Change the law for the sake of Danielle
Family of woman murdered in India urges shocked Taoiseach to apply Victims’ Charter to those affected by crime abroad
THE Taoiseach ‘gasped’ when he learned how little Ireland supports families whose loved ones have been killed abroad, according to the sister of murdered Danielle McLaughlin.
Danielle’s younger sister Jolene, 20, and her mother Andrea Brannigan, met with Leo Varadkar earlier this week to ask him to consider implementing ‘Danielle’s Amendment’ which would provide greater supports for families like theirs.
In March 2017, Danielle, 28, the eldest of six sisters, was raped and killed while visiting Goa in India. The Donegal woman’s body was discovered in a field close to a beach where she had been enjoying the traditional Holi festival.
The family had initially been refused a meeting with the Taoiseach due to a blunder because his department thought Danielle was not an Irish citizen.
Danielle’s family told Mr Varadkar about the Victims’ Charter, enforced by the
Leo Varadkar gasped and said: ‘Wow, really?’
Department of Justice, which aims to support victims of crime and their families. They want to see the charter extended to those killed abroad.
The charter lays out the services available to victims and their families, which includes accompanying them to court, giving them information, access to helplines and offering counselling.
Mr Varadkar and a representative from Foreign Affairs were unfamiliar with the charter, according to Jolene, and were shocked at what little help they received.
A Department of Justice spokesman told the Irish Mail on Sunday yesterday that the Victims’ Charter is to be revised.
The spokesman said: ‘The support of the two voluntary-sector organisations specialising in supporting families of victims of homicide would normally be available on request to people resident in Ireland.
‘The organisations concerned are Support After Homicide and Advic (Advocates for Victims of Homicide), both of which receive financial support from the Victims of Crime Office in the Department of Justice and Equality.
‘Following his meeting, the Taoiseach has indicated to the Justice Minister that the issues raised should be examined. This will take place in the context of the redrafting of the Victims’ Charter.’ He said it would be redrafted shortly.
Jolene, 20, a nursing student from Buncrana, said: ‘He was shocked that we were so helpless and so alone. He gasped and said, “Wow, really?” when I told him about our situation. He was particularly surprised when I told him that to this day, no one has confirmed 100% it was Danielle’s body. There was no DNA test done.’
Describing the supports available to families in Ireland, Jolene said: ‘If you’re killed in Ireland, your family are offered a liaison officer to guide you from the very beginning, counselling services and a lot more, but because Danielle was abroad we’re not offered anything.
‘We decided we want an amendment so people like us won’t feel isolated and helpless.’
It was only through neighbours who had seen news updates on Facebook that the McLaughlins discovered Danielle had been killed. Ms McLaughlin said no one has come to them acting as a representative of the Irish Government to offer assistance. Without the help of the Kevin Bell Trust, they would not have known how to bring her body home.
Now they are struggling to keep up with legal fees as the murder trial is ongoing.
Ms McLaughlin described the two-hour meeting with the Taoiseach as ‘very constructive’.
The family were not offered any financial support by Mr Varadkar, although they told him it was unlikely that they would be able to continue to make payments after Christmas if they did not source the funds soon.
So far the trial, which began in April, has cost them €63,000. Through their fundraising site, truthfordanielle.com, they have raised €70,000.
They asked the Taoiseach for a State representative to attend the trial in the hope it would put presure on the court to fast-track it.
tragic: Danielle, who was raped and murdered in Goa
heartbreak: Danielle’s younger sister Jolene, 20, and her mother Andrea Brannigan at their home in Buncrana, Donegal, this weekend