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'I felt that I had no right to grieve for my daughter' - mother of tragic woman at centre of Garda video controversy

Aileen Malone was helped to overcome stigma and shame to speak of her beautiful daughter Dara, writes Alan O'Keeffe

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The late Dara Quigley

The late Dara Quigley

The late Dara Quigley

A young woman was walking naked on a Dublin street when detained by gardai under the Mental Health Act.

Five days later, she was dead.

Controversy erupted after a video of Dara Quigley's detention - allegedly filmed by a garda - ended up being posted online where it was viewed by more than 120,000 people.

No inquest has been held yet but it is believed she took her own life.

Her mother Aileen Malone said she felt she did not have a right to speak or to grieve for her "intelligent, good looking, and loving" daughter because people judge drug addicts and their families.

Aileen (59) said she felt silenced by stigma and shame as society does not show much compassion when an addict dies.

As a result, the pain she felt in the days and weeks after her daughter's death was "a disenfranchised grief that's not socially acceptable".

But 18 months after Dara's death, Aileen has completed a

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SEARCH FOR A TURNING POINT: Aileen Malone, mother of the late Dara Quigley. Main photo: Frank McGrath

SEARCH FOR A TURNING POINT: Aileen Malone, mother of the late Dara Quigley. Main photo: Frank McGrath

SEARCH FOR A TURNING POINT: Aileen Malone, mother of the late Dara Quigley. Main photo: Frank McGrath

bereavement support programme for the loved ones of deceased addicts. It was provided by the National Family Support Network and it has helped her to finally speak out about the daughter she loved and lost.

She told the Sunday Independent that it took quite a while to realise that Dara had a problem. There were clues, such as lost weekends and friends drifting away, but she explained them away.

Dara had worked in IT for several Dublin companies and returned to education to study physics at Trinity College, Dublin. She took part in street protests against austerity and water charges, worked in journalism, and published a blog.

She was 36 when she died. She was living with a friend in County Tipperary. Her body was found in the waters of Lough Derg.

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Before she was ravaged by drugs and mental health problems, she was an outgoing secondary student growing up in Dublin.

"She was thoughtful, played basketball, and was mad into science fiction," said her mother. "She did things with enthusiasm, intensity, and commitment. She was great, very bubbly, a bit zany and quirky," she said.

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Dara Quigley. Picture: Frank McGrath

Dara Quigley. Picture: Frank McGrath

Dara Quigley. Picture: Frank McGrath

As a young woman, she and her friends "got caught up in the party scene" and began taking ecstasy pills.

"Dara had a good job. They partied hard," she said. "In order to go to work the next morning, like a lot of people, they smoked heroin to come down from the Es. But Dara couldn't stop and became addicted," she added.

She eventually quit work, did some travelling, and began to study physics at Trinity College. She nearly completed her degree course and handed in her thesis but she was overcome by her drug problem and missed her final exams.

"What bothers me is when people think about people in addiction as being 'less than' others yet many people in addiction have lived functioning lives," she said.

"Addiction to me is a mental health issue with bells on with the added implication that it is criminalised. It's that terrible feeling that they are on their own. You want to help them but you can't," she said.

"Although the last couple of years of my daughter's life were chaotic, there were many times when she was her true self, when she was loving and bright and present.

"I met her regularly for coffee in the city centre, she was passionate about politics and inequality, we had these amazing chats.

"But we, her family, could see clearly that Dara was suffering. It is pure torture to see someone you love destroy themselves, their relationships and their lives and to become controlled by drugs," she said.

The anxious mother felt huge frustration and anger she could not effect a positive change in Dara's life. She and her husband spent large amounts of time, energy, and resources helping her. But they also worried they would make her more dependent on them.

Aileen was reliving a nightmare she first experienced in her youth when her younger brother Dave got hooked on heroin.

He was her only sibling when they were growing up in Clontarf. Dave managed to come off heroin and became a respected drugs counsellor in Scotland where he married and had three children. But his heroin days caught up with him when he discovered he had Hepatitis C. He became a problem drinker, lost his family and died aged 35.

This "giant loss" of her only brother and the nature of his death caused her to feel isolated, unable to express her grief.

Aileen and her husband raised their four children in Clonshaugh in North Dublin. Aileen's own career included working in the civil service, banking, and the insurance sector.

She wondered if Dara inherited a tendency to become addicted, coupled with circumstances and the wide availability of drugs.

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Dara Quigley Picture: Frank McGrath

Dara Quigley Picture: Frank McGrath

Dara Quigley Picture: Frank McGrath

Aileen felt furious with Dara and angry with herself that she somehow failed her as her daughter slid deeper into addiction. To protect her family, there were times she had to push Dara away.

"That was hugely difficult. Addiction is very difficult for families. It's criminalised, it's stigmatised. It's something we consider as outside the bounds of human behaviour. It felt like Dara was rejecting us by choosing a path in direct opposition to what the family wished for her," she said.

"Dara used to be very close to her brother and sisters and she had a huge circle of friends. But as she got deeper into addiction, people distanced themselves from her to protect themselves.

"She found herself more and more alone," she said.

Watching a grim family history of drug addiction being repeated in Dara's life was upsetting.

"My heart was breaking because I had seen both these beautiful people, Dave and Dara, being destroyed and eaten up. I could see them losing everything, losing their relationships, their jobs, their place in society, and their personalities.

"Seeing their personalities disappearing, their behaviour changing, it's traumatising," she said. Dara was "headstrong" but did accept help from the psychiatric services at Saint James's Hospital in Dublin. But when she would go into detox, there was no direct access to a rehabilitation bed.

She managed to come off heroin for a while and completed methadone treatment. She was prescribed Valium.

"But her downfall was she used to smoke weed which caused her to lose touch with reality," she said.

Weed, or cannabis, is nothing like the substance it was several years ago because it has been bred by growers to be a much stronger drug and psychiatrists in Dublin told her family it has resulted in an increase in "drug-induced psychosis".

She says a psychiatrist told the family that the new weed, grown differently and genetically modified, has really high levels of THC which has made it not only psychologically addictive but physically addictive as well.

Aileen and her husband found badly needed help in a family support group being run by Merchant's Quay Ireland (MQI) in Dublin, affiliated to the National Family Support Network.

"When we went to them, we were in absolute despair and exhausted with trying to deal with Dara's addiction.

"People with addiction live really chaotic lives. For years we knew that my brother and my daughter would die at some stage and we kept expecting that phone call.

"You are watching someone walking along the edge of a cliff and you know at some stage they are going to fall over. And there's every likelihood they'll bring you over the cliff with them.

"So that's how the family support group helped us with the constant anxiety and also to deal with this feeling of imminent death all the time," she said.

Then the dreaded day finally came. "We got a phone call. Dara was found in Lough Derg. We were devastated," she said.

"I felt an initial sense of relief that her suffering was over, combined with the feelings of absolute despair and failure that I was not able to prevent this."

Aileen said she did not want to talk at this time about the incidents which led up to her death but it "presumably" was suicide. Investigations were still under way.

It was reported that the appearance online of a video of her detention prompted a Garda Ombudsman investigation which at the moment is still ongoing.

Dara's death was even more painful for her family because their hopes for Dara had been raised.

"Despite the fact that she had been a psychiatric in-patient a few times during that year, she had been getting more help.

"We were actually more hopeful of her recovery. So it doubled the shock. We were doubly devastated," she said.

After Dara's death, Aileen appreciated the support of the National Families Support Network and the outpouring of love and support from people who knew Dara and the kindness of her own community.

She had difficulty expressing her grief because of conflicting feelings of anger, rage, and sadness. She turned to her art and took photos of flowers people had given the family and used them to create oil paintings.

"I painted them because they were symbols of resilience. It was a very structured method of painting which was used by the 17th century Dutch painters. It gave me a bit of order and structure in my life because I felt I had slipped into a nightmare," she said.

She said people sometimes do not appreciate that for every addict on the streets, there is also a family that is affected. It affects every level of society, not just working class people, she said.

Aileen, who is quite a private person, went back working in the public service. While co-workers were nice to her, she did not want to talk about it to strangers. It was too raw and she ended up leaving that job.

"You can't talk about these types of things at work. It is a disenfranchised grief that's not socially acceptable. There are always judgmental people," she said.

She was shocked by some vile comments online that were made in reaction to articles about her daughter's death.

"Some people find it easier to react negatively than to actually be compassionate… These could otherwise be lovely people," she said, adding there were some people she would never talk to about what happened.

Accessing the new bereavement programme run by the National Family Support Network was the "turning point" for her.

"Their lovely therapist asked what did we want to get out of the group. I said I wanted to be able to talk about my daughter and her death. And it worked. I've only been able to scratch the surface but I have better confidence in my ability to express myself," she said.

Dara herself wrote about her own struggle to rebuild her life. In an article in the Dublin Inquirer, she declared: "Every day I don't pay some dickhead €20 to feel like a human being, I'm reclaiming my right to pride and dignity."

In another article, Dara wrote: "I have just about enough strength to hold on to my sense of self, and to think that maybe a better life isn't just something I deserve but something that I and every other recovering addict has a right to.

"Today, I can almost safely say I believe that."


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