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 Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Claire Scott claire.scott@mailon­sun­day.ie

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

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