The family of two brothers-in-law found dead on neighbouring farms in a suspected murder-suicide have been devastated and numbed by the tragedy, a local priest said.
Firefighters called to a huge blaze at haysheds at Ballycormac, near Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, in the early hours of this morning found the body of one of the victims after a four-hour battle to bring the fire under control.
It is thought the man in his early 70s died from gunshot wounds.
Several hours later, as the barns still smouldered, his sister’s husband, aged in his 60s, was found in an outbuilding on his neighbouring farm. He is believed to have taken his own life.
A small amount of livestock was also killed in the fire while around 30 cattle were rescued from one of the barns.
Fr Paddy Byrne, a local priest, comforted the younger man’s wife and relatives at the scene.
“They are devastated,” he said.
“This is a very difficult place for anyone to find themselves to be, in terms of the tragic loss of life.
“There is shock, a numbness, an environment where people are trying to come to terms with exactly what happened.”
Fr Byrne said both farmers were well-known and well-respected and he said of the close-knit community: “There’s a sense of absolute numbness.
“When things you often hear about far away come to reality close by it’s very difficult.
“It’s a sad day for the area, it’s a huge loss for the community and our immediate concern is to support the families and be close to them. We’re trying to comfort and be there for them.”
The older victim, understood to be a bachelor and an award-winning farmer, was a member of the Church of Ireland.
Bagenalstown minister the Rev Charles McCollum said he knew the victim well and was travelling back from a trip to Belfast to be with the family.
“It’s a shocking tragedy for all the families involved and the local community,” he said.
“It’s a tragedy of very great intensity.”
Gardaí said the younger brother-in-law was found dead on his farm at around 9am. It is believed his wife – and sister of the older victim – discovered his body.
Ger Guerin, chief fire officer for Carlow, said his crews faced difficulties bringing the massive blaze under control when they arrived on the scene around 3.20am.
“There were a number of hayshed buildings spread over quite a large area that were well alight,” he said.
“It presented some logistical problems for us – but we overcame them very quickly.”
A Garda spokesman said the scenes of both incidents have been sealed off and forensic examinations will take place.
A team from the state pathologist’s office and the Garda technical bureau are expected to carry out examinations of the scenes and the farm buildings throughout the day.