A seven-year old girl with blonde hair and ‘striking’ blue eyes was taken by Irish police from a Roma family in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght yesterday, after suspicions were raised by neighbors that the man and woman she was living with might not be her real parents. The case has striking similarities to that of a child named ‘Maria’, removed from a Roma family in Greece last week, and it was apparently reports of the Greek case which prompted the neighbors to tip off the police.
Irish police told the Daily Beast that the girl is now in the care of the Irish Health Service Executive.
The dramatic removal of the girl came after her parents were raided by police who were reportedly unable to provide convincing documentation such as a passport or birth certificate to prove the girl was theirs. The hospital in which they claimed to have given birth to the child had no record of her birth, it was claimed today on the website of the paper the Sunday World, which broke the story. Gardai are reported to have made contact with hospital consultants to ask if Roma parents could give birth to a blonde blue-eyed child, and were told it was not impossible, but highly unlikely.
The news was today feeding long-festering resentment against the Roma community in Tallaght, with several local people openly telling the Daily Beast of their ‘hatred’ for the Roma.
One local person told the Daily Beast that Roma families have been settled in Tallaght by the city which has taken to using the suburb as a ‘dumping ground’ for Romanian immigrants, who are, under EU law, entitled to Irish social welfare and housing benefits.
One said that they believed the family had occupied a house in Tallaght West, a particular disadvantaged pocket of the area to the south west of the city centre.
Local people told the Daily Beast today that the family were living in private housing provided by the local council, as opposed to a traditional halting site.
Tallaght used to be regarded as one of the most deprived areas in Dublin, but in recent years it has been the object of a multi-million pound town centre renovation.
The presence of increasing numbers of Roma in the area is much resented by many of the population, who accuse them of living off ‘benefits and begging’.
One publican, who asked not to be identified, told the Daily Beast: “The Roma are not the same as the Irish travelers, and in fact would be thought of as the lowest of the low. Even the Irish traveler looks down on the Roma gypsy. They go in for the organized begging, with 15 or 20 of them living in one house. None of them work, but the men often show off about having wads of money.”
Another said, “People really hate them.”
The Irish traveler rights organization, Pavee Point, reacted to the news saying, “Pavee Point are concerned about witch-hunts against a vulnerable community and old stereotypes of an entire community being propagated in the media coverage of this development. Actions by the state need to be evidence-based and due process needs to be accorded to all communities living in Ireland. There is a real danger that precipitative action, undertaken on the basis of appearance, can create the conditions for an increase in racism and discrimination against the Roma community living here. The reality is in Europe today that Roma children are grossly overrepresented in state care institutions. A report by the European Roma Rights Centre finds that the underlying reasons for the high representation are poverty and discrimination."
Gabby Munteen, a support worker who has been in regular contact with the parents, said that the family were adamant the child was theirs.
“They are very upset. They have told me the child is 100 per cent theirs and have offered blood tests and DNA tests to prove this,” she told the Irish Times. “Now, they just want their daughter back. It hard to see any reason why his happened, other than the reports from Greece.”
She added that the family had been living in Ireland for over seven years.
If it is proved the child is not related to the family, this latest case will raise the hopes of families of missing children like Madeleine McCann, that they may still be alive after being trafficked into child slavery or adoption rings.