The Irish State has a duty not to look away when familicide happens, a minister has said, as he pledged that the Government would engage with and support families.
Paschal Donohoe’s comments come after a landmark review was published on Tuesday that looked into instances of domestic homicide and familicide in Ireland.
As there is no database of these cases, it looked at instances where State prosecutions had been completed between 2000 and 2018.
The report made various wide-ranging recommendations on how families could be better supported by the State.
It recommended that a national database be created to capture cases of domestic and family violence deaths and the creation of an inter-departmental national strategy for the accommodation of domestic abuse victims.
The Department of Justice said that it would establish a new agency on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence next January, which will aim to improve on education.
An inter-departmental group is also to be established, as will a small advisory group of relevant NGOs for consultation as part of the implementation process.
An advisory committee will also be established, drawn from the families, to work with the Department of Justice on the recommendations.
The study was commissioned by the Department of Justice and consulted with a wide range of stakeholders including family members of victims, non-governmental organisations, and State agencies.
It was submitted to the department last year.
Speaking at Leaders’ Questions, Mr Donohoe, minister for public expenditure, said that the “very substantial report”, chaired by solicitor Maura Butler, had reminded us that “there are a set of tragic circumstances that I think are beyond the ability of most of us even to imagine”.
“We can only recognise the trauma and the bravery of many who have to live with the consequences of such death and violence,” he told TDs.
“When I see the reports of these crimes and, in particular, when I see the funerals and see those who are mourning the loss of life due to these crimes, I find it difficult to comprehend.
“I find, actually, my human response is to briefly look away – particularly if involves the loss of life of children and we’re all aware of recent crimes and tragedies that have involved this.
“But this is where the role of the State is so critical because we have a duty not to look away. We have a duty to engage, we have a duty to support.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who raised the issue in the Dáil on Wednesday, raised the “absolute bewilderment of a survivor of this violence”.
“I think of Kathleen Chada, I remember when I first met her, and she told the story of losing her two boys. I mean, how to make sense of that is just beyond any of us.
“What families tell us is that they experienced not just the trauma of a tragedy but also crime. These are crimes as well. They feel in many cases almost as onlookers.”
Responding to Ms McDonald, Mr Donohoe said: “I recognise that we need for us to do better as a state and to do better indeed as a society in both preventing these crimes from occurring and then dealing with the consequences of in the most humane way possible.”
He said that as the report had originated from the Department of Justice, he imagined that this would lead the work on implementing the recommendations.
As part of the recommendations, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) is to carry out a study of domestic and intimate partner violence next year.