Death of devoted mother shocks local community

The home Olivia Dunlea shared with her three children in Passage West, Co Cork, bore all the hallmarks of typical family living.

Bikes and a scooter lay ranged against the wall of the modest three-bed semi-detached house. A trampoline poked out from the garden to the rear, and to the fore, a dog’s kennel. Potted plants abounded.

From what neighbours said, Ms Dunlea was a “lovely woman”, devoted to her young family. They were a tight-knit bunch, “a really happy family”, one neighbour said.

Ms Dunlea, originally from Victoria Ave in Blackrock, Cork City, had moved to Pembroke Crescent, in the sprawling Pembroke Wood, on the outskirts of Passage West, almost a decade ago, neighbours said.

She lived there with her three children Aaron, Megan, and Darragh Dunlea O’Brien, ranging in ages from nine to 12. She was separated from her husband.

A neighbour said all three children attend the Star of the Sea Primary School in Passage West.

Aaron, the eldest, is due to make his Confirmation in two weeks’ time. A neighbour said he is a “complete animal lover”.

The same neighbour rescued the family dog from the burning house believing there was no-one at home.

Yesterday, the former petshop worker was looking after an African parrot owned by Aaron and rescued by members of the fire brigade. Other neighbours were caring for other family pets.

Fortunately, none of the three children were in the house when the fire that claimed their mother’s life broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning.

They were spending the night with their father.

Neighbours were visibly shocked yesterday. The owner of an adjoining property was relieved that the house he rents out was empty.

His tenants moved out last Friday.

The charred remains of the upstairs bedroom stood in bleak contrast to the warm red paint of the front door to the home Ms Dunlea had shared with her children for the best part of a decade.

“They were a lovely family. Really close,” one neighbour said.

Local county councillor Séamus McGrath said it was a “devastating tragedy” that had shocked local people. “To lose your life in those kind of circumstances is just devastating, both for the family and for the local community,” he said.

It was the second house fire in the Pembroke Wood area in the last six months.

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