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Woman whose husband killed their children says she should have been 'educated' about his mental illness

A woman whose husband took his own life after killing their children has said patients being trea...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.05 24 May 2021


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Woman whose husband killed the...

Woman whose husband killed their children says she should have been 'educated' about his mental illness

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.05 24 May 2021


Share this article


A woman whose husband took his own life after killing their children has said patients being treated for a mental illness should not be treated in isolation.

There are calls for authorities to make it mandatory for family members to be involved in the treatment of mental health.

It comes after Andrew McGinley said he has no doubt his children would still be alive, if he was included as an advocate in his wife's mental health care.

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Deirdre Morley was last week found not guilty of murdering her three children - Conor, Darragh and Carla - by reason of insanity.

Andrew earlier told Newstalk Breakfast it is currently left to the patient to decide whether they wish to appoint an advocate.

"In our case, Dee isn’t sure whether she was asked that question," he said. "She can’t recall whether she was or not. We can only assume that she was asked but no advocate was appointed."

Andrew McGinley with Conor, Darragh and Carla McGinley Andrew McGinley with Conor, Darragh and Carla McGinley

He also questioned whether a patient with a severe mental health issue is capable of deciding on the need for an advocate.

Una Butler's husband, John, took his own life in 2010 after killing their daughters Ella (2) and Zoe (6).

She told The Hard Shoulder the law needs to change.

"He had been suffering with his mental health the previous year, but I suppose a good few years prior to that as well.

"He had been suffering with depression.

"I suppose I started researching how many times these awful cases were after happening in Ireland, there wasn't any official statistics.

"Since 2000 in the Republic of Ireland, there have been 53 children murdered specifically by a parent - either a mother or father - there was 20 fathers and there was 17 mothers.

"I believe from my research that I carried out - through searching the web, really, cause there wasn't anything official out there - that 60% of the parents that killed their children had a prior contact with psychiatric services".

Focusing on her own circumstances, Una said she should have been involved.

"Looking at my own case, I believe that I should have been involved - looking back in hindsight, which is a valuable tool - that I should have been involved in my husband's treatment.

"You look back and you say 'The medical professionals, the health professionals as good as they are, they're doing their job' - but it would have been more beneficial when I'm looking back at this that... they would have gained a greater insight into my husband's behaviours had I been involved.

"And I should be educated about his illness and how best to support him.

"Why treat a person, when they're suffering with a mental illness, in isolation as if they're living alone when they're not?

"And not for the health professionals to depend solely on what information the patient is providing to the health professionals.

"They're obviously going to treat them on what they hear, and obviously the patient is the sole person that they're concentrating on.

"But for children, when they're living with a parent that suffers with their mental health, it's vital that they're supported as well".

Ella and Zoe, who were murdered by their father John in 2010 Ella and Zoe, who were murdered by their father John in 2010. Picture by: Supplied

'Physically putting tablets into his mouth'

Una said John was left with the choice of whether or not to go into hospital, despite her wanting him to go.

"Even through he wouldn't go into hospital, I was physically putting tablets into his mouth saying 'John open your mouth' and I'd put the tablet in.

"And making sure that he took his medication initially, and then after a few weeks I wanted to give him some of his dignity back - the way that he'd be able to take it himself and put trust in him.

"And that's as bad as things were, about a year prior to what he did.

"I felt that I should have been educated about his illness - when you're living in a home, you think that your partner/your spouse is going to see the doctor, going to see the health professionals and they're being looked after and that's great.

"But I'm looking back and I'm saying 'I should have been more involved' - I would have been able to give the health professionals a lot more information than what my husband would have provided them to."

She said the outcome of her case would "without a doubt" have been different if she had known more.

"I wouldn't keep wanting changes to happen in the Mental Health Act, I've been doing this for years, and unfortunately not a lot has changed if nothing at all.

"And Andrew McGinley unfortunately has an awful, cruel life ahead of him to deal with, and he believed that had he been involved in his partner's treatment his children would be alive today - as I would.

"The law needs to change in order to involve a family member, and patient confidentiality need not be broken.

"The health professional doesn't have to disclose the facts of what the patient is telling them - but they can listen to what other information is being provided by the partner, spouse or the chosen advocate".

Woman whose husband killed their children says she should have been 'educated' about his mental illness

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Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can call Pieta House on 1800-247-247 or text 'HELP' to 51444.

You can also contact Aware at 1800-80-48-48 or The Samaritans on 116-123.

Main image: Ella and Zoe, who were murdered by their father John in 2010. Picture by: Supplied

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Andrew McGinley Deirdre Morley Hard Shoulder Mental Health The Hard Shoulder Una Butler

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