UK mothers taking refuge in Wexford
WEXFORD has become the nerve-centre of a network of volunteers helping find sanctuary for British mothers fleeing from 'Draconian' UK social services.
In some cases the volunteers help fleeing parents by offering them refuge before their children are seized. In others, parents are being aided through the High Court in Ireland to underpin their legal challenges to the basis under which their children were taken from them, and some are women terrified of dangerous men and looking for somewhere safe.
'There is an epidemic of families in the UK in big trouble. The UK has the most robust record of forced child adoptions in Europe and families are fleeing to escape this. Ninety five per cent of them are coming to Ireland,' said Brian Rothery, the coordinator of the Ectopia Network which helps and relocates people throughout Ireland.
He said five families fleeing from the UK had contacted the network in the past week, and of these two came to Wexford.
The Ectopia Network has just released a YouTube video shot in Cullenstown last week in which mother of two Katie Lee James from Swansea breaks downs in tears as she tells her children, who were recently taken from her, that she loves them and will never leave them.
In the video, she says her three children were taken from her following the intervention of the social services in Cork and the gardai there acting at the behest of the UK authorities. The film also shows some of the national newspaper headlines telling that she had gone missing with her children.
Mr Rothery said of the case that everything was under control at the time and such an act was unjustified.
'We were very confident she was going to be able to keep her children.'
In the video, Katie Lee challenges the guards in Cork and claims that a High Court judge in Ireland had said that what had happened was wrong.
'Irish social workers should not be doing the dirty work on the British authories,' said Mr Rothery.
Mr Rothery said that after a rocky start, the network had a good working relationship with the local social services and the gardai in Wexford.
'We have nothing to hide. We can only tell these families we can help them legally. In cases like Katie's these children were taken illegally and we have had great success with the High Court here. It's very hard to fight social services rulings in the UK but the chances greatly increase with a favourable ruling here.'
He said that since early 2013, 270 British families had contacted him looking for help and out of these, 56 families had come here and had settled, among them pregnant women whose babies were born here.
'They have settled all around the country, and there is a cluster growing in County Wexford, especially in the south of the county, centred on Wexford town,' he said.
'There's a Draconian attitude in UK social services and their courts and children can be taken from their mothers on a whim. This does not happen in the Irish courts.'
Mr Rothery said that in the past Irish social services had been too willing to do the bidding of their British colleagues, but this had changed, mainly through the intervention of the High Court through the intercession of the network.
He said of Katie Lee James that with the Irish judges ruling that her children shouldn't have been taken, hopefully the UK High Court will take the same view and she will get them back.
'Whatever happens, she won't deliver another child in the UK.'