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Four hearses on a country road: a community in anguish at suspected murder-suicide

Alan Hawe taught at the local school and was treasurer of the GAA club. His body was found with that of wife Clodagh and their three sons.

Image: Philip Fitzpatrick via PA Images

THE AREA OF Castlerahan feels quiet this evening, which is unsurprising given the tragedy visited upon it today.

Though, to an outsider, there is the feeling that the town is always quiet.

Indeed, town may even be a stretch. It is a townland, around 10 minutes’ drive from Ballyjamesduff, itself a small farm town not far from Virginia in Co Cavan.

Today, the discovery of the bodies of Alan, Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan Hawe at their home near Castlerahan, dead in an apparent murder-suicide, thrust the area into the national headlines.

The “centre” of Castlerahan lies along a winding country road that suddenly gives way to a GAA field on the right, a church and school on the left.

Alan Hawe was integral to two of those institutions, as vice-principal of Castlerahan National School and treasurer of Castlerahan GAA.

His death, and the deaths of Clodagh and their three boys, has left locals grasping for answers.

The most common question: why?

In Castlerahan, locals are “too shocked, too heartbroken” to talk.

In Ballyjamesduff, the same reaction.

One local says:

It’s shocking. You hear of these things, but never think they’ll happen up the road.

A local shopworker knew the family and is reluctant to talk, only saying “they were a lovely, lovely family”.

There is no “right” place for such an unspeakable tragedy to occur, but this one feels particularly out of place.

This evening, Garda barrier tape was pulled taut across two large pillars, sealing off the cul-de-sac where the Hawes lived. As a heavy, late summer’s evening turned grey, the starkest of reminders – as if one were needed – of the scale of the tragedy: four black hearses pulling along a country road, led and followed by a Garda escort.

Shell-shocked

Family of five found dead Source: Philip Fitzpatrick/PA Images

Clodagh Hawe was also a teacher, at Oristown National School in Kells, Co Meath. She was, according to principal Ann O’Kelly Lynch, “a much-loved and valued teacher in our school”.

The three boys had all attended the school where their father taught; 11-year-old Niall and six-year-old Ryan due back after the summer holidays, their 13-year-old brother Liam now graduated to secondary school.

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“This is a terrible tragedy for the family, our school and our community,” said Castlerahan National School principal Anne Foley, “Alan was a valued member of our school staff and community. Niall and Ryan were pupils in our school and Liam a past pupil.”

They were wonderful children who will be greatly missed by all who knew them.

Just yesterday, the family were out and about together, taking part in a local community event.

Local councillor Paddy Smith told RTÉ’s Drivetime that the community is at a loss as to what happened.

“They are a very hard-working and tight-knit community, people just don’t know what to say, they are shell-shocked at this terrible tragedy.”

Today outside Ballyjamesduff Garda station, a weather-worn converted house on one of the town’s four intersecting main streets, Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll said that in policing terms, they knew where to look for answers.

We believe all the answers are within that house.

For the people of Castlerahan, few if any answers will ever suffice.

Tomorrow morning, a regular weekday Mass is scheduled for 10am at St Mary’s church, beside the school where Alan had been teaching. The Hawe family, their vibrant part in the life of the community and the horror of their deaths will no doubt be on the mind of everyone gathered in prayer.

But for tonight, in grief, in confusion, Castlerahan is quiet.

Read: Parents found dead with their children in Cavan named as teachers

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