On 11 April ABC (Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice) wrote to the OCO (Ombudsman for Children’s Office ) explaining how Deputy Bernard Durkan has repeatedly called for an inquiry since last September into what’s happening to mothers in the secret Family Law Courts where mothers are arrested, their children forcefully taken by Gardai and “subjected to the kind of abuse that was used in prisoner of war camps.”
This information was supported by links to several videos showing Deputy Durkan speaking about this issue.
They detailed the background to these calls by Deputy Durkan whereby some of the mothers represented by ABC reported child sex abuse and ended up loosing custody of their children to the perpetrators of this sexual abuse.
ABC’s email concluded: “It is our hope that you will treat the subject matter of this email with the urgency it warrants and that the Ombudsman for Children will begin an immediate investigation into the issues raised by Deputy Durkan.”
ABC has now received a response from the OCO which is published in full below.
This is ABC’s reply to the OCO’s response to the request to investigate what Deputy Durkan has said in the Dáil:
“Thank you for your reply to our email.
However, we wish to express our deep unease with the response from the OCO.
Dr. Muldoon has for example in recent times highlighted the plight of refugee and Traveller children accommodated in deplorable conditions and has met with and launched a report for AkiDwA, the network of migrant women living in Ireland. This is praiseworthy and what one would expect from the OCO in a functioning democracy.
To take the concerns raised by the Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice with a pinch of salt might be forgiven, given our voluntary status, but to fail to investigate what veteran Fine Gael TD, Bernard Durkan has been highlighting in the Dáil, is in our opinion, an abandonment of your basic function and duty to protect children, given that it has been pointed out to you that it involves children being denied all contact with their mothers after sexual abuse was reported to Tusla and the Gardai.
The issues raised in the Dáil by Deputy Durkan are complex. Mothers have individually made complaints to your office and to Tusla and got zero remedy.
With regards to Coru, as we have already pointed out to you, the recommendations for mothers to lose custody of their children are being made by ‘experts’ in the Family Law Courts who are not registered with Coru as was highlighted in a recent RTE Primetime Investigates.
If you took the time to listen to all of Deputy Durkan’s videos you will have heard him warn about this scandal that will continue to grow the longer there’s a failure to investigate.
It’s a certainty that Deputy Durkan’s call for an inquiry will eventually be heeded. Part of that inquiry will be ‘who knew what’ and failed to act.
The Alliance of Birthmothers Campaigning for Justice have with great reluctance taken the decision to publish your response to our request to investigate Deputy Durkan’s statements in the Dáil so that it will be available as a matter of public record.”
𝑅𝑒𝑠𝑝𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑒 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 𝑂𝐶𝑂 to ABC 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑒𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑇𝑢𝑒𝑠𝑑𝑎𝑦 18 𝐴𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑙 2023
“While I am sure that you are already aware of this, I would like to start by stating that if a child has been adversely impacted by the decision of a public body such as Tusla, a complaint can be made to the OCO’s Complaints and Investigations Team. Members of this team are best placed to go through the details of individual complaints to determine if the complaint falls within the remit of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 (as amended). Information on our complaints function, as well as contact details can be found here – Complaints | Ombudsman for Children (oco.ie).
If one of your members wishes to make a complaint about the professional conduct of a Social Worker, I am attaching contact information for Coru, the body who regulates Social Workers, here – Contact Us – Coru. If one of your members requires legal advice, the Children’s Rights Alliance operates a helpline for children, young people and their families to access legal information. The contact details of this helpline can be found here – Contact Us | Children’s Rights Alliance (childrensrights.ie)
In relation to the points made in your e-mail, while you are correct to state that I informed you we are unable to complete a standalone piece of work on the concerns you raised with us, I also informed you that the notes of our meeting would be of use to us in the work that we are undertaking in the areas you raised concerns about, including our work on:
· the ongoing review of the Childcare Act 1991
· the development of the new Family Court System
· work in the area of Domestic Violence
· the expansion of the Barnahaus project.
I am attaching some reports from our website where you can see some of the work we have done on these topics over the last number of years. I would like to add that these reports do not constitute the total amount of work we have done in these areas as we do not publish all of our work.
· OmbudsmanforChildren_Submission_ReviewChildCareAct1991_23Feb2018.pdf (oco.ie)
· One stop shop for victims of sexual abuse should be available to all – Ombudsman for Children | Ombudsman for Children (oco.ie)
I am also attaching two reports we submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child as part of the Committees reporting process, one in 2020 and one in 2022. In these reports, we addressed topics such as family courts, alternative care, domestic violence and Barnahaus.
· Report-of-the-Ombudsman-for-Childrens-Office-to-the-UN-Committee-on-the-Rights-of-the-Child.pdf (oco.ie)
As part of the reporting process, the Committee on the Rights of the Child held a Constructive Dialogue with the Irish State in January this year. Following this, they published their Concluding Observations, which contain recommendations to the Government in many of the areas you raised with us.
Finally, I would like to attach two further reports that we made to the United Nations, one in relation to the Committee on the Rights of the Child for their Day of General Discussion on Children in Alternative Care and one to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Process.
I appreciate that you are not satisfied with the OCO’s decision in relation to your request for us to complete a standalone investigation into the issues that you raised. This decision has not changed. However, we have been, and continue to be, engaged in work related to many of the concerns you have raised with us. You will see from our submissions the changes that we are recommending the Government make and the reasons for why we believe these changes are necessary. Among other things, we will continue to recommend that the Government and Tusla consider the best interests of children as a paramount consideration when making decisions about their care.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. We shall keep you updated on this platform on any further developments.