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Dáil hears calls for research to be carried out into familicide in Ireland

There were also calls for the HSE and Tusla to be included in the new garda review of murders in the home.

Photo of Clodagh Hawe and her mother Mary .
Photo of Clodagh Hawe and her mother Mary .
Image: RTE/Claire Byrne Live

REVIEWS INTO MURDERS that occur in the home should take on a multi-agency response, according to Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald. 

The Dáil also heard calls today for research to be carried out into familicide in Ireland. 

A number of TDs spoke during Leaders’ Questions about last night’s Claire Byrne Live programme on the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons in 2016.

The family of Clodagh Hawe have said they are still seeking answers as to why her husband, Alan, murdered his wife and three sons in 2016.

Clodagh’s mother Mary and her sister Jacqueline have told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live that they owe it to Clodagh and the boys to seek the full truth in the hopes they can protect other women who may be in danger. 

Alan and Clodagh Hawe and their three children – Liam, 14, Niall, 11, and six-year-old Ryan – were found dead in their Cavan home in August 2016.

An inquest the following year concluded that Clodagh and her three sons were unlawfully killed by Alan who took his own life after the murders at their home at Oakdene, Balcony, Ballyjamesduff. 

The jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing, due to head and neck injuries caused by a knife and an axe to Clodagh while in the case of Niall, Liam and Ryan, unlawful killing was recorded and the cause of death was stab wounds to their necks.

Garda reviews

McDonald questioned the Taoiseach about the roll out of specialist gardaí undertaking reviews of murders that take place in a domestic setting in an effort to identify how they might have been prevented.

She said that in other countries, such as the UK, and shortly Northern Ireland, a multi-agency approach is preferred, meaning it would involve other agencies such as the HSE, Tusla and local authorities. Under the new scheme, the reviews are being carried out solely by specialist gardaí.

A multi-agency approach is preferred by groups such as Women’s Aid, who have spoken out about not being consulted about the new review programme.

Under the new system, specialist gardaí from the National Protective Services Bureau will examine domestic homicides. It will involve the examining of any abusive history that led up to the killing as well as any interactions between the family and gardaí before the death.

‘Heartbreaking tragedy’

Responding, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the case was a “heartbreaking and horrific tragedy for the family and for the wider community in Virginia and County Cavan. What happened must be beyond anyone’s worst nightmares and it was truly a terrible crime”. 

He said the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan has indicated he would be very happy to receive a submission from the family with their suggestions on how to better deal with family annihilation and family homicide.

“It is acknowledged that the Garda can learn from awful cases such as this, and indeed from other family homicides that have occurred in recent years. I am informed that the Garda is carrying out a review of cases of domestic homicide to better inform its approach to domestic violence generally. That review is ongoing,” he said.

Varadkar added that the Garda National Protective Services Bureau is now responsible for ensuring that front-line gardaí have a solid understanding of our new laws around domestic violence.

“Major changes to policing are taking place within six new divisional protective services units. They went live across six Garda divisions in the first week of January. Some ten divisional units have now been established across nine Garda divisions and DPSUs will go live in the remaining 19 divisions throughout 2019,” he said.

Speaking about the ‘Her Name is Clodagh’ programme last night, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said there are many disturbing elements in this story and many of their questions have remained unanswered for far too long.

“Their loss was devastating. The manner of their loss was horrifying and savage and stretches our human capacity to understand.

“When a mother and her three sons are murdered by their father, it demands a comprehensive response from the State’s agencies and that needs to be reflected upon. The family wants basic answers,” he said.

Familicide

Martin said that unfortunately, familicide is not new to Ireland.

“There is a sense that it is occurring far more frequently in modern times than in the past. There are serious child protection issues at stake. How robust are these protections? There are profound issues relating to mental health and psychiatry,” he said, questioning how much serious indigenous research on this issue has been commissioned by the Departments of Justice and Equality and Health. 

He said both departments need to co-ordinate strongly on this issue, and called for “genuine indigenous research” into familicide be commissioned in order to guide State agencies in terms of a response to any such events in the future.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans: 116 123 or text 087 2609090
  • Aware: 1800 80 48 48 (for depression and anxiety)
  • Pieta House: 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (for suicide and self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland: 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline: 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)
  • Domestic violence support: Safe Ireland

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