Michael D HigginsGetty

Irish President Michael D Higgins has been slammed for visiting Wheatfield prison to see a play produced by wife killer Eamon Lillis.

The mother of another murder victim, Siobhan Kearney, has criticized the official visit by the country’s new President.

Deirdre McLaughlin, whose daughter was strangled with the cord off a vacuum cleaner by her husband Brian Kearney, has written to Higgins condemning his presence at the play.

She told the Sunday Independent that she ‘was sickened’ on hearing that Mr Higgins, who she voted for in the presidential election, attended a performance of The Happy Prince in Wheatfield Prison on Friday in which the 54-year-old Lillis was heavily involved.

Lillis was found guilty of the murder of his wife Celine Cawley, a former Bond girl, at their home in north Dublin.

“This is giving him a big ego, it is turning hi into a mini-celebrity and I don’t think the President should endorse this, and I have written to tell him that,” McLaughlin told the paper.

“I know that this is about Lillis, not Kearney, but it is bringing up the same feelings for all of us, the thought of President Higgins driving out of the Aras and turning into Wheatfield for a ‘private viewing’ of a play featuring this man like that ...

“Since our Siobhan was murdered we are living an alternative lifestyle, it is like a bomb went off in our family and all the other families who have suffered something similar must feel the same.”

Deirdre McLaughlin also expressed her support for the Lillis family in the wake of the Presidential visit to see the play produced by Cawley’s killer.

“I am sure it must be causing terrible distress to the family who suffered at his hands, but that is their private business and I don’t want to intrude into that,” she said.

“But I do want the man I voted for as President to know how I feel about this.

“I am not cracking, I am furious. The victims of crimes of violence are part of one big beating heart. The Kearney’s have a beating heart, even if their son is in jail, we have none. I want him and others to pay for the crimes they committed.”

President Higgins issued a statement following his visit to Wheatfield when he said he would make it ‘a priority’ to visit ‘the most excluded in our society, including those in institutional care’.

He added: “I am of course conscious and very sensitive to the fact that many people in our prisons have committed violent crimes and caused grave hurt and distress for many people and I would not wish my support of rehabilitation to be in any way seen to be minimising the gravity of the crimes that have been committed.”