Tuesday 21 May 2019

Tragedies 'brushed under carpet', says mother who lost girls in murder-suicide

Devastating loss: Una Butler with her daughter Ella. Photo: Provision
Devastating loss: Una Butler with her daughter Ella. Photo: Provision
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A mother whose two young daughters died in a murder-suicide has said too many tragic events in Ireland have been "brushed under the carpet".

Una Butler has welcomed the first steps towards an overhaul of how the State deals with cases of familicide.

Ministers have signed off on a study which is expected to lead to better supports for surviving relatives and new protocols for how investigations are carried out.

Former Tusla chairperson Norah Gibbons is to head up a working group, and said input from surviving relatives would be "crucial" to her work.

Ms Butler, who lost her girls Zoe (6) and Ella (2) and her husband John (43) in a murder-suicide in 2010, welcomed the development.

She told the Irish Independent the State needed to learn from previous cases.

"Hopefully, and I have no doubt, this study will help to prevent further families from suffering the devastating loss of a child or family member," the Cork woman said.

Her sentiments were echoed by other survivors, including the family of Clodagh Hawe who lobbied Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan on the issue.

Ms Hawe's mother Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly have spoken about how they felt there was "no initial support" after she and her three children were murdered by her husband Alan Hawe.

"The strength of Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan's legacy will be felt in the impact of this study and the positive steps forward towards a safer society that it will make," they said.

Along with the widespread welcoming of the project, there was also a warning from Kathleen Chada, whose two sons were murdered by her husband in 2013.

She cautioned that more women and children could die at the hands of a relative while the 12-month review is under way.

"At the end of the day, we know statistically and historically that more women and children may be killed while this study is being conducted.

"And so we have to ask what more is going to be done in the immediate to prevent more women and children being killed and what will be done to respond to families now," she said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil the review was a response to the Hawe and Chada cases. He said familicide was "relatively rare, but not as rare as we think".

"Every month this year so far a woman has been killed by a relative," Mr Varadkar said.

Ms Gibbons is to establish an office in Dublin and will launch a national appeal for relatives and other interested parties to engage with her. The project will have a budget in region of €200,000.

She told reporters she was "honoured" to be approached about the study. "I think I can help," she said, adding that her office wouldn't be promising "the sun, moon and stars".

The study will also consider how the media report on familicide.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

Irish Independent

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