Neil Michael: A father and two sons dead, a community heartbroken

As the tragedy unfolded this morning, a distraught mother and wife managed to flee from the house and went to a neighbour to raise the alarm
Neil Michael: A father and two sons dead, a community heartbroken

The remains of the O’Sullivan family Diarmuid, Mark and their father Tadgh who were killed after a shooting incident near Kanturk are brought to the mortuary at the Cork University Hospital last night by three hearses. Picture Dan Linehan

As darkness began to fall on the remote farmland where the lives of three O'Sullivan men were lost, the only sound to be heard was the barking of a solitary dog.

The small huddle of onlookers, staring at the farm from across fields, had now disappeared.

Helicopters that had been hovering overhead, circling the farm, had vanished, replaced by the small herd of cows they had earlier scared away.

A silence, of sorts, fell back over this remote and idyllic part of North Cork.

It was perhaps as it was before the murder-suicide tragedy unfolded at a junction, off a leafy avenue known locally as The Passageway, at Assolas, with its old stone farmhouses dotted on either side, hidden by hawthorn trees and hedges.

Last night, there wasn’t a family behind those doors that did not feel the same shock as the next.

A father and his two sons dead, members of their local community lost.

“You can’t even begin to imagine how shocked we are,” one neighbour said.

Tadgh, Mark and Diarmuid O’Sullivan who died in a shooting in a remote part of Kanturk in North Cork. Picture: Gardaí
Tadgh, Mark and Diarmuid O’Sullivan who died in a shooting in a remote part of Kanturk in North Cork. Picture: Gardaí

“They were a lovely family, and the two sons were very bright, very polite and two wonderful young men.

“They were both interested in farming, and if I remember rightly, Mark used to drive his tractor between his mother’s farm and land the family owned in Cecilstown nearby.” 

In the nearby village of Castlemagner, everyone there was equally disbelieving.

Although some neighbours near the O’Sullivan house may have heard a shot ring out around 6.30am, and the ones that followed about an hour later, it wouldn’t be until around 10am that people realised something was very badly wrong.

A Garda helicopter appeared in the area, and word soon spread of people seeing multiple units of armed gardaí and detectives speeding to the scene.

An Air Corps helicopter landed at the village GAA pitch and out jumped more armed police, who were then whisked past stunned locals and down the narrow lanes, winding their way to the tragic scene.

Even an Irish Coast Guard helicopter landed, but it left not long after it had arrived.

Very quickly a number of cordons were thrown up around the house, with roads in and out blocked by uniformed gardaí.

At one cordon, about half a kilometre from the O’Sullivan farm, armed response units routinely sped through as people stepped suddenly out of their way.

On Sunday evening, the O’Sullivan farm appears to have been quiet.

Indeed, a friend is understood to have contacted Anne O'Sullivan, the mother of the house, a woman in her 60s, and asked if everything was okay. The response came back that it was.

 A Garda on duty as members of the Armed Response Unit attend the scene. Picture: Dan Linehan
A Garda on duty as members of the Armed Response Unit attend the scene. Picture: Dan Linehan

But whatever peace there had been that Sunday night, it was shattered early yesterday morning when a dispute over inheritance brought tragedy and heartbreak.

There were three weapons held at the family home, all legally. Gardaí are now trying to piece together the events.

As the tragedy unfolded, Anne had managed to flee from the house and went to a neighbour to raise the alarm.

Worst fears were realised when the bodies of the three O'Sullivan men were later found 

As well as being in shock, the community is now trying to get to grips with why the terrible events happened.

A shocked local resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We are all very shocked by this and don’t know what to make of it.

“There are all sorts of stories going around and you don’t know who to believe, and some or all of it could just be local rumours.

“Some say there was an issue over which son was going to get [the farm].

“And it had been simmering for quite a while.”

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