Grieving Donegal mother wants apology from taoiseach

By Dean McLaughlin

Image source, McLaughlin family
Image caption,
Danielle McLaughlin, who went to university in Liverpool, was murdered in India in 2016

The mother of an Irish woman murdered in India has said she wants a direct apology from the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) after being denied a meeting.

Her mother had requested a meeting with Leo Varadkar to discuss how other families whose loved ones had died abroad could be better supported.

It was declined on the basis that her daughter had used a UK passport.

In an email to Miss McLaughlin's mother Andrea Brannigan, Mr Varadkar's assistant private secretary said a meeting was "probably not worthwhile as I note Danielle was not an Irish citizen".

The secretary then advised her to contact the UK government's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Her passport led officials to "incorrectly conclude that Danielle was a British citizen", according to the taoiseach's office.

'Government disowned her'

A spokeswoman for the taoiseach has since said that Mr Varadkar "is aware of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Irish citizen Danielle McLaughlin and he extends his deepest sympathy to Danielle's family".

Image caption,
Andrea Brannigan said she wanted a meeting with Leo Varadkar to discuss her daughter's case

"Having now clarified the facts surrounding this case, the department can confirm that consular services will continue to be provided to Danielle's family.

"The Department of the Taoiseach sincerely regrets the misunderstanding that arose in this case."

It is understood the family may now get the chance to meet Mr Varadkar when he is County Donegal on Tuesday.

Ms McLaughlin grew up in Buncrana in the Republic of Ireland and later attended Liverpool John Moores University in England.

Ms Brannigan told BBC News NI her daughter was "very proud to be Irish".

"She went to school here, she worked here and she paid her taxes here - now the government has disowned her.," said Ms Brannigan.

"I would like a meeting to discuss more support for families who have lost somebody abroad.

"I would like a direct apology from Leo Varadkar."

'Gives me inspiration'

Ms Brannigan said she would like to travel to India at some point for the murder trial but added that that she found every day tough.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Leo Varadkar should issue a personal apology to Ms Brannigan, said a Sinn Féin senator

"There are days when I feel like I can't go on but then I think about her and it gives me inspiration to go on.

"She was so vibrant and had loads of friends - she was an amazing sister and an amazing daughter. "

Miss McLaughlin was found dead in a field close to tourist resorts in Canacona in India on 14 March 2017.

Her body was repatriated to the Republic of Ireland later that month.

A second post-mortem examination, requested by her family, was carried out in Dublin by the Irish state pathologist.

Sinn Féin's Padraig MacLochlainn said the letter Ms Brannigan had received was "absolutely despicable" and warranted a personal apology.

"[Mr Varadkar] needs to have the decency to come to Buncrana town, where Andrea lives, and listen to what she has to say and to offer assistance to her," he said.

Image caption,
Joleen Brannigan said her family had received no support from the Irish government

Miss McLaughlin sister, 20-year-old Joleen Brannigan, said that she wanted Danielle's name to be remembered.

"I was doing my leaving cert when Danielle was killed - I can't even tell my sister my results," she said.

"We were so close. I don't think families can ever manage with a loss like this.

"I would like the government to realise how wrong they were and pass a bill or create a trust that would be named after Danielle.

"They need to have more support for families - we had nothing."