Andrew McGinley urges Government to involve him in any law changes

Willingness to bring new mental health legislation before Oireachtas welcomed

Andrew McGinley, whose three children were killed by his mentally ill wife, has urged the Government to consult with him on legislative changes to include family in the psychiatric care of patients.

The Dublin man, whose wife, Deirdre Morley, was last week found not guilty by reason of insanity for the murder of their three children, said he was "extremely appreciative" of the willingness shown by Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler to bring new legislation before the Oireachtas.

However, he has asked the Minister to involve him and Cork woman Una Butler, whose daughters Zoe (6) and Ella (2) were killed by her husband John a decade ago, in any legislation to be brought before the Government.

Mr McGinley said the willingness to bring proposed legislation to Cabinet seems to have been "triggered" by the events surrounding the deaths of of his children, Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3), at their Co Dublin family home on January 24th, 2020.

READ MORE

Mental Health Act

In a statement released after last week’s verdict, Mr McGinley said the Mental Health Act 2001 “does not go far enough” in ensuring that mental health professionals engage with and involve the families of patients in their psychiatric care.

After the trial, he said he had been unaware of the rapid deterioration in his wife’s mental health and that she had not revealed the full extent of her illness.

The Minister said she hoped to bring to Government next month draft legislation to update the Mental Health Act to allow a family member or advocate to play a greater role in the mental health treatment of a person, but only with the consent of the patient.

Mr McGinley said that he did not recall any mention of a need to change the Mental Health Act prior to last week, “aside from the lone voice of Una Butler, who has been asking for this for the past 10 years”.

“Any legislation brought without the involvement of Una or I, and possibly others, is not worth the paper it will be printed on,” he said.

“We learn from experiences and, although my experience has broken my heart and causes every breath to be a battle, I can only hope that my involvement in initiating a change will save lives. You may think you know my experience. Take it from me, you do not.”

‘Inclusive approach’

Mr McGinley encouraged the Minister to contact her party colleague Jim O’Callaghan, who sought “an inclusive approach” to amend the Children Act, overruling the temporary ban on the naming his children and other victims as a result of a court ruling.

He praised the “conversations and engagement” with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and other politicians on the change in this legislation.

“My message to Mary is that I am free to talk to her,” said Mr McGinley, noting that various politicians had his phone number. “The entire country knows where I live. I’ll put the kettle on, Mary.”

The Minister has said the Department of Health is considering the role of family members and advocates in the psychiatric care of a patient, with their consent, in line with the recommendation of a 2015 expert group that encouraged their involvement.

She said that she expected to propose draft legislation to update the Mental Health Act in full before the summer recess and to introduce a Bill in the Oireachtas this autumn.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent