Grieving Donegal mother told to contact British Foreign Office

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The mother of Donegal woman Danielle McLaughlin said she was disgusted to be refused a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar because his office claimed her daughter ‘was not an Irish citizen’ as she had a British passport.

Danielle (pictured, inset), from Buncrana, was 28 years old when she was raped and murdered at a beach resort in India last year. She was travelling with a British passport at the time and had dual British-Irish citizenship as she was born in Glasgow.

Danielle’s mother Andrea Brannigan requested a private meeting with the Taoiseach during an upcoming visit to Donegal to discuss the tragic case of her daughter.

Ms Brannigan had emailed Mr Varadkar’s office earlier this week to ask him to meet her to discuss the circumstance of her daughter’s case.

She received a reply on Friday morning from the Office of the Taoiseach saying it “was not possible and indeed probably not worthwhile” for her to meet Mr Varadkar, because Danielle “was not an Irish citizen”.

Instead of being urged to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms Brannigan was curtly told to “contact the office of Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary [sic]”. Jeremy Hunt is head of the British Foreign Office.

The letter was signed by Maura Duffy, Assistant Private Secretary to the Taoiseach.

“Danielle would be so annoyed by this because she was so proud to be Irish. Danielle lived in Ireland since she was two weeks old. She had an Irish passport, but when she lost it she needed another quickly and applied for a British one in 2015,” Ms Brannigan told the Irish Times.

She said she sought a private meeting with Mr Varadkar to ask for more assistance for Irish families who have had relatives die abroad. She also wanted to ask for government intervention in the murder trial of Danielle’s accused killer, Vikat Bhagat, in South Goa.

“I wanted to discuss the fact that this case is going to take a long time and I was looking for a way to see if he could intervene in any way,” she said.

“We have a trial every few weeks and we have to fund the legal costs ourselves. It is so slow that I want to ask the Government to try and fast track it. I don’t think me or anybody else should be left in this situation, there is basically no help for us,” she said.

Ms Brannigan said she has received no help from the Irish Embassy, and felt as though the British and Irish consulate are passing the case off to each other due to Danielle’s dual citizenship.

She highlighted the lack of support she received from the Irish consulate as she learned of Danielle’s death through social media, instead of an official call from the authorities.

“On the morning Danielle was found, I should never have found out the way that I did on Facebook. I had to phone the guards and they didn’t know. It was only that afternoon that they confirmed it. She was dead about 48 hours at this stage.”

Sinn Fein TD for Donegal Padraig Mac Lochlainn said the letter from the office of the Taoiseach was “despicable and offensive”. He tweeted: “I have written to him demanding an immediate public apology and that he meets Danielle’s mother, Andrea while visiting Buncrana next Tuesday to offer the assistance of his Government.”

A spokeswoman for the Taoiseach later claimed officials had been unaware that Danielle was an Irish citizen. “The Department sincerely regrets the misunderstanding that arose in this case,” the spokeswoman said.

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