Every morning Andrew McGinley feels like he is “hit by a sledgehammer” when he wakes up, as the horror of his loss crashes home once again.
Today marks two years since his three beloved children, Conor, 9; Darragh, 7, and Carla, 3, were killed by their mother Deirdre Morley at their family home in Newcastle, Co Dublin, Mr McGinley feels he is no closer to understanding why his children died.
Ms Morley was found not guilty of their murder by reason of insanity and was committed to the Central Mental Hospital.
At a harrowing trial last year, the court heard how Ms Morley thought that her children were irreparably damaged by her own mental illness and that she had to kill them ‘to save them from a life full of pain’.
But once her medication was changed following the deaths, she said that she felt more "like the old me" and could see that her children had actually been fine all along.
“The anniversary of their deaths is on Monday. It’s a date that hangs over you. It looms there," Mr McGinley said.
“I’ll go up to the grave on Monday. I go up most days now because I’m passing. But it’s not somewhere that brings me any comfort."
“Their presence is everywhere."
Both Mr McGinley and Ms Morley are now suing the HSE, the Governors of St Patrick’s Hospital, and a named person.
Their lawyers lodged separate but similar cases in the High Court this week.
The legal action is a bid to highlight the need for improvements in Ireland’s mental healthcare system, Mr McGinley said.
“I want to understand why my children died. Two years on from their deaths and I’m still no clearer.”
Mr McGinley has been campaigning for changes in mental health care and for new amendments to mental health legislation so that supportive families of people who are mentally ill are involved in their care.
He has been campaigning on the issue with Cork woman Una Butler whose two children, Zoe, 6, and Ella, 2, were killed by their father, her late husband, John Butler, before he killed himself in 2010 in Ballycotton.
They both believe that had they been informed of their spouses’ mental illness and had they been involved in their care, their children would still be alive today.
“I know how my children died and they died a traumatic death, but I’m no nearer to understanding why,” Mr McGinley said.
“I’d hate to think that in two years, five years, or 10 years, I’ll be sitting here listening to similar tragedies with other families talking about not having the information needed to help their loved ones because they were not included in their care.
"I feel I was left completely in the dark. I only now believe I have full insight into my wife’s mental health since the trial and since reviewing her medical files.
"I wasn’t included. Had family inclusion been in place, I would have made different decisions and those decisions would have saved the children’s lives.
“We’ve done an awful lot of talking in the last two years but there has been no significant change in how mental health is treated and cared for in Ireland, or in family inclusion.
“The [legislative] amendments that are out there at the moment are a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic with some additional backside-covering thrown in.
"There’s nothing of substance in there that’s going to bring better care to patients and nothing really that is going to help the families of those patients that want to support them."
Ms Morley, a highly trained paediatric and renal nurse, is currently in the care of the Central Mental Hospital.
She was committed to the facility last June by Mr Justice Paul Coffey.
Mr McGinley said that direct contact with Ms Morley is now difficult because Conor’s last words ‘go through his mind quite a bit’.
“I struggle with that quite a lot,” Mr McGinley said.
At the trial, it emerged that Conor said ‘Mum, stop’ as she put a bag over his head before suffocating him.
He said that three legacy projects he established in his children's names are what now drives him.
“It’s what I live for now,” Mr McGinley said.
The charity, As Darragh Did, named after his son who always encouraged participation, helps community groups and clubs throughout the country. They have raised approximately €180,000 since September.
Singer Daniel O’Donnell offered to put on a concert for the charity and tickets for the event were recently raffled off.
“We raised significant funds through that. I don’t have enough words to thank him.
“In our next round of funding, six or seven clubs and societies are getting about €14,000 next week."
For his baby girl Carla, he has started a colouring competition called Snowman for Carla, which recently had more than 2,500 entries.
Carla had asked him to help her make a snowman but she died before they could ever make more than a tiny one with a scraping of snow one year.
Mr McGinley said that his Youtube channel Conor’s Clips, set up for his eldest son who had asked him to help him set up a Youtube channel before he died, is “at a transition”.
The channel has shared funny and sweet videos of the children so far but Mr McGinley said that he plans to develop it so that it can also start filming and sharing videos of As Darragh Did’s charity work.
“My next challenge is to take some of the characters Conor and Darragh wrote about in their homemade comic books and try and put them into children’s books," Mr McGinley said.
"They left me a wealth of characters. I’m struggling a little bit. I think you have to be in the right frame of mind for writing books and at the moment I’m possibly not in that frame of mind.
"But I’ve identified several characters to write about and stories are swimming round in my head.”
He said that Ms Morley is “aware and supportive” of the children’s legacy projects although she has requested that no images of her are shared on Conor’s Clips.
“I hope to spend the rest of my days working on the legacy projects,” he said.
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