Mother quizzed over alleged mutilation of 18-month-old daughter
A mother has been questioned by gardai about the alleged genital mutilation of her young daughter.
The woman was arrested on Tuesday morning and questioned all day at Sundrive Road Garda Station in Dublin before being released without charge.
Her detention followed the arrest of her husband in September.
At that time, a local hospital contacted gardai after both parents brought in their 18-month-old daughter with genital injuries, which they claimed she received from falling on a child's toy
After the husband's arrest at 8pm on September 22, gardai questioned him for a number of hours before he was released without charge.
Investigators then enlisted the help of medical and police experts in the UK, who concluded the child had been the victim of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Armed with this information, officers made the fresh arrest on Tuesday.
The Herald understands that officers also hope to speak to an older female relative, who is suspected of carrying out the mutilation.
"The parents in this case have been arrested because the toddler was in their care," said a source.
They deny any knowledge of this act taking place on their daughter.
"However, there is clear evidence that the genital mutilation happened but there is no clear evidence of who carried out the act at this stage."
The arrested couple are from Africa and live in Dublin.
The HSE has been notified and the child is still in her parents' care, it is understood.
Gardai have searched and carried out forensic testing over a number of hours at two potential crime scenes, but a suspected implement used in the procedure has not yielded evidence.
The investigation, which is being led by Sundrive Road gardai, is the first of its kind in Ireland.
Female genital mutilation remains a common practice in some African and Asian countries despite posing significant risks to the girls involved.
It is punishable in Ireland through the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act introduced by the State in 2012.
The practice can cause severe bleeding and health problems and, later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
The maximum penalty under Irish law is a fine of up to €10,000 or imprisonment for up to 14 years, or both.
Sources say that the garda investigation is proving difficult because it is the first time a European police force has had to deal with a "live" female genital mutilation case, as opposed to officers receiving an "historical" complaint about the procedure.
Senior gardai are in contact with police in the UK and France, who have far more experience of FGM.
A file on both the girl's parents will now be prepared for the DPP while gardai carry out further investigations.
In Ireland, it is estimated that 5,277 women and girls have experienced female genital mutilation, according to the Irish Family Planning Association.
"This represents an increase of 1,500 on the previous estimate of 3,780 women and girls," said the organisation.
At least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have been subjected to FGM, according to the United Nations' children's agency Unicef.