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25 children abducted and 'wrongfully taken’ to Ireland this year

These children were “wrongfully taken” to Ireland, often by one parent, from countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention

Neasa Cumiskey and Jessica MageeSunday World

The Irish Department of Justice’s Central Authority for International Child Abduction has received 25 applications in 2022 for the return of children who have been abducted and taken to Ireland.

According to lobby group Alienated Children First (ACF), these children were “wrongfully taken” to Ireland, often by one parent, from countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention.

The Hague Convention protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad and applies between the Netherlands and 91 countries including Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, and the United States.

However, ACF said that the annual figures do not reflect the total number of children wrongfully abducted to Ireland.

It said cases often bypass the Department of Justice’s Central Authority if the country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention or if a “left-behind” parent decides to save time and file a petition for return directly with the relevant court in Ireland.

The group added that all children who have been taken from a parent and abducted to another country, by default, suffer emotional abuse by way of parental alienation.

It comes after a court heard last month that a couple who abducted their young daughter and prompted a nationwide Child Safety Alert, were “heavily involved in substance abuse” at the time.

The 33-year-old father, who cannot be named to protect his daughter’s identity, previously pleaded guilty to intentionally taking his two-year-old daughter from a health centre in Co Mayo on October 12 last year.

Garda Derek Sweeney told Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting, that some years previously the man had gone to the UK where he met a woman and they had a daughter.

The family visited Mayo from the UK in mid-2021 to attend a family birthday party.

The court heard that the couple had “some problem with alcohol”. Mr Cooney said that both parents had been “heavily involved in substance abuse” at the time and were “completely out of it” at this party.

About a week later the toddler was brought to a local doctor, the court heard. The doctor contacted Tusla raising concerns about the girl’s welfare, and following a formal complaint, an interim care order was made placing her in the care of a relative.

Both parents were given access to visit their daughter from time to time at a designated venue. It was on one such scheduled visit at Swinford Health Centre last October that the father arrived alone to see his daughter, bringing food and drinks for her.

When the support worker asked where the mother was, the man replied that she was sick.

The court heard that when the little girl arrived with her guardian, the man picked up his daughter, said “I’m really sorry” to the relative and carried the child to a waiting car.

The child’s mother was driving the car and she took off at dangerous speed, counsel said.

A nationwide Child Rescue Alert was activated and broadcast widely on the media, leading gardaí to trace the man’s location via his phone to Camden Street in Dublin.

A receptionist working at Keaven’s Port Hotel on Camden Street came across the Child Rescue Alert on her phone and identified the child with two adults who had checked in.

Gardaí arrived at the hotel, removed the child and arrested her parents, who were interviewed several times and made full admissions. The court heard the man was polite and told gardaí: “I just wanted to spend time with my daughter.”

The court heard that the mother, who is a UK national, pleaded guilty to abduction but failed to turn up for her sentence and is now living in London. Mr Cooney said that some weeks after the abduction, the man attempted to abduct the child again from a house in Knock, Co Mayo.

Judge Nolan adjourned the sentence until March 8 next.

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