Saturday 25 February 2017

Family demands answers over Cork murder-suicide

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Kevin and Margo Greaney with a photo of their late brother Michael and his wife Valerie. Photo: Michael MacSweeney/Provision
Kevin and Margo Greaney with a photo of their late brother Michael and his wife Valerie. Photo: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

A heartbroken family has demanded an independent inquiry into the Health Service Executive's handling of the psychiatric treatment of a man who carried out a murder-suicide.

The Greaney family told the Irish Independent they believe two deaths and the serious stabbing of a young woman could have been avoided if Naval Service veteran Michael Greaney (53) had received longer residential psychiatric care the previous year.

Mr Greaney fatally stabbed his wife, Valerie, and then took his own life on December 28, 2014.

He also stabbed his eldest daughter, Michelle (21), at the family's O'Neill Place home in Cobh, Co Cork, though she escaped the property and survived her injuries.

The Cork family claim they have been treated "with contempt" by the HSE over the past two years and are still awaiting answers as to how Michael spent just six weeks in residential psychiatric care after attempting to kill a teenager and then take his own life.

The family warned that Ireland will inevitably face further tragedies unless greater resources and funding are provided for over-stretched mental health services.

Mr Greaney was admitted to the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum, Dublin under Section 5(2) of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act in May 2013.

However, he was released from full-time residential care after six weeks and spent the next 18 months effectively being treated in the community, forbidden only to return to reside at his family home.

Even that restriction was lifted when Mr Greaney, supported by his wife Valerie (49), took legal action to be allowed return home.

The HSE immediately launched a full review of Mr Greaney's care - but his family said their treatment as part of the review process has been "frustrating, confusing and insulting".

Tragedy

"I have absolutely no doubt that Michael's death and the tragedy that happened was a direct result of the­ ­chronic ­under-funding of Ireland's ­mental health system for years," Kevin Greaney said.

Kevin, who is Michael's younger brother, said the family was promised the HSE mental care review would take three months and that a coroner's inquest would be expedited on compassionate grounds.

"We had two meetings with HSE officials. We have got absolutely no answers. And there is no sign of the inquest happening any time soon," Kevin added.

Mr Greaney claimed he was shocked when, during the ­second meeting with HSE ­ officials in May 2015, he was warned off legal action.

"The Console scandal was the final straw for us," he said.

"That is why we are speaking out about the under-funding of mental health services and the fact that the last Government could propose cutting mental health budgets by €12m."

"Console was given money by the HSE in 2013 and at exactly the same time Michael tried to kill a teenager and then take his own life. Six weeks later, he was released from Dundrum."

The HSE said its inquiry is ongoing.

"The draft report of the HSE systems analysis investigation into the care provided to this patient is currently being prepared," a spokesperson said.

"All parties concerned have been given the opportunity to comment for factual ­correctness prior to the submission of the final draft by the investigators to the commissioner at the end of this month."

Valerie's sister, Hylda, said: "Michelle and Sarah and the Hayes family wish to state that they had co-operated fully with both the HSE and Garda investigations. (They) were happy to await the outcome of both investigations before commenting further."

But Kevin's parents, Michael and Maureen, and his sister, Margo, said they are haunted by what happened to Michael and whether the tragedy could have been avoided.

Fury over plan to divert €12m from mental health budget

  • Mental health funding concerns erupted into national protests earlier this year over a controversial proposal by former Health Minister Leo Varadkar to divert €12m from a special €35m mental health budget to other healthcare areas.
  • Ireland's overall mental health budget is €791.6m.
  • Mr Varadkar insisted the €12m diversion was from development and recruitment funding which couldn't be spent in 2016 and would be restored in 2017.
  • Mental health campaigners, including Shari McDaid, Shane Gillen and Conor Cusack, protested amid warnings that mental health budgets were already stretched to breaking point.
  • The €12m diversion was overturned by Health Minister Simon Harris on his appointment in May.
  • Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness TD warned that mental health services in Ireland are chronically underfunded and are now in "absolute chaos."
  • The College of Psychiatrists in Ireland (CPI) warned that, "the percentage of the Irish healthcare budget dedicated to mental health lags well behind that of other democracies".

Irish Independent

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