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Ireland returns 2 children to parents from Roma family

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

DUBLIN — Two blond children who were taken by Irish police from their Romanian Gypsy parents were returned on Wednesday to their families when DNA tests determined that the children were rightfully theirs, an episode that raised accusations of racism.

The Irish police were responding to tipoffs fueled by media coverage of an alleged child abduction case in Greece involving a blond-haired girl and a family of Gypsies, known as Roma.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter told lawmakers that he was “pleased and relieved” that the children had been returned to their homes. He ordered police Commissioner Martin Callinan, to produce a report explaining why officers felt it necessary to take the children — a 2-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl — from their families.

“We must all be particularly conscious of the regrettable distress that arose for the two families and their children,” Shatter said.

He defended the need for police and child welfare officers to remove children from potentially dangerous homes, but cautioned that Irish authorities must ensure “that no group or minority community is singled out for unwarranted suspicion in relation to child protection issues.”

In both cases, police suspected that the children might be victims of abductions because they were blond-haired and blue-eyed, unlike the rest of their immediate relatives.

An estimated 5,000 Roma have settled over the past decade in Ireland, where many have been linked to street begging rackets involving children.

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