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Suicide and inquests: families feel like they are ‘on trial’

Donegal Town Courthouse - bereaved families say the courthouse setting is 'very daunting'

Donegal Town Courthouse - bereaved families say the courthouse setting is 'very daunting'

Three families bereaved by suicide are claiming the current “horrendous” inquest system leaves them feeling as if they are on trial.

Anne McMenamin of Glenfinn, Stephen Shevlin of Letterkenny and Molly Reynolds of Creevy, Ballyshannon are all members of Living Links, a support charity for families who have lost a family member through suicide.

Anne and her sister found their brother Gerard after he’d taken his life in March 2000. Stephen’s 24-year-old son, also called Stephen, died by suicide in Rathmullan in 2004. Molly’s son Mark died by suicide in Ballyshannon four and a half years ago.

All three said the inquest process added to their families’ suffering.

Anne recalled: “I left the courthouse that day feeling that I was on trial for killing my brother.”

Molly added: “It was horrendous. People have no concept of what the bereaved are suffering. The feeling when you leave that building is indescribable. It brings the whole thing back.”

They spoke to Ocean FM and the Donegal Democrat this week to highlight their concerns.

They are calling for inquests to be held in less formal settings where possible, ideally in private, and for juries to be dispensed with when there is clear evidence of suicide.

However, Coroner John Cannon told the Democrat that legislation requires that inquests be held in public.

In addition, the group say better information should be made available to families, as well as support before, during and after inquests, and are seeking for the appointment of a Garda liaison officer for the county.

They’ve met with two coroners in Donegal and Garda Chief Supt. Terry McGinn to make their case.

Read more, including coroner’s response, in the Donegal Democrat.

 

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