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Backing up a minute: Ireland has its own indigenous population of what are not exactly gypsies in the classical sense - they're called Travellers (formerly Itinerants, back in the old days, Tinkers). Like everyone else, there are decent, great people among them and some not so great. Like everyone else, there are people prejudiced about them amongst the Settled community (that's the non-Travellers). They've had the traditional reputation of misconduct attributed to gypsies: theft, begging, vagrancy, neglect/mistreatment of their children and animals, etc.

Then in the 90s we got the authentic Roma coming to live amongst us, after the general collapse of the Eastern Bloc regimes and specially with the influx of immigration from Romania after the fall of Ceaușescu. They got all the normal prejudice about Travellers with added "bloody foreigners" and bonus "bloody dark-skinned foreigners" to boot.

Were there a lot of suddenly visible Roma begging on our streets? Yes, even in my own town. Did we never before have beggars in Ireland? What do you think?

Anyhow, since we've even had prejudice against the Poles (fellow white-skinned Roman Catholics) expressed by some bandwagon-jumping politicians and some seriously nuts zealots in the balmy days of the Celtic Tiger (when instead of us going Over There for work, as we're back to doing, suddenly Them from Over There were coming to us for work), how do you think really foreign foreigners get treated, particularly when they're linked with the Travellers?

If we really wanted to know, we've had ample evidence in the past three days.

(1) Seven-year old girl taken into care from her family in Dublin
(2) Two-year old boy taken into care from his family in Athlone

Please note the photos used to illustrate the story by the newspaper in the first case: the blue-eyed, blonde girl taken from the Greek Roma family, who has been proven by DNA testing not to be their child.

That's the engine driving the story as far as the papers and so-called journalists are concerned (yes, Paul Connolly, I'm saying you're a hack and a self-publicist, not a journalist or a brave crusader against crime).

What was the reason the children were taken? The police (An Garda Síochána, the Civic Guard, in popular parlance the Guards)said it was under Section 12 of the Child Care Act. Let's have a gander at the wording of that section:


PART III

Protection of Children in Emergencies


Power of Garda Síochána to take a child to safety.

12.—(1) Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that—


(a) there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child, and


(b) it would not be sufficient for the protection of the child from such immediate and serious risk to await the making of an application for an emergency care order by a health board under section 13 ,


the member, accompanied by such other persons as may be necessary, may, without warrant, enter (if need be by force) any house or other place (including any building or part of a building, tent, caravan or other temporary or moveable structure, vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft) and remove the child to safety.


(2) The provisions of subsection (1) are without prejudice to any other powers exercisable by a member of the Garda Síochána.


(3) Where a child is removed by a member of the Garda Síochána in accordance with subsection (1), the child shall as soon as possible be delivered up to the custody of the health board for the area in which the child is for the time being.


(4) Where a child is delivered up to the custody of a health board in accordance with subsection (3), the health board shall, unless it returns the child to the parent having custody of him or a person acting in loco parentis, make application for an emergency care order at the next sitting of the District Court held in the same district court district or, in the event that the next such sitting is not due to be held within three days of the date on which the child is delivered up to the custody of the health board, at a sitting of the District Court, which has been specially arranged under section 13 (4), held within the said three days, and it shall be lawful for the health board to retain custody of the child pending the hearing of that application.


Now, here's where I start flipping the metaphorical table and kicking the metaphorical cat. Did the police and social services have suspicions of abuse? Apparently, no. Did the police and social services remove the other children of those families? NO.

Isn't that crazy? You think parents/guardians are endangering a child by neglect or active abuse, but you leave other at-risk children in the home? Why would you do that?

Why, if the other kids look like their parents!

Yes, THAT is the reason the forces of the State swooped in to take away the Dublin girl and Athlone boy. They didn't look like the rest of the family.

You still think this is an elaborate joke, don't you? What kind of crazy story is that? This is one of those "Dumb Paddy" jokes only with a really elaborate set-up, isn't it?

Oh no, my friends. Welcome to secular, liberal, progressive, integrated Ireland of 2013. Where your kids can be taken away from you if someone rings up the police that they don't look exactly like you. Or even if they don't ring the police, they ring a "scare the punters" true crime show on a down-market TV station, and the 'journalist' presenter of said show then rings the cops and asks "Whaddya gonna do about this?"

Possible bad publicity from a tabloid journalist salivating for a story about public neglect and child endangerment garnished with appeals to lowest-common-denominator prejudice about foreign Gypsy beggars and thieves and welfare spongers, with a salacious suggestion of paedophile/child pornography sex trafficking sprinkled on top?

Why, that might make us (and more importantly, our political masters) look bad! Quick, to the Batmobile!
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