In two separate cases, police in Ireland have taken a child from a Roma family and then, following DNA tests, returned them both to the communities they were taken from.
On Monday a seven-year-old girl was put into care after member of the public tipped off police in Dublin who are now carrying out DNA tests to confirm the child’s identity. She was returned to her parents on Wednesday.
It has also emerged today that police in the town of Athlone seized a second child for DNA tests. That child – a two-year-old boy – has since been returned to his parents after spending a night in care.
No arrests have been made and family members do not face any allegation of abduction.
In relation to the girl taken on Monday, the Ireland Health Service Executive (HSE) sought an emergency order to place the child in care, but Irish traveller rights group Pavee Point has raised concerns over “witch-hunts”.
The group has warned that both Roma and Irish travellers are “vulnerable communities” that are being stereotyped in the media.
“Actions by the state need to be evidence based and due process needs to be accorded to all communities living in Ireland,” a statement read.
“There is a real danger that precipitative action, undertaken on the basis of appearance, can create the conditions for an increase in racism and discrimination against the Roma community living here.”
Pavee Point also claimed Roma children were “grossly overrepresented” in state care institutions across Europe, blaming poverty and discrimination.
Irish police were tipped off by TV3 Journalist Paul Connolly, who received an unsolicited message via social media that claimed “There is also little girl living in Roma house in tallaght and she is blond and blue eye.”
The message included the girl’s name and address before claiming that Roma people are robbing children for “children benefit in Europe”.
Connolly has previously investigated Ireland’s Roma community in a documentary entitled “Bogus Beggars”.
That investigation was criticised for lacking proof of organised “bogus beggars”. In an Irish Independent article Diarmuid Boyle wrote: “sometimes, even when you’ve put months of work and no little resources into an investigation, there’s still no story. In those circumstances, you don’t do the story.” He went on to call the piece an “embarrassing shambles, which shames TV3”.
Last night TV3 News claimed it was their investigation which led to police moving to take the girl in Tallaght. Paul Connolly said he sent the information on to the Garda Press Office but warned that people should not “jump to conclusions” about the case.
Europol and Interpol have been contacted for information about missing children while investigations continue to confirm the girl’s identity.
A group of 15 friends and relatives from the Roma community said they were upset, claiming the girl was part of the family and should be returned.
The family has documents including a birth certificate and passport and friends claimed the girl taken was not the only member of the family with blonde hair.
Irish police believed the family was unable to prove the girl’s identity conclusively. It is understood a name and date of birth the parents gave does not match records with the register office.
The birth certificate was deemed to be “inconclusive” and a passport bore a picture of a baby.