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Yet another horrendous abuse case has come to public attention, this one involving the abuse and neglect of six children by their mother.
The family first came to the attention of the relevant health board in 1989. It wasn’t until 2000 that an attempt was made to remove the children from the mother’s care. Why not?
We are told the mother became involved with a ‘right-wing Catholic group’ and she mounted a successful action in the High Court against the removal of her children in 2000. This may or may not have been financed by the aforementioned group.
We don’t know why the High Court reversed the decision to remove the children from their mother and place them with an uncle and aunt. On the surface, the High Court decision seems exceedingly strange. Maybe the court didn’t know then what we know now?
We also don’t know why the health board, now part of the HSE, didn’t appeal this decision.
What we do know is that in cases like this the State does have the power to remove children from their families under care orders, as it should. We know this from numerous cases including this one because the children were finally taken into foster care in 2004.
We also know that the constitutional definition of the family, contrary to the opinion of some commentators, does not prevent this from happening. The Constitution gives the State the power of intervention in extraordinary circumstances. This case certainly fell dramatically into that category.
We also know that in Britain, where there is no written Constitution let alone a constitutional definition of the family, many children are not properly protected, often because of inaction or incompetence on the part of the relevant State bodies. The Baby P case comes to mind.
We need to know more about this horrible case to make further judgement but the above are some initial thoughts.