HSE accused of doing too little to support families and communities after tragic killings

HSE accused of doing too little to support families and communities after tragic killings

Andrew, Conor, Carla, Darragh McGinley, and Deirdre Morley. Pictures: Andrew McGinley/Conor's Clips

Families and communities left behind after horrific killings and murder-suicides have accused the HSE of not doing enough to support them in the weeks and months that follow the tragedies.

Andrew McGinley's three children were killed by their mother, Deirdre Morley, in Dublin in 2020. He said that little to no public supports were offered to him, his family or the wider community when Conor, 9, Darragh, 7, and Carla, 3, died.

The HSE says comprehensive services are in place to support those left behind and that new national operational guidance ‘Developing a Community Response to Suicide’ was published in 2021, months after the McGinley tragedy.

However, members of a community in Lixnaw, Co Kerry, who were close to a double murder-suicide there last September say adequate supports were still not in place at that stage. Eileen O'Sullivan, 56, her 24-year-old son Jamie, and husband Mossie, 63, were found dead by neighbours at their home. Mr O'Sullivan had killed them all.

Mossie, Eileen, and Jamie O'Sullivan.
Mossie, Eileen, and Jamie O'Sullivan.

Andrew McGinley said what psychological help and emotional support he and his family received after their tragedy in 2020 had to be proactively sourced by themselves through charities or paid for privately.

No one reaches out to you. No one from the HSE stepped forward to speak to me. That surprised me. I relied on the charities

Mr McGinley said those charities, Anam Cara and First Light, receive a small amount of State funding but are largely funded through charitable donations.

“The only support offered to me by the HSE was when I had my first meeting with the HSE when I called for a review [of his wife’s care] after the trial. One senior person from the HSE said, ‘Can we look at any support for you?’ I thought it was a bit late then. 

Some members of my own family attended counselling but they sourced and funded it themselves. The school was the only place where help was proactively provided

Ms Morley was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity and has been in treatment in the Central Mental Hospital.

Wide-ranging impacts

The impact of such a tragedy on a community is deep and wide-ranging. Mr McGinley is aware of three of his children’s friends who are still in counselling following their deaths, paid for privately.

Other families point out the lack of support has been an issue for some time.

Una Butler’s two daughters, Zoe, 6, and Ella, 2, were killed by her husband, John, 43, who then killed himself in East Cork in 2010.

Una Butler, Ballycotton, Co Cork. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Una Butler, Ballycotton, Co Cork. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

She says there were not enough supports at that time and she is shocked it remained an issue for those close to the O'Sullivans in Kerry last year.

Rebecca Saunders, whose late husband Martin McCarthy, 50, drowned their only daughter Clarissa, 3, and then himself in West Cork in 2013, has also backed calls for better community supports following a tragedy.

Rebecca Saunders, whose husband Martin drowned their daughter Clarissa and then himself.
Rebecca Saunders, whose husband Martin drowned their daughter Clarissa and then himself.

The HSE says an intensive response was and remains in place to support the community of Lixnaw, Kerry, following the murder-suicide there.

However Cath Houlihan, a relative of the O'Sullivans, and neighbour Norma Harrington said more should be done for communities after such tragedies.

Lack of care

They say the high level of care they received from the UK's National Health Service when they returned to their current homes there after the tragedy was in stark contrast to what they feel was a lack of care in Ireland. 

Ms Harrington said that in the weeks and months following the tragedy no approach was made by any statutory agency offering counselling or support.

However, in the UK they were offered psychological support that has helped them cope with the tragedy. 

"There isn't any question from the NHS in terms of their role and responsibility, so I don't understand why our Government and the HSE aren't seeing that as their responsibility as well for the Irish people," she said.

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