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Irish police facing inquiry over removal of two Romany children from their families

Their actions provoked allegations that the Garda had over-reacted after a similar case in Greece

Special powers have been created to allow an ombudsman to investigate whether Irish police were justified in taking two children away from their Roma families.

A seven-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy were removed from their families in Ireland this week following the discovery in Greece of a blonde-haired girl in the care of a Roma couple who weren't her biological parents, despite their claims to be.

The children in Ireland were taken from their families by the Garda amid suspicions they had been abducted but DNA tests proved that they were members of the families caring for them.

The removal of both children provoked allegations that the Garda had over-reacted and Justice Minister Alan Shatter has now given Ireland's Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, powers to investigate.

Ms Logan's powers usually stop short of allowing her to investigate the Garda but the case has led to suggestions that the removals were more a result of public hysteria in the wake of the Greek case than well-founded concerns for the children's safety.

A lawyer for the parents of the seven-year-old, who like the girl found in Greece was described as blonde-haired and blue-eyed, parents said they believed the authorities had no proper basis for taking her into state care for two nights. A member of the public had raised concerns about her appearance by using Facebook to contact a reporter who in turn reported it.

There have also been claims the Garda's behaviour had been influenced by racial profiling and both Amnesty International and Pavee Point, a group which supports travellers and the Roma community, called for an independent inquiry.

Ms Logan is now to carry out an investigation after being given extra legal powers and said: “I feel that, in this case, I need this power to conduct a complete investigation.

”We make sure that the law is upheld, that citizens' rights are protected and that good standards of public administration are applied.

“As always, I intend to conduct an independent, impartial investigation from first principles. I will not be rubber-stamping the reports of other agencies. However, I appreciate that it is good practice for those agencies to conduct their own, internal investigations and make reports.”

Separately, the Garda Ombudsman has asked to be given a copy of a report ordered by Mr Shatter from the Garda commissioner Martin Callinan on the force's handling of the cases.