The mother of three who was murdered before her home was set alight was devoted to her children and to helping her community.
Community leaders in Passage West, Co Cork, led tributes to Olivia Dunlea-O’Brien yesterday as the initial shock following her brutal death was replaced with anger.
“First, there was a sense of horror and disbelief, but that has been replaced with a palpable sense of anger,” said Passage West councillor Marcia D’Alton.
“This is just beyond shocking. It’s completely out of character for the town. It is just too big to comprehend.”
Ms Dunlea-O’Brien, 36, who was originally from Victoria Ave in Ballinlough, Cork, was found dead after a blaze in her two-storey, semi-detached home in the Pembroke Crescent estate in Passage West in the early hours of Sunday.
Her three children, Aaron, Megan and Darragh, were staying with their father, Adrian, that night.
An autopsy confirmed she died a violent death before her house was set alight. Gardaí have refused to confirm reports that she was stabbed.
Ms D’Alton lives in the same estate and knew Ms Dunlea-O’Brien through her involvement with the local youth club.
She said Ms Dunlea-O’Brien was devoted to her children and would often bring them along with her to the youth club, where she volunteered as a youth leader.
“They are really lovely kids and it was very clear to everyone that they were mad about their mum.
“She knew that it was really important for kids in the town that they had somewhere to go, and had something to do.
“She would have been at the youth club every Thursday night in the old Star of the Sea school helping with the eight- to 12-year-olds.
“But, as well as that work, there was an awful lot of training in the background, with a huge commitment involved.”
Ms D’Alton said there were plans in the town to set up a youth cafe and that those involved would have approached Ms Dunlea-O’Brien to help. “We knew we were going to call on her to help us,” she said.
The mayor of Passage West, Cllr John Daly, also paid tributes to Ms Dunlea-O’Brien.
“Olivia had embedded herself in the local community since she settled here about 10 years ago.
“She was very well liked and passionate about her community.
“It is a tragedy that is hard to make any sense of. There is a wonderful community spirit here in Passage West and we feel like we’ve lost one of our own members.
“Those of us with children are very shaken. We can only express our sincere sympathies to Olivia’s family.”
Ms Dunlea-O’Brien is survived by her three children, her husband Adrian, her parents Anne and Jimmy, and her sisters Amanda and Anne.
Funeral arrangements have as yet to be finalised.
Her family has issued a request that mourners send donations to the Children’s Leukaemia Ward in the Mercy University Hospital in lieu of flowers.
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