Irish Times view on familicide study: A belated first step

Campaign by family of Clodagh Hawe prompts welcome initiative

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has secured Cabinet approval for an independent study of domestic homicides in Ireland. It is not before time. For too long, State agencies, voluntary bodies and local communities have thrown up their hands in horror when such incidents of familicide occur; wondered how it could have happened and then got on with their lives.

Now, there is a hope that expert training, improved record keeping, risk assessments and information sharing between police and community services may help to prevent such dreadful crimes.

The murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons at their Cavan home in August 2016 by her husband Alan, along with a campaign launched by her distraught family, has prompted this development. They challenged a suggestion that he was suffering from depression and insisted his motive arose from developments at the school where he taught. A Garda review is ongoing.

Former chairperson of Tusla Norah Gibbons has been appointed to lead this study that will examine best international practice in identifying, preventing and responding to such crimes.


It will also advise the media on reporting such events. Attention will focus on the UK’s Domestic Homicide Review system that adopts a multi-agency approach towards identifying potential victims and advises on the provision of psychological supports for individuals and communities where domestic murders occur.

Worldwide statistics show that 58 per cent of all female homicides take place at the hands of a partner or family member. In the UK, twice as many females than males are murdered in domestic settings and one-in-four of such cases involve the killing of children. Mental health issues were present in three-quarters of those cases, as was a history of domestic violence.

Studies such as this can help to inform and alert public health and social care agencies, along with members of the Garda, to potentially disastrous situations. A high level of cooperation, trust and information sharing will be required from all those involved.