the findings of the Report and its Recommendations in full. My Department has already begun working with the relevant agencies such as An Garda Síochána, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Child and Family Agency and the Department of Health to ensure their timely implementation. An implementation group will oversee the actions being rolled-out in response to the Report’s recommendations.”

 

The Minister welcomed that specific work already underway by An Garda Síochána and the Child and Family Agency, including agreeing new protocols on the Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991, which is the section which allows the Gardaí to remove a child to safety where “there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child.”

 

The Minister added: "I am glad that the acting Garda Commissioner has so quickly accepted that the findings of the report should be implemented in full and is fully committed to addressing the shortcomings identified including through the establishment by the Acting Commissioner of an internal review team to progress implementation."

 

Commenting on the position and needs of the Roma Community in Ireland, Minister Fitzgerald stated: “my Department is currently leading a cross-Departmental review of Ireland’s migrant integration strategy and I am committed to ensuring that this results in a more dynamic and effective approach to Roma integration in Ireland,

 

“We need a new culture of consultation. with the Roma Community; and traveller interests”. The Minister confirmed that the Implementation Group being established in response to this report will engage with and listen to voices from the Roma Community.

 

The Minister added: “We need a new culture of understanding of the distinct challenges and needs facing the Roma Community”. The Minister committed to implementing the recommendations contained in the Report for an up-to-date assessment of need regarding the supports to be provided by the State to the Roma community. This will commence this year.

The Minister concluded: “For us as a wider society, the lesson of this disturbing episode is that stereotyping of any community and the perpetuation of unfounded prejudicial myths about any sector of society must be tackled. And that each and every one of us can and must play a role in tackling such stereotypes.”

 

Link to Special Inquiries relating to Garda Síochána Order 2013 http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Emily%20Logan%20report.pdf/Files/Emily%20Logan%20report.pdf

 

 

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Note for Editors:

The key findings of the Inquiry are:

 

· That An Garda Síochána failed to critically evaluate the information provided to them by members of the public which gave rise to these events; that more extensive and discrete inquiries should have been carried out by An Garda Síochána prior to calling on the family homes, and that information provided to An Garda Síochána by the Families, and other sources, should have satisfied An Garda Síochána of the identity of the children.

· That such information as An Garda Síochána had was not sufficient to have warranted their action, and that their actions must have been the result of some other factor; that this ‘other factor’ was the ethnic background of the children concerned. The Report finds that the actions of An Garda Síochána in these cases conforms with the definition of ‘ethnic profiling’. However, in the Tallaght Case, the Inquiry stresses that it does not believe on balance that the child’s ethnic background was the only or indeed primary reason for invoking section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991.

· The Report does, however, state that there is no evidence of ‘ethnic profiling’ at an organisational level in An Garda Síochána.

· In both cases, the Report found that the members of An Garda Síochána concerned believed they were acting in the best interests of the children and that the fact that the Gardaí involved did not receive specific training in relation to the Roma community may have contributed to an absence of any consideration of the possibility that prevailing stereotypes regarding the Roma community may have played a part in their decision making.

· The Report has also identified inadequacies in the information that was provided to the then Minister in relation to these events. The Report also finds that the State authorities (either An Garda Síochána or the HSE) were responsible for information inappropriately entering the public domain in relation to the Athlone case, and that on the balance of probability, it was a member of An Garda Síochána who was responsible for information regarding the Tallaght case entering the public domain.

 

The Report makes the following Recommendations:

 

I. Children and Families - Efforts should be made to acknowledge the distress caused to the families by these events and to alleviate the residual concerns experienced by the children and families. The Inquiry believes this should include an apology to the families in question and the provision of appropriate support in order to address the consequences of An Garda Síochána’s actions in these cases.

 

II. Roma Community - Concrete steps must be taken to build trust with the Roma community and to ensure that State agencies’ interactions with the Roma community are characterised by respect and effective communication. The Inquiry believes that three key areas require particular attention in this regard: the Government must, in consultation with relevant civil society organisations, develop support and advocacy services to mediate between members of the Roma community and State agencies; State agencies need to develop their cultural competence; and the Irish Press Council should give consideration to how ethical reporting regarding minority communities including the Roma community can best be promoted.

 

III. Cultural competence within An Garda Síochána - Cultural competence within An Garda Síochána with respect to the Roma community must be enhanced. To this end, the Inquiry believes that future steps taken by An Garda Síochána to improve its capacity in this area – including the adoption and implementation of An Garda Síochána’s forthcoming Diversity Strategy 2014-2016 – must include consultation with the Roma community. An Garda Síochána must ensure that its policy on interpretation and language supports, diversity training for staff and community engagement conform to the highest standards.

IV. An Garda Síochána protocol on the exercise of powers under section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 - An Garda Síochána should develop a protocol on the exercise of powers under section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. In addition to providing more detailed instruction for members of An Garda Síochána in dealing with the situations in which section 12 of the 1991 Act is most commonly invoked, the protocol should include specific guidance on the more unusual situations in which the identity of children is in doubt.

V. Public accountability for the use of section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 - Given the significant powers afforded to An Garda Síochána in exercising section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 and the frequency with which it is invoked - more than 750 occasions annually – the Inquiry believes that details regarding its use should be included in the Garda Commissioner’s Annual Report to the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Inquiry believes that consideration should also be given to establishing independent oversight for the use of this significant policing power.

VI. Audit of the use of section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 - The Inquiry believes that there should be an independent audit of the exercise by An Garda Síochána of section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. The Inquiry believes that this audit should include: a breakdown of the reasons cited for invoking section 12; a comparison with the number of successful applications for emergency care orders in the District Courts; an examination of the length of time the child was deprived of his/her family environment; and the ethnic background of the children in respect of whom section 12 of the 1991 Act has been invoked.

VII. Child Protection within An Garda Síochána - The Inquiry believes that An Garda Síochána should develop a national model for child protection in order to build on the work already accomplished by the existing Child Protection Units.

VIII. Interagency cooperation and access to information - An Garda Síochána should have enhanced access to information held by both the Child and Family Agency and the Health Service Executive with respect to children whose identities are called into question. Specifically, the Inquiry believes that consideration should be given to allowing members of An Garda Síochána access to the Child and Family Agency’s National Child Care Information System and this should be complemented by the development of a national out of hours social work service. The Inquiry also believes that An Garda Síochána should develop a protocol for accessing information held by Public Health Nursing Teams in the context of concerns raised regarding the identity of young children.