'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'
THE family of a man who died in a double-stabbing has challenged Taoiseach Micheál Martin to get the Health Service Executive (HSE) to justify why his parents and siblings are not deemed next-of-kin for access to a special internal report on his mental health treatment.
Kevin Greaney, whose brother Michael (53) was involved in a Cork murder-suicide in December 2014, said it was "absolutely outrageous" that his family have still not been briefed in detail on the full mental health report into the tragedy almost six years ago.
Now, the family have been informed, via a letter to Mr Martin from the Department of Health, that only Michael Greaney's legally appointed estate personal representative (his daughter) can be given the special report.
The department letter, dated January 31 2020, said written permission would be required to share it beyond the estate representative - even including Mr Greaney's parents and siblings who first campaigned for the independent review.
"The HSE commissioned a systems analysis review into the care of Mr Greaney's brother," the letter said.
"Completion of the review has been protracted due to a number of factors including the complexity of the case and the number of people involved. However, I am informed that the review is now close to completion.
"The HSE has sought legal advice regarding with whom the report can be shared....as a result the HSE intends to release the full report (to the estate representative). Written permission would be required in order for the HSE to discuss or release any information in relation to Mr Greaney's medical records or treatment to other individuals."
The department letter also insisted the system analysis was independent on the basis the individuals involved do not work in any of the related services.
Kevin Greaney said this was simply not acceptable and did not represent a proper independent inquiry.
"I want Taoiseach Micheál Martin to work to ensure my family gets access to the garda files, the HSE files and department files in relation to the treatment provided for my brother," he said.
"A Fianna Fáil official told me several years ago that this was the worst case he had heard about - and my family deserve to know why."
Mr Greaney said Ireland needed to learn urgent lessons to ensure such future tragedies can be prevented.
"I think it is appalling the way our family has been treated by (former) Ministers like Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
"We were promised that our questions would be treated as a priority by the HSE so as not to cause further hurt and suffering. But the exact opposite has been the case."
Mr Greaney claimed he was informed by the HSE in 2016 the report was almost ready - and four years later his family still don't know what it contains.
He said he was prompted to speak out by distress over a number of recent murder suicides in Ireland.
“When I hear details of these cases it is like reliving our own tragedy all over again,” he said.
“I’m making this appeal because Ireland has to learn lessons and do everything possible to ensure that these kinds of tragedies stop being commonplace.”
Mr Greaney said he believes an independent national public inquiry is now the only option as his family has lost all faith in the HSE's ability to examine its own dealings with such cases.
The Cork father said he was "deeply hurt" by the way his family's appeals have effectively been ignored by successive ministers.
He has demanded that mental healthcare funding be prioritised over coming years.
Mr Greaney said it was clear that major issues need to be clarified surrounding the mental healthcare dealings with some individuals involved in murder-suicides, existing national support services and the adequacy of resources for Ireland’s psychiatric services.
“I have said it again and again that we have no problem with any doctor that may have treated my brother – but I have a problem with the system and the chronic lack of resources that is provided for mental healthcare professionals in this country.
“These kinds of tragedies will keep happening until we learn lessons and put proper systems and resources in place,” he added.
Eight recent murder-suicides in Ireland involved some element of prior dealings with mental healthcare services.
Mr Greaney’s brother, a Naval Service veteran, was admitted to the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dublin after he attempted to kill a teenager and then take his own life in 2013.
He was admitted 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 to return to his family home.
Even that restriction was lifted when Mr Greaney, supported by his wife Valerie (49), took legal action to be allowed to return home.
In December 2014, a short time after being allowed back to his family home in Cobh, Co Cork, Mr Greaney fatally stabbed his wife, Valerie, before taking his own life.
He also stabbed his eldest daughter.
The brave young woman managed to escape the property and has since recovered from her injuries.
A coroner's inquest heard harrowing details of the December 2014 tragedy in Cobh, Co Cork.
Michael Greaney stabbed his daughter and wife before kissing his injured daughter on the forehead, asking her to look after her dying mother and then running into a bedroom to take his own life.
His final words to his injured daughter were: "I know you love me - take care of your mam."
Kevin Greaney said he doesn’t want any other family to suffer their heartache – and he said hard lessons urgently need to be learned from the circumstances of his brother’s death.
“How an earth can a man who was treated in the Central Mental Hospital for something as serious as happened in 2013 receive such a short amount of residential care,” he asked?
“Even the treatment programmes for people with alcohol problems are longer.
“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,” he said.
The HSE insisted it has tried to work closely with the family on the issues involved.
"All parties concerned have been given the opportunity to comment for factual correctness etc., prior to the submission of the final draft by the investigators to the commissioner," a spokesperson said.
"Local mental health services have also provided support to the family and this remains available at the family's request."