Changes needed in treatment of parents with mental health issues, says Una Butler

Mother whose children died in 2010 welcomes support for involvement of partners

Una Butler, whose husband John Butler killed their two daughters, six year-old Zoe and Ella, aged two. Photograph: RTÉ news/PA

A mother whose husband and two daughters died in a murder-suicide 11 years ago has again said it should be mandatory for a partner or spouse to be involved in the treatment of a family member suffering with their mental health if children are involved.

Una Butler’s husband, John, killed their their young girls Ella (6) and Zoe (2) on November 16th, 2010. John Butler (41) then ended his own life by crashing a car in to a ditch.

Ms Butler who is from Ballycotton, Co Cork has spent the last decade campaigning for changes in the care of vulnerable persons.

She says that it is vital that spouses or partners be involved in the treatment of the family member suffering with their mental health in order to help to prevent further cases of filicide from occurring. Her position on the issue has been supported by Andrew McGinley in the days since his wife, Deirdre Morley, was was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murders of their three children, Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3) McGinley,


In an interview on the Neil Prendeville show, on Cork’s Red’s FM, Ms Butler says family members ought to have access and be part of treatment of persons who have mental health difficulties- if they have children under their roof.

“ I feel it should be mandatory for a person to be involved in the treatment. This new proposal that the Government is making involves spouses and family members but it is with the patient’s consent. That doesn’t go far enough for the welfare of children,” she said.

“There wasn’t even a question of consent at the time [2010] but when I look back I think ‘yes, I should have been involved’. I believe I should have been educated about his illness and how best to support him at the time.

“The medical professions can gain a greater insight in to the behaviour of the patient and not depend solely on what the person who is suffering with their mental health is telling the medical professionals. Everybody will gain.

Ms Butler says that she is glad that there seems to be more support for change to the current situation in the aftermath of the Deirdre Morley case.

“The Government are responding and saying they are going to look at legislation which is a very positive thing. I was banging on doors for a long time before I had an in-depth investigation in to my husband’s treatment. There are still questions that have never been asked for me.

“John was a good person. It was very difficult living with John when he was suffering with his mental health. He was a good father. He was very kind. I do believe that if I had been involved in the treatment the medical professionals would have gained greater insight.”