'The lives of my sister and her daughters are worthless here'
A man fighting to keep the killer of his sister and her two daughters in jail, has said a life is less valuable in Ireland than in England.
Sharon Whelan (30) was raped and killed by Brian Hennessy at her remote Kilkenny farmhouse on Christmas morning, 2008. He then set fire to the house, killing Sharon's daughters Zsara (seven) and Nadia (two). Now, just seven years later, he is able to apply for parole.
In England, Arthur Simpson-Kent was last week handed a whole-life sentence for the murder of former EastEnders actress Sian Blake (43) and their two children - Zachary (eight) and Amon (four) - at their home in Erith, south-east London on the night of December 14-15, 2015.
In the UK, a minimum tariff can be handed down to serious criminals, meaning they cannot apply for parole until that tariff has passed, and a whole-life tariff means they can never apply for parole.
"We have been fighting for this to be introduced in Ireland, because a so-called life sentence does not mean life here," said Sharon Whelan's brother John.
John is also chairman of the AdVic group that offers advice and support to the families of victims of crime, and advocate on their behalf.
"Brian Hennessy is now applying for parole after seven years. He killed three people. He killed Sharon first and then waited before burning the house and killing Zsara and Nadia. Yet he got the same sentence as he would for killing one person. How is that right?" John asked.
"If we lived in England our family would not be going through this battle to keep Hennessy in prison. We would not be put through the stress of a parole hearing this early.
"Hennessy was initially handed two consecutive sentences and one concurrent, but on appeal it was deemed too harsh. Now we know that in the Irish system you can only serve one life sentence," he added.
"Nobody has been able to tell us who Brian Hennessy is serving life for killing. Is it Sharon, or one of the girls? Sharon was killed earlier than the girls, so how can that be seen as killing three people in one act? It was two acts, but one sentence.
"We found out last Wednesday that he (Hennessy) is putting the paperwork together and he is going to put in for his parole in November. We were hoping he wouldn't do it, that he would spare us that. But that's how the system works.
"My aim is to make sure that Brian Hennessy doesn't get out of jail before my parents pass away. I don't want them to see him out and about," he said.
John said that part of the difficulty in getting the sentencing laws changed is that it won't apply retrospectively to killers like Hennessy, and families that it would help don't even know they would be thankful for it yet.
"Who knows when a murder is going to wreck their family. Nobody knows. We certainly never knew and here we are today. It is as random as that. It could be anyone out there who would benefit from a change in the law, but they just don't know it yet," he told the Herald.