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Children's Ombudsman has "trust of the public" needed for Roma cases probe

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald explains why Emily Logan has been given power to compel gardai to speak to her.

Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan.
Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE CHILDREN’S MINISTER has said that Emily Logan was given extra powers to investigate how two Roma children were removed from their families this week because she has secured “the trust of the public”.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter announced on Friday that the Ombudsman for Children had been given special powers to investigate the gardai’s handling of the cases as well as that of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that as soon as DNA tests confirmed that the children both had been living with their biological parents and that suspicions of kidnapping were baseless, Shatter decided a full investigation was needed into how they were removed from their parents initially.

Speaking on Saturday with Brian Dowling on RTÉ Radio 1, Fitzgerald said that she and Shatter had agreed that reports were needed from the gardai, the HSE and from Logan:

We felt that she would have the trust of the public and that it did need an independent inquiry with somebody such as Emily Logan who has shown herself in the past to be well capable – and her office – of doing this kind of independent report.

What has developed since then is to clarify that she absolutely has the power to investigate both the Garda side and the HSE involvement. Under her own act, the Ombudsman’s Act, she has full authority to investigate the HSE. What Minister Shatter has done is to clarify in detail her terms of reference and the fact that she will be able to interview everybody from the Garda side as well.

Fitzgerald said that it was the communication between the various agencies and organisations involved in the cases that needs careful scrutiny.

She said she “always understood that that (reports from gardai and HSE) wouldn’t be enough” to investigate the case or to satisfy the public demand for information on what happened.

Under the remit given to Logan to carry out this particular investigation, she can go so far as to appeal to the High Court or beyond to secure co-operation from any agency – even gardai – should they prove not to be less than helpful.

In May of this year, the Garda Ombudsman complained that gardai had “delayed” handing over information to the office when it was investigating allegations of collusion between members of the force and a drug dealer. In July, the Garda Ombudsman claimed that gardai had provided “misleading” and “inaccurate” information during a probe into the Garda handling of a student protest in 2010.

Minister Fitzgerald also made reference today to the section in the 1991 Child Care Act which gives legal powers to the State and gardai to remove children from their home should they be deemed at risk. That section will be re-examined, she said, and the long-promised Children First legislation published in the next few months.

Children’s Ombudsman given powers to investigate gardai as well as HSE>
Shatter: Greece case may have had ‘some undue influence’ on Roma child removals>

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