Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Shatter defends police on removals

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has defended police over the removal of two Roma children from their families

Police acted in good faith in removing two children from their Roma families, Ireland's justice minister said.

Officers and health officials face difficult decisions about child protection and attracted criticism in the past for not intervening to protect those at risk, Alan Shatter added.

He has asked for a full report into the background circumstances surrounding the matter.

"In each of these cases, the gardaa responded in good faith to concerns expressed to them," he said.

"The law provides clear powers for An Garda Siochana where it is believed that a child may be in danger. The Health Service Executive and the courts are involved in making the appropriate decisions.

"Urgent procedures are available to ensure that the safety of a child can be assured while necessary inquiries are being made.

"While such procedures can be understandably distressing for parents, the reality is that not invoking the procedures can involve taking a risk with the safety of a child if you don't act on the basis of the information that is available at the time."

He said the authorities' entire motivation is to ensure that the best interests of a child are treated as paramount and that is as it should be.

"It is, of course, important to ascertain whether any lessons can be learned from these cases and that is why I have asked for a full report on the background circumstances that led to each of these children being taken into care and the procedures that were followed," he added.

"It is important that any lessons which might be learned do not detract in any way from the willingness and preparedness of the authorities to take appropriate action when they believe that children are at risk.

"People should of course report to the authorities any reasonable concerns which they have about the safety of children.

"However, in seeking to ensure that the welfare of children is safeguarded and that every child in this State is afforded, where necessary, the protection of the State, it is important that no group or minority community is singled out for unwarranted attention, or, indeed, suspicion in relation to child protection issues."

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