Children first, always

Mind the Baby, mindthebaby.ie, Children First, Always
Two-year-old Iancu Muntean Jnr with his mum, Loredaiva, outside their home in Athlone. Photo courtesy of independent.ie

I don’t know what happened because I don’t have all of the information. Sure I know what I read in the papers and I’ve read all the online comments but the only people who really know what happened are the Gardai. Even the families don’t really know what happened because they were only there for the bit when their child was taken away, by the authorities. They weren’t involved in receiving the information about stolen blonde children; the discussions and decisions that led to the turn of events; what happened in the police cars on the way to the station or where the small children spent their nights away from their families. What did the police say to soothe the children in the cars, I wonder? Did they try to sing them a song or talk about Mickey Mouse or something?

All I can do is imagine what went on. And believe it was in good faith. There will be multiple reports on how events transpired and where fault lies. Emily Logan has served the public interest well in the past so personally I trust her to get to the bottom of things.

Finding out the details and ensuring it doesn’t happen again doesn’t erase what happened though. There was a common theme in some of the online commentary where a reasonably popular view was “it was better safe than sorry”.  Better that the children were removed from their families until their parentage could be confirmed rather than risk the children disappearing overnight never to be seen again.

No matter how I try, I can’t share that perspective. A two year old toddler was taken from his home overnight. A seven year old girl was separated from her family for more than two days. In my mind, I can think of at least five different, less severe, options that could have been considered before forcibly lifting a child from their parents’ arms.

Who’s “sorry” though? Because we have two sorrows now.

The seven year old girl was watching television with her brothers and sisters when three guards turned up at her front door  to talk to her mum and dad. She watched pieces of paper being produced and, I can only guess, heated discussions, tears and then hysteria unfold before a male guard took her from the house while other Gardai held the rest of the family back.

I don’t know about you, but if after I had shown a Garda my child’s passport, his birth cert, the photos around the house and on my phone, volunteered blood and DNA as proof that I had grown him and birthed him from my own body, he then turn around and told me it was not good enough, I would be screaming and crying, scratching and throwing punches, threatening to murder anyone who DARED to try and take my son, MY baby, from my arms. Myself and my husband spoke about this and both agreed the police who have had to tazer us before they could forcibly remove our child from our home. We wouldn’t be thinking of his trauma of watching us claw and bite to protect him because the trauma in my mind his his being taken at all. Away from us, his parents.

Of course, as a well educated, white, middle-class Dublin couple with family and likely connections somewhere on our side, we would be in a position to “choose” to be tazered, knowing in our heart of hearts that the law would prove to be on our side in the end. A marginalised, improvished, immigrant, ethnic family with little English do not have the luxury to go all guns blazing when the law arrives at their door to take their child. As the 22-year-old father of the two year old boy in Athlone said:

“I said to the guards,’You have power, I don’t have power.’ What can I do? I don’t make trouble.”

How do you explain to your two year old that he has to go with these strangers that he has never met in his life, get into their car and drive off? You can’t because he doesn’t understand that. How you do willingly hand over your baby, not knowing where they are going or when you will see them again. Did the children fight back? Did they reach for their parents? Were they forcibly put into the vehicles and taken away? It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it. I don’t know how they coped. I’m guessing no one slept or ate for the whole time they were separated. We know the little girl didn’t eat anything while she was apart from her family. She must have been beside herself.

I don’t want to be judge and jury here. Like I said, I’m not privy to what went on behind the scenes. But I do understand the law which prioritises child protection and the best interests of the child. I also understand that Section 12 of the Child Care Act allows a garda to remove a child from their home where there is reasonable grounds for believing that there is a serious and immediate risk to the health or welfare of that child. While my heart goes out to any guard who finds themselves in a situation where they have to make that kind of decision, it is clear to me that the best interests of the children weren’t served here. A question also lingers: if there was a serious and immediate risk to the child, why weren’t all the children in the households taken?

The little 2 year old spent about 24 hours from his family, the 7 year old girl more than 48 from hers. Both are reported to be waking in the night and screaming for their parents. Every second must have felt like an hour, every hour like a day. How will they come to terms with their experiences I wonder?

But it’s better safe than sorry.

 

9 thoughts on “Children first, always”

  1. Fantastic piece. It’s crazy. The HSE have been guilty for not intervening sooner, but seem to have acted prematurely in this case. Are they going to provide the families with therapeutic support after the ordeal, I wonder?

    1. I think the Minister for Justice has already committed to making sure the families have everything they could need from that perspective which is the least he could do really.

      I’m not a HSE sympathiser by any stretch but I think they’re not fully to blame here. In fact it was the local social services who instructed the 2 year old should be returned because the family were already known to them. Now if only someone had thought to contact the public health nurse in the Tallaght case maybe…

  2. Surly the children shouldn’t have been taken until the police had complete concentrated evidence that the child might be not the parents. This whole situation I think was so extreme from the police as it was a short time after the crime watch program regarding Madeleine McCann. It seems the world
    Will be looking at every blonde little girl. Don’t get me wrong I sincerely hope Madeleine is found safe. But my heart would be broken if the police took my daughter with little or no reason.

  3. Thanks for this – says exactly what I would have liked to say on the subject. My heart went out to the family. Of course if the child had been taken I would want the State to find out and deal with this but the way they went about it – even if the child had been taken, these would probably have been the only caregivers they knew and so it still would have been traumatic to have dealt with the situation in this way.

    1. I completely agree. Sure my little one can get really upset when left with family members as she wants me all the time and she knows who they are. I can’t imagine how tramatised these kids were. As a parent you would never want your child to experience this.

What do you think?