Tuesday 25 June 2019

Taoiseach's staff 'sorry' over Danielle gaffe

Danielle McLaughlin on her travels
Danielle McLaughlin on her travels
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The Government has been accused of lacking compassion for a mother whose Irish daughter was murdered in India last year.

Danielle McLaughlin's mother Andrea Brannigan requested a private meeting with the Taosieach during a planned trip by Mr Varadkar to Donegal. Officials in his office responded to the request by saying the meeting was "probably not worthwhile", adding Danielle was not an Irish citizen.

Ms McLaughlin (28) from Buncrana, held dual nationality and was travelling in India on a British passport last year. She was found dead in Goa during a festival. A 24-year-old local man, Vikat Bhagat, is currently on trial and is accused of raping and murdering Ms McLaughlin.

Ms McLaughlin was born in Scotland but held British-Irish citizenship.

Officials in the Taoiseach's office noted the tragic circumstances under which her mother made the request to meet Mr Varadkar but redirected Ms Brannigan to the UK's foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and provided an email address.

Donegal TD Pat the Cope Gallagher said he was shocked and disappointed by the way Ms Brannigan was treated.

"This is a disgraceful response to send to anyone, but to send a response to a mother who lost their daughter in such a horrific way, is beyond the Pale," said Mr Gallagher.

"The lack of compassion and consideration beggars belief. There has been an eruption of anger and shock here in Donegal since the family received this reply.

"While I don't believe it actually matters, Danielle held an Irish passport previously and had lived most of her life here in Donegal. I spoke with Danielle's mother, Andrea earlier today and their trauma and anguish has been exacerbated by this callous act and made worse by the lack of empathy and compassion from the Taoiseach's office."

Officials have offered an apology to Ms Brannigan.

"The letter received by the Department of the Taoiseach from Danielle's mother indicated that Danielle was travelling on a British passport, leading officials handling the matter to incorrectly conclude that Danielle was a British citizen," said a spokeswoman.

"This was the basis on which the office advised Danielle's family that the matter would be most appropriately handled by the British authorities. Having now clarified the facts surrounding this case, the Department can confirm that Consular services of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have and will continue to be provided to Danielle's family, as appropriate.

"The Department sincerely regrets the misunderstanding that arose in this case."

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