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Timeline: Here's what happened to the Roma Child T in Tallaght

A Facebook message sparked a chain of events where a Roma child with blonde hair was removed from her family in Tallaght.

Tallaght Garda Station
Tallaght Garda Station
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE REPORT INTO the special inquiry into how the gardaí handled two incidents where Roma children were removed from their families by the gardaí have been published.

The report (PDF, 18MB) found that racial profiling played a part in the two cases. The Taoiseach, Minister for Justice and the interim Garda Commissioner have all apologised for what happened in the cases in Athlone and Tallaght.

It found that in both cases the gardaí had failed to critically evaluate the information given to them about the children and the families in question.

In December 2013, the then Minister for Justice appointed Emily Logan to inquire in to the removal of a two year old boy in Athlone, Co. Westmeath (Child A) and a seven year old girl in Tallaght, Co. Dublin (Child T) from their families.

The children were removed from the care of their parents under Section 12 of the Child Care Act by the gardaí and placed in to the custody of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Here’s what happened to Child T in Tallaght:

Monday 21 October 2013

1.10am: A TV journalist sent an email to the Garda Press Office containing a message that had been left by a member of the public on what was described as his “show page” on Facebook.

Facebook boss defends targeted ads Source: Dave Thompson

The message read as follows:

Hi [Name of Journalist]Today was on the news the blond child found in Roma Camp in Greece. There is also little girl living in Roma house in Tallaght and she is blond and blue eyes. Her name is [Child T] and the address is [Child 1's address]. I am from [country in Eastern Europe] myself and it’s a big problem there missing kids. The Romas robing [sic] them to get child benefit in Europe.

11.13am: The email from the journalist was forwarded by the Garda Press Office to the District Office in Tallaght at 11.13am and then to Sergeant A at 11.36am.

2pm: Sergeant A read the email.

The Sergeant consulted his own records to establish whether there was any child protection concerns in relation to Child T or her family, and found none.

However, child protection records existed for her older sisters dating back a number of years. Those cases had been closed and had no connection with child abduction.

He then spoke to a colleague, Garda B, who knew the family as he was a case manager assigned to one of Child T’s sisters. He knew of Child T, but could not furnish any further information to the Sergeant.

The sergeant then spoke to the principal of the local national school to establish whether Child T was a student there, and indicated that there was a concern about the identity of the child’s parents.

The principalsaid that Child T did attend her school and was a member of the
Roma community, but was registered under a different first name “U”.

She said that “as far as she knew” she could vouch that the parents were the parents of  Child T.

The Department of Social Protection had details in relation to a number of children the household where Child T lived, but that there was no child by the name of Child T, they did have a record of a child named “U” the same name which the child was registered in the national school.

Sergeant A then contacted the local HSE social work team who said there were no care orders for Child T and the others for the sisters were not active.

The Sergeant then contacted the gardaí to try and get the contact details of the person that left the message on Facebook. The journalist passed on these details that evening at 10.53pm.

After carrying out all these inquiries, Sergeant A determined that it was necessary to visit the home of Child T.

Shutterstock-53800276 Source: Shutterstock

Two gardaí and the sergeant called to the home and they were asked to come in.

Sergeant A told the parents the nature of their visit, that they were there to make inquiries about the children’s identities “as a follow up to previous child protection concerns”.

The report states that Sergeant A’s report on this case indicated that he noted the presence of a young girl, about seven years of age, who had blonde hair and blue eyes and whom he said was “strikingly different in appearance” from the rest of her family.

The sergeant then asked the parents for identity documents and birth certificates for the children.

The mother gave the documents for her other children but not for Child T, as they were in another room where the children were sleeping and she did not want to disturb them.

She did tell the sergeant that Child T was born in the Coombe Hospital, and supplied the gardaí with the PPS numbers for all three children in the home, but the name for Child T was again listed as “U”.

4.10pm: Following this, the sergeant went outside to his car and contacted the Coombe Hospital at 4.10pm to attempt to confirm that Child T was born there.

4.45pm: The hospital contacted Sergeant A indicating that they had no record of the birth of a child with details matching those provided for Child T.

The sergeant then contacted a doctor in Tallaght Hospital to ask his opinion about the possibility of likelihood that of parents with dark hair and dark eyes having a child with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Shutterstock-124762372 Source: Shutterstock

The consultant indicated that such a situation would be very unusual but not impossible.

The sergeant then contacted the social worker again, who indicated that section 12 of the 1991 Act may be invoked because of the concerns that he had in relation to Child T’s identity.

This contact allowed the HSE to make the relevant preparations for a foster care placement, if such a placement were deemed necessary.

Again, the social worker checked the records for Child T.

On this occasion they did find a record of Child T. She was listed as a sibling on a record relating to on of Child T’s older sisters. Again, her name was different.

The situation in the home got “more emotional and tense” said the sergeant to the inquiry.

More family members began arriving at the home, however, the gardaí who were in the house said that the situation remained “calm”.

Three community gardaí then arrived at the scene as Sergeant A had requested them to do so.

He said he thought this would ease the situation should section 12 of the 1991 Act be
invoked and Child T be taken into care.

New Garda Uniforms Source: Photocall Ireland

There were nine gardaí there by the end, some of whom were in uniform, said the report.

Sergeant A determined that there were grounds to invoke section 12 of the 1991 Act on the basis of the circumstances cited above.

He also said that he felt that in the event that Child T was not in fact the child of the people in whose care she was at that time, Child T might be removed from the jurisdiction because: 

  • He had been informed that Child T’s older sister had outstanding warrants in relation to low-level criminality and was currently residing in Romania with her grandmother
  • He was of the view that Child T’s father travelled to the UK and Continental Europe on a regular basis
  • He was aware of other cases in which children had come to he attention of the HSE and the gardaí for child protection reasons and had subsequently been removed from the jurisdiction.

He said none of these circumstances in isolation would justify the removal of the child, but “taken as a whole” they provided reasonable grounds for believing that a serious and immediate risk existed requiring immediate action to safeguard Child T’s welfare.

5pm: The sergeant explained to the parents that he was going to to invoke section 12 of the 1991 Act.

The family then retrieved a birth certificate and an old passport for Child T, but the sergeant said that die to the “lack of corroboration from the Coombe Hospital”, he did not believe at that time that the birth certificate was genuine.

Coombe Maternity Hospitals Coombe Woman and Infants University Hospital. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

He told the inquiry that the passport for Child T was issued when she was 11 months old and, as a result, the photograph was not useful for the purposes of visually identifying Child T.

The child was then taken to HSE’s offices in Chamber House, accompanied by her older sister.

5.45pm: Child T was placed in the custody of the HSE by the gardaí, where the responsibility for Child T, including the decision to apply for an Emergency Care Order or to return her home, rested with the HSE.

The report states:

When the time came for Child T to be brought to her foster placement, Social Worker F indicated that she explained the situation to Child T and that Child T became very upset, that she was crying, that she kept saying she wanted to go home and that she wanted to stay with her parents.

Child T told a social worker that she thought she was being taken away from her family as she “looked different” but said that she looked similar to her brother.

The report states that this refers to her brother also having blue eyes.

Between 8pm and 9pm: The Coombe Hospital contacted the sergeant indicating the information they had given him was incorrect and that there was a record of Child T’s birth at the hospital.

The sergeant told the HSE about the new information but said he felt there were still grounds for concern about the identity of Child T.

22 October 2013: Sergeant A, HSE staff and a legal team meet to discuss the application for a care order.

Preliminary inquiries were carried out by Social Worker F. She contacted the Coombe about the birth of the child at the hospital. The report states that although they furninshed information to the gardaí the night before and the HSE were informed, Social Worker F was not privy to the update and was not contacted by the Coombe until later that evening.

12pm: The report states that the HSE agreed with the concerns raised by the gardaí and an Emergency Care Order was granted for 24 hours to enable a DNA test to carried out on the parents and Child T.

23 October 2013

Social Worker F got in touch with the Public Health Nurse and the GP listed on the Coombe documents for Child T. The nurse said she could not remember what the child looked like.

The ISPCChad also been in touch with the HSE following media coverage. They had been involved with the older siblings case and recalled that Child T had blonde hair and blue eyes.

6pm: The results of the DNA tests came in as proceedings in the District Court were ongoing.

They showed that Child T was indeed the child of the parents. Child T was returned to her family immediately.

Shutterstock-38080564 Source: Shutterstock

Impact

Child T was described as being withdrawn, quiet, anxious and upset during the two-day period in foster care.

On the first night staying with her foster family she would not change into her pyjamas and would not get under the covers. She cried until she tired herself out and fell asleep.

The Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan said that she was very concerned to hear that Child T, who is just seven years old, has changed her hair colour to prevent her from being taken away from her family again.

Timeline: Here’s what happened to the Roma Child A in Westmeath>

Now Read: The full findings and recommendations of the report >

Read: “Ethnic profiling” a factor in removal of Roma children, report finds>

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