Buncrana mum Andrea Brannigan says she is hopeful after meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week.
The mother and sister of the late Danielle McLaughlin said they had a positive meeting with Mr Varadkar after prolonged discussions on Tuesday night in Derry.
Ms Brannigan and her daughter Jolene were given the opportunity to highlight the poor level of support their family received after Danielle (28) was murdered in Goa, India in March 2017.
“He listened, he really did listen,” Ms Brannigan said following the meeting with Varadkar.
“We are hopeful that our Taoiseach will keep his promises and we can finally say our government has helped us,” she told Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday.
Ms Brannigan told the Taoiseach how her family have received little assistance in the legal trial of Danielle’s accused murderer, how they have not received counselling, and how she learned of Danielle’s death on social media instead of a consular assistant.
“He listened to our concerns and how we felt so alone,” Ms Brannigan said.
The first thing Varadkar did was apologise to Andrea over an error in his department.
Ms Brannigan was initially refused a meeting with the Taoiseach last week over incorrect claims that Danielle was ‘not an Irish citizen’ because she travelled with a British Passport.
After the personal apology, Ms Brannigan proposed an amendment to the Irish Victim’s Charter to include assistance for people whose relatives die abroad.
It is hoped the update would be called ‘Danielle’s Amendment’ in her honour.
Ms Brannigan is called for the installation of an Irish Liaison Officer to immediately link with families in similar tragic circumstances to her own.
She said she felt ‘very alone’ following Danielle’s death and relied on the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust to bring her body home
“I don’t believe Danielle would be home today unless the Kevin Bell Trust stepped in,” Ms Brannigan said.
Ms Brannigan said the past week up was very stressful as she fought for an audience with Varadkar. The meeting with Varadkar lasted two hours, followed by an hour with representatives of the Irish Foreign Office.
She said: “He listened, he really did listen, and somebody from his office was saying for him to go after about a half an hour and he sat on and ignored him.”
Ms Brannigan and her family have so far raised over €60,000 to pay for legal fees associated with Danielle’s trial in Goa.
Local man Vikat Bhagat has been on trial in Goa for the rape and murder of McLaughlin since April 2018.
Danielle’s family have had to fundraise through concerts, coffee mornings and collections to cover the fees. However, there is a fear that money will run out before they can get justice.
Ms Brannigan said: “I feel I can’t grieve, as the government can’t offer financial help, because we are constantly fundraising.
“I am really scared that we would run out of money and we have no lawyer at the court.”
As a result of Tuesday’s meeting, Ms Brannigan said the Irish Embassy has committed to sending a representative to the trial as a show of support.
She said her family is feeling hopeful about the future outcome of the meeting, adding:
“We are positive, but we are scared because too many doors have been closed in our face.”
Mr Varadkar said this week’s meeting with Andrea and Jolene was ‘helpful and constructive’.
The Taoiseach said: “Ms Brannigan gave me several examples of how the Government could better assist her and other families in similarly difficult circumstances, including the appointment of family liaison officers, an amendment to the Victims’ Charter, more written information, counselling services and monitoring of overseas trials by our diplomatic staff.
“I agreed to follow up on these matters and a contact person has been assigned to her in the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
Danielle’s family are continuously fundraising and campaigning to secure justice for the late Buncrana woman. You can donate to the Truth for Danielle Mc Laughlin fund by visiting www.truthfordanielle.com and clicking ‘Donate’.
You can also keep up to date with future fundraisers by visiting the Truth for Danielle Mc Laughlin Facebook page.