The loss of five members of the same family in a suspected murder-suicide is tragedy beyond comprehension, funeral mourners have been told.
Hundreds of people turned out to bid a final farewell to deputy principal Alan Hawe, his schoolteacher wife Clodagh and their three children Liam, 13, Niall, 11, and Ryan, six who were found dead at their home in Cavan last Monday.
In his homily, Fr Felim Kelly said the close knit community had been left bewildered by the deaths of a family held in the highest regard.
The priest said: “How such goodness could be destroyed? How such happiness could be invaded? How? Why? It is not for us to seek answers or to surmise about behaviour.
“We are all trying to cope with a tragedy beyond our understanding.”
Gardai believe Mr Hawe killed his wife and children in their home at Oakdene in the townland of Barconey near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, before taking his own life.
Ahead of the service at St Mary’s Church, Castlerahan, mourners were asked to make donations to one of the country’s leading suicide charities, Pieta House and a collection box was opened during the requiem Mass.
Mr Hawe was originally from the county and was deputy principal at Castlerahan National School, near where the family lived.
His wife grew up in Mount Nugent, Co Cavan, and she taught at Oristown National School in Co Meath.
Both their families have been left broken but united in sharing the pain of grief, the priest said.
Seating inside the isolated Catholic church had been reserved for family and close friends with proceedings broadcast on a loudspeaker those who braved the autumnal elements outside.
Fr Kelly added: “The family played an amazing part in the life of their school as teachers, held in the highest regard by colleagues, parents and children, respectful of all in their care and so co-operative in every possible way.
“The children, gifted pupils, team players, budding leaders, warm friends. What a loss.”
Mourners were also given a glimpse into Hawe family life during happier times as the priest recounted a visit to their home one Christmas morning.
“I know I was calling to see close friends and knew the welcome,” he said. “Clodagh with her scones, red jam and mug of coffee, Liam, Niall and Ryan busily, like budding engineers, building all kinds of Lego...
“Alan standing with his back to the kitchen sink totally at ease enjoying the antics of unspoiled and respectful sons.”
Relatives of both Mr and Mrs Hawe took part in the service.
In one moving moment Clodagh’s mother, Mary, placed a treasured family photograph on her coffin while gifts for the children included a basketball, sports trophy and for the youngest, Ryan, a woollen toy dog.
Co-leading the service was Bishop of Kilmore Leo O’Reilly.
The family were laid to rest together in a cemetery adjacent to the church.
A memorial mass has also been arranged for next Tuesday in St Nicholas’ Church, Windgap, Co Kilkenny.
In the wake of the tragedy, the National Suicide Research Foundation issued a briefing document on murder-suicide in which it said there is a need for sensitive and factual reporting in order to minimise harm and increase awareness.
Anyone affected by the incident or other incidents can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.