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'Theirs wasn't a tragic story, though it was tragic in the end... it could happen anywhere'

Nicola Anderson on the dreadful death of two elderly deaf brothers in Dublin

Published 08/10/2016

Daniel (left) and William McCarthy
Daniel (left) and William McCarthy
Terrible tragedy: Gardai at the scene where Daniel and William McCarthy were found

Her art is driven by homesickness. Anne Marie McCaughey now lives in Western Australia and copes with the sense of estrangement from Ireland by painting landscapes of the country from sketches she makes on her visits here.

Daniel was always quiet and shy. Liam talked for them both. Born profoundly deaf, the two McCarthy brothers were sent from their home in Glens, outside Dingle, Co Kerry at a very young age as boarders to St Joseph's Home for Deaf Boys in Cabra, Dublin in the hope of making a better life for themselves.

And that was how it turned out.

"They had a good life for themselves in Dublin," said one of their closest neighbours in west Kerry.

When the brothers left St Joseph's as young men, they "fell into jobs", working in a factory for years and bought the neat little house in the Millrose Estate in Bluebell, west Dublin "off their own steam".

Liam (76) and Daniel (73) had regular visits from their sister, Angela, who was also deaf and when their parents were alive, had spent every summer at the family homestead amid the majestic scenic surrounds of the foothills of Mount Brandon.

Only last month, they had been down to visit their younger brother Eamonn, helping out on the farm at the busiest time of the year.

They were like the rest of the McCarthy family: quiet, hardworking and sociable.

"Theirs wasn't a tragic story, though it was tragic in the end," he said, adding that what happened to Liam and Daniel McCarthy at the end "could happen anywhere".

"It's hard on the family here, because it's something we often hear about, but that you don't think will visit your own doorstep," he said.

The brothers' remains will return to Dingle after a funeral Mass today at the Emmaus Chapel in Deaf Village Ireland on the Ratoath Road in Cabra.

Another Mass will take place at St Mary's Church in Dingle tomorrow, with a Mass before burial together at St Brendan's Cemetery.

It follows an end of heartbreaking sadness that has left the wider community examining its conscience over how easily isolated, elderly people can be left to suffer in silence amid the chronic "busyness" of modern society.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning last, a garda - alerted by two friends from the deaf community - climbed a ladder borrowed from a neighbour and shining a torch into an upstairs bedroom window, discovered the tragic remains.

It is thought that Liam may have died some weeks ago and Daniel, who was more dependent, died last weekend.

Daniel had been seen by friends outside the house last Thursday, but he had seemed "lost for words" and would not let them in.

A note written by him was found at the scene in which he said that his brother was sick, adding: "I don't know what to do".

From the front, the house was well-maintained, but upon further investigation, the back of the house showed broken windows and a garden overgrown with weeds.

Several neighbours in the estate, who did not speak sign language, recalled them as "so quiet".

But that was refuted by a friend who knew Liam well.

Fergus Dunne first met the brothers many years ago at the old Deaf Club in Rathmines in Dublin, where many members of the deaf community would meet regularly for social and leisure activities.

He and his wife had enjoyed chatting with Liam, while their children would watch his command of sign language "with awe".

"Liam was so polite and good-mannered," said Fergus.

He recalled a conversation which Liam had again conducted in "beautiful sign language and gestures," expressing his concerns about the dangers of using the ATM alone, "highlighting the vulnerability of any elderly person, both deaf and hearing in everyday life".

Liam had done some DIY jobs, mostly painting, and Fergus recalled the quality of his work.

In 2011, he was touched by a surprise 70th birthday party organised by friends.

The deaf community are now struggling to deal with the sad end to the lives of the two brothers.

But Sean Moynihan, of Alone, the elderly support organisation, said with one in three people over the age of 65 living alone, it is a "very simple journey" for anyone to become disconnected from wider society, even without a disability.

"People think of rural isolation but it is urban and rural alike," he said, adding that home help can act as an early warning system - but that the system is woefully underfunded.

Belfast Telegraph

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