A village silenced by the weight of grief

Parents gathered together in little huddles and went in and out of Ballinkillen NS yesterday, to hear how best they can tell their own children about what happened to Eoghan and Ruairí Chada, while just a few hundred metres away Kathleen Chada was attempting to take in the enormity of her loss.

Kathleen, née Murphy and a native of the village about 7km from Bagenalstown in Co Carlow, was expected to remain at home in the two-storey house she built with her husband Sanjeev until the bodies of her two boys are released.

That could be this evening at the earliest, or maybe not until tomorrow, with a joint funeral expected to take place on Friday or Saturday in the church where the boys’ grandmother, Patsy Murphy, is sacristan and where Ruairi was baptised five years ago.

The school meeting, which was attended by staff from the National Educational Psychological Service, lasted more than an hour and a half and was convened to help staff put together a strategy to offer support to parents and their children.

Leaving in small groups afterwards, parents were reluctant to speak to the large media presence which gathered in Ballinkillen since Monday afternoon, with the result that a hush was felt across the village.

Many of those parents, some accompanied by their children, were red-eyed with emotion as they left the school and contemplated the boys’ tragic fate.

The school principal, Michelle Doorley, was also visibly distressed as she read out a statement to the media in which she appealed for privacy for the Chada and Murphy families and described what happened on Monday as “a terrible tragedy” for the families, the school, and the community.

The boys will be “greatly missed” by all who knew them, she said, as six staff members from the school looked on in silence, while a critical incident plan has been put in place by the school, with support from NEPS.

Meanwhile, as gardaí carried out door-to-door inquiries in the village in an attempt to understand what prompted Sanjeev into action on Sunday evening, Kathleen’s parents, brothers, sister, and extended family tried to deal with their loss.

Parish priest Fr Declan Foley — who was with the family when they got the call on Monday afternoon to say the brothers had been found dead — spoke of the “incredible trauma” in the house.

Also present when that phone call came through was Sanjeev’s brother, who travelled down from his home in the North on Monday morning as concern grew about the boys. He was also devastated by the news, Fr Foley said.

“Everybody was traumatised by the phone call and there was an incredible sense of grief and helplessness and general devastation all around,” said Fr Foley. “What can anybody say, except just cry with the family? That was all that anybody could do and the grief and the emotions were just heartbreaking.”

School in mourning

The small local school in Ballinkillen is a central part of the local community’s attempts to deal with the deaths of Eoghan and Ruairí Chada.

The doors were opened at the school of just over 100 pupils as parents of the boys’ schoolmates were offered guidance and advice by experts.

Principal Michelle Doorley said everyone was traumatised when news of the tragedy reached the area on Monday. She said the boys were popular with everyone at Ballinkillen NS, which has just four classes.

Eoghan was due to start fourth class in September, while Ruairí had finished junior infants.

Ms Doorley said the younger boy was like his brother’s shadow.

“He was bubbly and bright, very clever, a great sense of fun, always following his brother around,” she said.

“Eoghan had just finished third class. He was a solid bright young chap, they were very close,” she told RTÉ.

She said staff rallied to offer support to parents and children, with staff of the National Educational Psychological Service on hand to assist the school’s critical incident plan.

Eoghan and Ruairí’s popularity extended beyond their own classes, as the principal said they took part in everything in school, which has its own great sense of family.

“They were great sportsmen, or budding sportsmen in Ruairí’s case. If we needed volunteers for anything, they were first to line up with their family,” said Ms Doorley.

She said they will be remembered as two super boys, who were pleasant and lovely to deal with.

“They were great guys, great team work, great sense of fun, good sense of humour, and they will be missed by everybody.”

— Niall Murray


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