Death in Cobh and Attack in Cavan

A couple of days ago, Patricia McBride wrote on Slugger that “our political leaders north and south must become pro-woman” in light of the recent tribulations of Dawn Purvis, Director of Marie Stopes, as well as the judgement delivered by the High Court in Dublin last week regarding whether to continue life support for a pregnant woman described as clinically brain dead and, of course, the high profile case of Savita Halappanavar whose death was not prevented in an Irish hospital in 2012 due to the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution.

A comment was made on Patricia’s post to the effect: “Calling for politicians to become “Pro-Woman” is simply a meaningless platitude”.

I was planning on taking a week off from posting this week but I have been thinking about this for a couple of days, in light of both Patricia’s post and the news stories from Cavan and Cobh over the last week.

Pearse McAuley, a prominent republican, was arrested and charged with with assaulting and threatening to kill his wife, following a sustained knife attack in the family home in Cavan on Christmas Eve, which took place in front of the couple’s two young sons and left his wife, Pauline, requiring emergency surgery for a punctured lung.

Yesterday, in Cobh, Co. Cork, Michael Greaney, a local businessman and Minister of the Eucharist at St. Colman’s Cathedral, stabbed his wife Valerie to death and attacked their 23 year old daughter Michelle, who was hospitalised for her injuries, before taking his own life.

1 in 5 women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner. The figures for Northern Ireland are worse – here it is 1 in 4. Domestic violence accounts for approximately one-fifth of all recorded violent crime in Northern Ireland. In 2011 – 2012, PSNI responded to a domestic incident every 23 minutes, yet they acknowledge there is likely to be a large amount of under-reporting of this type of crime.

Domestic Violence is not just perpetrated by men, but research and stats show that women are, in the majority of (particularly violent or fatal) cases, the victims. (Edit: this is not in any way intended to diminish or underestimate the experiences of male victims of domestic violence). Domestic violence can be manipulative, psychological or emotional but it can also be fatal – in 2011 / 2012, 35% of recorded murders in Northern Ireland were described as having “a domestic motivation.”

The Department for Health, Social Service and Public Safety and the PSNI are involved in supporting victims of domestic violence. MARAC meetings, where highest risk cases of domestic abuse are discussed and information is shared between criminal justice, health, child protection, housing practitioners, Women’s Aid as well as other specialists are held on a monthly basis and are chaired by the PSNI. Women’s Aid is, however, still the primary organisation that victims of domestic violence turn to for counselling, refuge, advocacy (including a translation service for non-English speakers) and support. Since 1999, Women’s Aid across Northern Ireland gave refuge to 14,714 women and 14,356 children and young people. During the last 16 years Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland managed 282,860 calls to the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline.

Women’s Aid are a voluntary sector organisation. While they do receive government funding through a number of streams, they are also dependent on volunteers, fundraising and donations.

Over the last few weeks on Slugger, we have all been discussing budget cuts, the proposed cut to corporation tax, the civil servants who will keep their jobs while front line services are cut, the money being spent on refurbishing the Waterfront Hall and the Belfast leisure centres. Yet here is a situation in which something which affects 1 in 4 women, accounts for a fifth of all recorded violent crime across Northern Ireland and was the motivating factor behind over a third of murders in 2011-2012. And the primary way of addressing this issue, and supporting people who have been victims of this type of crime is voluntary sector led.

I have worked in the voluntary/community sector since 2007. I know how many dedicated, qualified, talented and hardworking people make it their lives’ work to support the most vulnerable people in society. I am not trying to imply that the voluntary sector is somehow lacking in professionalism or that it is second rate. But I have also experienced short term contracts that make it very difficult to retain staff and vast shortfalls in funding which threaten the front line voluntary sector services that people have come to rely on, not realising that a reduction in a government grant or a failure to receive funding from a foundation or a reduction in donations can mean that not only can services be cut but that the doors could close at any time.

Meanwhile our brand new Stormont House Agreement has allocated £150m to dealing with the past and the current cost of running the OFMDFM office for a year stands at an estimated £171,870, and never mind the Stormont Expenses probe launched last month.

Salmon of Data argues that cuts do not always create a better economy, nor do they tackle unemployment particularly effectively. I doubt everyone will agree with Patricia (and myself) that our politicians and society needs to be more Pro-Woman. But I would argue that, against this back drop of cuts and “efficiencies”, that we are not, in fact, spending enough or, at least, not spending enough on the right issues if it comes to women being reliant on a charity (itself partly reliant on fundraising and donations) to support them from leaving an abusive or violent relationship or families being reliant on food banks (yet another charity) in order to be able to eat.

You can of course, make a donation yourself if you are so minded. And if you are concerned about your safety or that of anyone else, please avail of the help and support that is out there.

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  • Croiteir

    The weak have and always will be attacked by the strong, be it physical, emotional or financial, we can only hope for laws that will be rigorous enough to dissuade these attacks happening and punish those who commit the attack if they proceed regardless, the vulnerable such as woman, children in the womb and outside it, the poor and disabled need no less, yet the agreement the political parties have to decide upon will only succeed in increasing their vulnerability

  • Thoughtful and detailed article, W[R]ite Noise. Physical (and sexual) attacks on women by men must rank very near the greasy bucket-bottom of cowardly crimes. And I think it says a lot that help for such abused women must rely on donations. However, it fits into a wider pattern: a hospital needs a new scanner, a child needs speedy and specialised cancer treatment, Macmillan nurses need help to continue their heroic work, people in developing countries need clean water, a patch of land, a goat – all these must rely on public generosity. Meanwhile, have you had a bucket rattled before you looking for subscriptions for a replacement of Trident? For new fighter jets? For bombs, rockets, tanks? Uh-uh – that comes out of your taxes. And if you refuse to be an accomplice in this state terrorism (that’s what nuclear weapons are for), you’ll end up in prison. And these are the people who preach at us, telling us we must resolve our problems without resorting to violence. Sorry, I need to go outside and get sick…

  • I agree entirely, I was reading an article by a young motor neurone disease suffererer in The Scotsman yesterday about the lack of specialist nurses in Scotland for people living with the illness and I just can’t stop thinking of all the things we do spend public money on that seem so very unnecessary or even morally questionable (Trident etc) when we have charities plugging the gap for victims of domestic violence, the seriously ill and families in food poverty. It all seems very much askew, which is nothing new, but is all the more so against a backdrop of wide spread privatisation and cuts to frontline services, while other (questionable) expenditures seem to be protected.

  • Zeno1

    “Physical (and sexual) attacks on women by men must rank very near the greasy bucket-bottom of cowardly crimes.”

    Can you think of any local organisation that has carried out all these crimes, not to mention attacks on children, and whose political wing still ride high in the polls and voting preferences of the public?

  • I don’t think this has to be a party political issue. Nor is it a paramilitary issue. There has been no research to conclusively suggest that the level of domestic violence in NI has much to do with The Troubles. I imagine there are more than a few other parties on both sides of the border that have domestic abusers both among their members and elected representatives.

  • With you in everything you say, W – except there’s no questions attached to Trident, etc: it is and they are an abomination. How D Cameron etc can look at themselves in the mirror in the morning without wanting to cut their own throats is beyond me. As is their hypocrisy.

  • Zeno1

    I’m not a fan of selective condemnation or hypocrisy and I think I’ve made my point. Be prepared to listen to what bad people those Brits are……….. I see they should be cutting their own throats below.

  • Turgon

    Domestic violence of any and all sorts is completely wrong.

    However, one comment here is redolent of an outdated notion which should be challenged each time it is raised, namely:

    “Domestic Violence is not just perpetrated by men, but research and stats show that women are, in the vast majority of cases, the victims.”

    Although it is true the majority of victims are women the statistics do not necessarily show them to be the “vast majority”: 40% plus victims are male in this 2010 study The official England and Wales crime statistics from last year concur with your claim re the proportion of women suffering domestic abuse but also show domestic violence against men occurring more than half as frequently which is still a lot of criminality and it is likely that under reporting also occurs with male victims (very likely even more so than in women).

    I remember mentioning the risk of domestic violence against men when at university in the 1990s and the (female) tutor openly laughed. Sadly that appalling attitude persists.

    As such domestic violence by anyone against anyone is completely unacceptable be the perpetrators men, women, boys or girls and be the victims men, women, boys or girls.

  • mickfealty

    Most disturbing is the report of an earlier attack in the McAuley case which was not reported to the cops, suggesting the problem is at least as much cultural as a shortage of resources? The law is useless if people don’t think it applies to them.

  • Turgon – I absolutely take your point in that it is not my intention to understate the consequences of domestic violence for any victim. It is easy enough to find surveys and research supporting either position – there are many more male victims than previously supposed / women are almost always the victims. A lot of research / statistics on the issue do not always not take account of the kind of violence experienced within gay / lesbian relationships where both perpetrator / victim are male / male or female / female.

    All types of domestic violence are insidious and wrong.

    However incidents of domestic violence that turn sufficiently physically violent to require emergency hospitalisation or which are fatal are, still, predominantly thought to be inflicted on women.

    This is the kind that requires urgent intervention and support services to prevent serious injury and death.

    Yet these services are largely provided by a charity.

    I would like to be absolutely clear, however, that any type of domestic violence is inherently wrong, regardless of the gender of perpetrator or victim.

  • Turgon

    Therein lies one of the mistakes that many make: “This is the kind that requires urgent intervention and support services to prevent serious injury and death.”

    The problem is that as Mick notes below rarely do life threatening incidents of domestic violence occur without antecedents. Usually there have been more physically minor incidents which progressively escalate.

    The type of domestic violence which requires urgent intervention is all domestic violence even supposedly physically minor. Only by taking even minor incidents just as seriously as apparently more serious ones can the occurrence life threatening episodes be prevented / minimised.

  • I wouldn’t disagree with you in principle but, of course, in reality resources are limited and it is unlikely to be a possibility that society could re house and potentially financially support in the short term every victim who presents themselves to PSNI or Women’s Aid for assistance. This is why they have the MARAC process detailed above to decide who qualifies as high risk enough to trigger the most urgent level of support. Is it a perfect system? I imagine not. But there does have to be some procedure in place to get the most urgent assistance to the people who need it most quickly.

    What Mick has noted re the Cobh case hardly qualifies as minor, but since it wasn’t reported there was no intervention triggered.

    But I would not disagree that every incidence of domestic violence is serious and should be treated as such when reported.

  • Turgon

    You say resources are limited and I agree but early intervention is more effective and indeed cost effective in most things and I doubt domestic violence is any different.

    On the topic of violence against men it is still under resourced: NI Women’s Aid has an excellent web site and indeed includes violence against men fairly prominently. Unfortunately it has 12 refuges for women and as far as I can see none for men (I would be delighted to be wrong on that). That despite the evidence that more than a third of domestic violence is against men. It is also unclear how accessible / set up for these refuges are regarding the elderly etc. who are not what people think of as classic domestic violence victims.

    The way in which we all think about domestic violence needs to change and I am afraid laudable as your article is, you seem to remain a bit trapped in the old fashioned notion that it is mainly / most importantly about abused women. It is about abused people whatever their age, sex, ethnicity, sexuality, appearance etc.

  • Regardless what you think of my notions or however you want to term them, Turgon, the point you are getting at is not dissimilar from my own.

    Women’s Aid is a voluntary sector organisation set up by women to protect and support women who have been victims of domestic violence. Is it a perfect and all inclusive organisation? No. And it doesn’t have to be since it has its own aim, mission statement, and remit. It has limited resources.

    Would a public sector organisation, well funded, disability accessible, inclusive etc be a preferable system for anyone facing domestic violence? Most probably. Although it may face the same issue in that people don’t always want to report issues to the police so would they feel comfortable presenting themselves to a government run organisation for help? Difficult to say.

  • Turgon

    Fair enough and I will leave it at that. In future though when writing about this vitally important and inadequately discussed subject, might I suggest you get in step with the more modern understanding which regards domestic violence as important across all sections of society.


  • Count of Monte Fieldo

    I would take Jude Collins’ thoughts about male violence against women in the context of his extensive media coverage on the issue:

  • ted hagan

    You state; ‘Yesterday, in Cobh, Co. Cork, Michael Greaney, a local businessman and Minister of the Eucharist at St. Colman’s Cathedral, stabbed his wife Valerie to death and attacked their 23 year old daughter Michelle, who was hospitalised for her injuries, before taking his own life.’

    I think it is very irresponsible of this website to print these events as fact when the case is still in the very early stages of investigation.

  • chrisjones2

    The man in question appears to have been mentally ill. The issue may be why he was out in the community at the material time and had the risks been properly assessed

    I don’t blame the Doctors. These cases are complex but if we are to stop futyure similar cases we need the facts

  • chrisjones2

    I don’t agree that Trident is unnecessary and this is more about the culture in the legal system and wider society that totelates this abuse. We are just waking up to child abuse. We need to wake up to this as well

  • Zeno1

    To be fair it has been widely reported as fact.

    Police believe Michael Greaney, 53, (left) stabbed his wife Valerie, 49, (middle) to death after attacking his 21-year-old daughter Michelle (right) at their home in Cork, Ireland….

    Michael Greaney and his wife Valerie are dead after multiple stabbing
    Daughter Michelle, 21, is fighting for her life in hospital in critical condition
    Police believe Mr Greaney knifed wife and daughter then killed himself
    He had history of mental issues and was recently released from hospital
    Father was found guilty of assaulting and imprisoning a woman in 2013
    A barring order was in place, but it was removed at family’s request
    The couple’s daughter, 16, raised the alarm at the home in Cork, Ireland

  • ted hagan

    I have seen no other newspaper reports, neither the Irish Times or Irish Independent, where it outlines the sequence of events as mentioned in the article, other than to say the man was mentally ill. It’s careless journalism to make assumptions.

  • ted hagan

    Yes, and the sequence of events you quote, is different from that in the above report, which shows why it is vital that people are given a full and accurate and professional account in a tragic case like this

  • ted hagan

    Is it not unfair that a tragic case such as the Cobh killings, about which we haven’t the full facts, should be used as an example to highlight an article on domestic violence against women?

  • Ted – I’m sorry you have taken issue with this but as Zeno has mentioned this story is being widely reported by many news outlets, albeit with a lot more salacious details regarding Michael Greaney’s history of imprisoning young women and his mental health than I have included in my post above. The headlines run along the lines of ‘Murder suicide dad’ and ‘Family Knife Horror’ so if you want to have a go at anyone for careless journalism, maybe you would be better off starting there.

    RTE are reporting that Gardai are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident, and I think the only query is whether Greaney attacked his wife or daughter first, if this is the sequence of events you are referring to. With regards to the point I am making in this post about the widespread nature of domestic violence I don’t think the order in which he attacked his wife and daughter changes matters much.

    Here’s a couple of links to other, much less squeamish reports on the incident in the Irish Independent and Daily Mail:

  • chrisjones2

    I have seen an alleged accountb that he was found guilty but insane on a kidnapping and threats to kill but to follow your dioctum exactly nothing would ever get reported and the bsatte would cover up

  • chrisjones2

    “This is the kind that requires urgent intervention and support services to prevent serious injury and death.”

    I agree on urgent and intervention but would be more inclined to lock the bugger up. It doesn’t need support – except for the victims – it needs the rigorous application of the law to protect the weak whether male or female

  • ted hagan

    Yes, I have read the articles in the Irish Independent, and the Irish Times, which are cautious and professional and do not assume any sequence of events. The Daily Mail, though less reliable, qualifies its statements with ‘gardai believe’ and stresses that the wounded daughter has not yet been spoken to. You make statements of fact which cannot yet be verified. Surely it would have been better the wait until the full facts were known?

  • ted hagan

    Read The Irish Times and Irish Independent to see how they covered it. They are professional enough to wait until exact details are known before jumping to conclusions. I’m not saying the report isn’t right, I’m saying it’s based on supposition, which is always dangerous as the daughter, according to reports, hasn’t spoken to gardai.

  • The “facts” of any case can only be fully known after a trial or an inquest, if they can ever be fully established. I believe the fact that three women were apparently attacked by their husbands/fathers over the space of the last week to be worthy of comment, full facts pending, in a post about domestic violence on this island and how well equipped society is to deal with this, prosecute perpetrators and support victims. I don’t think it is necessary to wait months to learn the full gory sequence of events in each case before making a comment on it. If the Gardai have charged Pearse McAuley and they aren’t looking for anyone else in relation to the murder of Valerie / attack on Michelle Greaney then I think that is sufficient grounds to discuss these recent, very upsetting cases.

    However since the Independent headlines “Murder-suicide dad ‘stressed about finances'” and “Family Knife Horror” strike you as being both cautious and professional, I don’t think we are really having a discussion about anything very meaningful here.

  • babyface finlayson

    Well it is hard, maybe impossible, to envisage a situation where trident would be used.

    A cardboard tube with ‘bomb’ scrawled on it would do the same job.

    A waste of public money.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Turgon, while I entirely agree with you that this is a complex and tragic problem, the fact remains that individuals suffer, not catagories. Each situation is particular to itself. However, one thing you are overlooking is the hard core of aggression against women that pervades our still strongly patriarchal community, and I note that you use Crime Statistics for England and Wales to make a point which I would feel must be qualified by the actual character of our own community. Any open minded person has only to compare the general treatment of women by men in California or New York, say, with their treatment in Belfast to discover that despite efforts to address the problem, we remain a highly misogynistic society, where a significant portion of our manhood resists the world trend towards a more equiable relationship between the sexes.

    Our politically divided society has met the requirements of what is pretty much externally imposed equality legislation with private quips and evasions that keep many of their hatreds safely insulated from what is becoming a practice of common respect in other places. This has kept “fresh” amongst many of us strong sexist attitudes that are becoming utterly unacceptable elsewhere, a rather ugly feature of our communities innate conservatism.

    Just one example, the other day in central Belfast I saw a young woman parking a car almost crash into the car behind her when a group of youths suddenly whooped at her in a threatening, sexually explicit manner. The fact that others on the street simply looked rather embarressed and entirely failed to call the offensive youths on their behaviour may be the expression of a habitual passivity inculcated by decades of anxiety and violence, but this inability to challenge casual violence ensures that this kind of aggressive misogyny is pretty much socially permitted and that accordingly no woman is safe from the threat of chance sexual aggression in our community.

    My own first marriage was an abusive marriage which I had to get away from a violent partner (with my daughter, an uncommon award by courts in the 1980s) but despite my own experience, I would never begin to underestimate the powerful threat of sexual agression and violence that women most particularly live under in our society. I see it as an issue where all of us who have had to experience the terrible experience of abuse from someone we love should stand together against the abuse, and in this I am entirely in solidarity with those women who have also suffered. And it should never be forgotten that the American sociologist Michael Kimmel has argued that more than 90% of “systematic, persistent, and injurious” violence continues to be perpetrated by men.

  • chrisjones2

    I disagree.IT represnts a realmthreat to anyone who might attack us…be that North Korea, Russia or any other state

  • chrisjones2

    GIven that he stabbed two, no its not

  • babyface finlayson

    A real threat? Really?Which government in what circumstances ever would launch a Trident missile?
    Sorry to be diverting the thread but it is such a colossal waste of money on a scenario so unlikely you cannot even describe it.
    Any public service including better services for victims of domestic violence would be a better use for these funds.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Turgon, Mensaid NI opened a shelter here in 2013. I can find little on the web, but they seem to have a facebook page:

    This is not simply a “Gender Symmetry” issue where men are simply abused women. NI men are also abused by other men within gay relationships.

  • carl marks

    as we spend a fortune on WMD’s protecting us from the (lets admit it very unlikely) event that north korea will invade the British isles or the mess that is Russia we have the real threat of poverty and ill health for very many of our people.
    thats a bit like spending the house insurance on a policy that gives great protection from meteor strike and none for fire or burglary, seems bloody weird to me!
    A while ago on slugger there was a thread on the new Aircraft Carriers which Britain is building, these carriers don’t even have suitable aircraft in the design stage, The posts on the thread were most interesting, despite the fact that no one had a baldy when these very expensive bit’s of kit would be fit for service,The usual suspect,s were drooling over (indeed i suspected some were going to spend some private time with the pictures) this great addition to Britain’s ability to “project power overseas” when i mentioned the absurdity of spending billions on such thing while poverty was on the increase at home i was dismissed as a lefty, so i left them to it and pondered on those who believe that the ability to deal out death is more important that helping people to live with dignity, but then i suppose that’s the Christian right for you!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    That very same Christian Right, carl, whose unchanging partiarchal model of the world cannot take in the possibility of any serious equality between men and women, and consequently has strongly supported the “Gender Symmetry” theories of abuse, in order to do a kind of “whataboutery” on woman’s issues to exonerate men from any blame for their violence.

    All in the face of real research (research by American sociologist Michael Kimmel) that shows that more than 90% of “systematic, persistent, and injurious” violence continues to be perpetrated by men. Its all of a piece with your points, ( I just love that useless insurance image!) for the male aggression at the ruling end of our culture is that very thing whose obsessession with violent solutions encourages a habitual lack of empathy that will always ensure a cold hearted approach to the weak and vulnerable in society. No wonder Spitting Image dressed Thatcher in a pin-stripe suit!