Two children in Ireland are returned to their Roma parents

LONDON – A blond-haired girl taken from a Roma couple in Ireland has been reunited with them after DNA testing confirmed that she is their biological daughter, and a towheaded boy was returned to his family following similar tests, Irish media and government officials said Wednesday.

The two youngsters were separated from their families amid worldwide interest in an unrelated case of a fair-haired child, known as Maria, who was discovered in Greece last week in the home of a Roma couple who claimed falsely to be her parents. That case has excited breathless fears of alleged trafficking in white babies by Europe’s Roma, who are widely known as Gypsies and are already shunned and discriminated against.

Irish media reported that the 7-year-old girl taken away from her family by police in Dublin on Monday and a 2-year-old boy taken from his family in Athlone on Tuesday were shown by DNA tests to have been in the custody of their biological parents. Both had been removed from their families by authorities because they did not resemble their darker-haired parents or siblings, a move that critics said smacked of overt racism.

Alan Shatter, Ireland’s justice minister, issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging that the police’s suspicions “proved to be unfounded.”

“Quite clearly no fault of any nature attaches to the two families concerned for the events which took place,” Shatter said.

He added that he had asked for “a full report” on why the youngsters were removed from their parents. But Shatter also defended Irish authorities for acting in what they believed was the children’s best interests and for erring on the side of safety in a difficult situation.

Police officials said that “protecting vulnerable children is of paramount importance…. We take extremely [seriously] all reports received from members of the public concerning child welfare issues.”

The passions and prejudices sparked by the case of Maria in Greece, whose imposter parents have been arrested on suspicion of abduction and welfare fraud, have raised fears among Roma families that they will be targeted unfairly by European authorities.

A lawyer acting on behalf of the unnamed 7-year-old Dublin girl said her removal had been “a cause of huge upset” for her parents and siblings, who “are very conscious of the fact that this case has been linked with events in other countries which have nothing to do with them.”

In central Ireland, the father of the 2-year-old boy taken from his care demanded an explanation.

“I was upset,” the young man was quoted by the Irish Mirror as saying. “I just felt so sad. They took my baby.”


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