The parents of a blond-haired Roma boy have revealed they pleaded in distress that he was their son, and offered to undergo a DNA test as he was taken from them overnight.
Iancu Muntean (22), a resident in Ireland since 2005, told how gardai came to his home late in the evening with questions over the identity of his two-and-a-half-year-old son, Iancu Jnr.
Standing outside his home in a housing estate in Athlone, Co Westmeath, as his son played in the background, Mr Muntean told how his son was born in 2011 in Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe.
He also said he had produced a birth certificate to show gardai.
He said he and his girlfriend had been extremely distressed and unable to sleep after his son was separated from the family overnight. Mr Muntean and his partner, Loredaiva Sava (23), are from Bucharest, Romania. She is the mother of both Iancu Jnr and his sister Regina (4).
"I say to guards: 'What make you take my baby?'" said Mr Muntean, adding he queried who was responsible for it.
"When somebody takes your kid you feel sick, you feel bad."
The child's mother told how she had been "sad" when the child was removed.
The father described being extremely confused as to why he was being questioned over the identity of his child, as he was now two-and-a-half years old.
In addition to providing a passport and birth certificate, the father of two said he also volunteered to undertake a DNA swab to prove his lineage.
"I was shocked, but it is the guards. I said to guards: 'You have power, I don't have power'. What can I do? I don't make trouble," he said.
After going to the garda station at 7pm on Tuesday night, the father told how it was a number of hours before gardai told them they had to "take" his son for one night.
He described how the gardai asked him had he seen the case of the blonde-haired girl removed from the Roma family in Tallaght. He replied he had not.
Mr Muntean told them he didn't care about other incidents but insisted: "This is my kid".
He later agreed to let the child be kept overnight.
Mr Muntean asked if he could place the child in the car himself , as he didn't want his son to cry as it made him ill.
"I said: 'Please don't make him cry, don't make him upset'. I put him in the car, I put the seatbelt on.
"I say: 'Please bring my son home, I'll give you whatever you want, just take me and my girlfriend away and not my son'," he pleaded. Mr Muntean said he was extremely relieved, and thanked God, when he got a call from the HSE telling him he could pick up Iancu Jnr at midday.
He told how his son repeatedly asked him where he had been. Then he treated him to an ice cream and a burger to make up for missing the family overnight.
Mr Muntean said it was not unknown in the Romanian community for blond-haired children to be born, producing a photograph of his girlfriend's grandfather Angel Bascu showing distinctive blond hair. And for the Muntean family, the young boy's blond hair and blue eyes were a source of pride.
He said that nurses from the HSE had called on the family since the boy's birth, and had commented over the years that his son did have "Irish" features.
Gardai confirmed a boy had been placed into the care of the HSE under Section 12 of the Child Care Act but had later been returned to the family.
The HSE said it was prohibited from giving out any details in relation to any child.