Trigger warning: This post contains themes of domestic violence some readers may find triggering.
Last August, Ireland was rocked by the shocking deaths of a family of five.
The bodies of Alan Hawe, his wife Clodagh, and their three sons Liam, Niall and Ryan were found inside their house in County Cavan. Hawe was the deputy principal of the local primary school, where Niall and Ryan were students. Clodagh was a teacher at another school.
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Hawe had murdered his family, using weapons he had stockpiled, then killed himself. He attacked Clodagh first, as she was planning a family holiday on the computer, and then moved onto his three sons in their bedrooms. The youngest, Ryan, was just six years old.
The local community was stunned, as Hawe had no history of mental health problems. The principal of Hawe’s school described the murder-suicide as a “terrible tragedy”, and said Hawe was a “valued member” of the school staff and community.
A joint funeral was held for the family of five. Mourners were asked to make donations to a suicide charity.
“It is not for us to seek answers or to surmise about behaviour,” the priest, Father Felim Kelly, said. “We are all trying to cope with a tragedy beyond our understanding.”
The five family members were laid to rest in the one burial plot.
It wasn’t long before women’s organisations in Ireland began protesting about the coverage of the deaths. The National Women’s Council of Ireland and Women’s Aid said the incident should be described as “murder” and “the most extreme form of domestic violence”.
Other people were upset that coverage of the deaths was focusing on Hawe. A hashtag was created: #hernamewasclodagh.
Clodagh’s mother, Mary Coll, and her sister, Jacqueline Connolly, were initially in a state of shock. They didn’t object to Hawe being buried with Clodagh and the boys.
But as they learnt more about Hawe and his motives, through letters he left at the murder scene, their feelings changed.
“He was about to fall off his pedestal and we know why,” Connolly told the Irish Mirror in December. “But he couldn’t face it so he murdered my sister, Mam’s precious daughter and murdered my nephews, Mam’s precious grandchildren, to save face.
“Alan Hawe had fooled us all, he had everyone fooled. We had no idea what we’d been dealing with, who Clodagh and the boys had been living with. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Connolly said she and Coll were going to be Clodagh’s voice.
“We need to learn to recognise where dangers lie in the home, see how the desire for control can get out of control and act before it is too late.”
The two women began raising money for Women’s Aid, to support victims of domestic violence.
“We want their deaths to help other women who are living in fear and isolation in their own homes,” Connolly wrote on the fundraising page.
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For months, Clodagh’s mother and sister battled to have the remains of Hawe exhumed from the family burial plot.
“If we had known then what we know now, he would never have been buried with them,” Connolly told the Daily Mirror.
“The devil alone was put in that same grave as our beautiful Clodagh and our wonderful boys.”
Finally, this week, the exhumation took place. Hawe’s remains were taken from the cemetery, where a cross erected to him had been scratched with the word “EVIL”.
His remains were cremated, which had been his original request, and delivered to his family in Kilkenny. The family said in a statement that Hawe’s parents had received threats since the deaths, and they hoped these threats would now stop.
“The circumstances surrounding the tragedy in 2016 will be the subject of an inquest later this year,” they added, “and in light of this they have no further comment to make.”
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence, please seek help by calling 1800-RESPECT or visiting whiteribbon.org.au.