Drugs robbed their children of mothers, say family of loving Belfast sisters who died just weeks apart
The family of two west Belfast sisters who died weeks apart have said they feel "destroyed" by the loss and have made an emotional plea for greater access to addiction and mental health services.
The funeral of mother of five Geraldine McKay (28) will take place today after she was found dead in her Suffolk Road home on May 4.
This comes just weeks after the funeral of her sister Bridget McKay (30), who has four children and was found dead in her flat in the New Lodge area on April 11.
Both suffered drug-related deaths, robbing nine children of their mothers.
The family previously suffered tragedy with the death of their mother Catherine.
Yesterday their sister Sinead McKay (18) and her father Edward's partner Clare Rea spoke to the Belfast Telegraph from the family home.
"They were very caring and kind, over-protective of all of us," said Sinead.
Clare added: "They were the loveliest, happiest girls going and they just got into this bad habit.
"It can happen to any child at any time.
"We don't know the facts about how it started with them, but once it got a hold of them it wouldn't let go.
"We tried so many times to help them and they begged for help from everywhere.
"Their father and I had Bridget at one hospital. They wanted to sign her in to the psychiatric ward, but she didn't live in the right area.
"It's stupid things like this that need to be dealt with."
On another occasion they said Bridget had threatened to kill herself but was told that as she was not at rock bottom she should come back in six months.
Geraldine had also started to struggle when she suffered from post-natal depression following the birth of her first child.
Sinead agreed that too many people battling addictions and mental health issues found the process of getting treatment too difficult. "They want help, they want signed in, but they're turned away too often," she said.
"There's usually a six-month wait. It shouldn't be like that - it should be straight away.
"It can change a family and it destroys a family. You don't see the same person anymore."
Breaking into tears, Clare urged people using drugs to think about the hurt caused to loved ones.
"Once they start, their family can see them deteriorating in front of their eyes," she said.
"And no matter what the family try to do, once the drugs get a hold of them it's just too hard. Don't take them - you have to fight and say no.
"We wouldn't wish this on anybody. We just hope to God someone will see this and catch themselves on and tell all these drug dealers to p*** off."
Both said the wider family would now be rallying around to support the sisters' nine children. "They loved them with all their hearts, there's no denying that," said Clare.
With Geraldine's funeral taking place today, Clare said the family were still overwhelmed at losing Bridget.
"I think everyone's still in shock because no one has come to terms with the first sister's death," she said. "It's just tragic and it needs to stop.
"The Government needs to get something into gear to get the kids off this s*** before it gets too far.
"It's not fair on Sinead or their children, and no man should have to bury his children. It's against the law of nature and it shouldn't happen. All we want is for someone to listen.
"They were two beautiful wee girls and it's such a waste of life."
The funeral mass for Geraldine McKay takes place today at 1pm in St Michael The Archangel Church followed by a service at Roselawn Crematorium at 3pm.
Donations in lieu of flowers have been requested for Addiction NI.
- If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.