Tributes paid at brothers' funeral
The deaths of twin boys and their older brother in an apparent murder-suicide should be a lesson for people to do more to get young men to talk about their problems, their funeral has heard.
In heart-rending scenes after the mass at Holy Cross Church, Charleville, Co Cork, white coffins holding the bodies of nine-year-old Thomas and Patrick O'Driscoll were carried shoulder high through the town.
As the remains of their elder brother Jonathan were kept in the church, the funeral cortege was led by about 30 youngsters walking behind a pick-up truck carrying huge and ornately decorated floral tributes.
They were followed by a pony pulling a miniature canvas-covered caravan decorated with pictures of the twins .
The boys' parents, Helen and Thomas, had travelled to Waterford last Thursday - the day of their deaths - to buy the wagon as a present for them.
On top of a black hearse sat a second set of beautifully decorated wreaths, including a replica of the old-style traveller caravan, two crossed blue and white hurleys and a horseshoe.
Black and red boxing gloves rested on the boys' coffins during the service.
In a moving homily Fr Tom Naughton, curate at Holy Cross, said explanations for the boys' deaths will not be answered "this side of the grave".
"But if these days have taught us anything at all, they challenge us to continue and to increase our efforts to understand and to assist, especially young males, to communicate the darkness that seems to be increasingly troubling young minds and hearts," the local priest said.
"It is possible that we have never had more activities and recreations, all sorts of noises and acquaintances around us yet, at the same time, it seems that never have people been so lonely and lonesome."
Thomas and Patrick were buried together in Charleville cemetery following the mass.
Jonathan's remains were held in the church for several hours and he was later laid to rest with his maternal grandparents in Kilmallock.
Fr Naughton said the O'Driscoll parents had revealed the true character of their twin boys in the days since their deaths.
Tom Tom and Paddy, as they were affectionately known, loved playing with friends, they were honest, they knew how to say sorry and they were famous for their hugs, mourners were told.
The boys took pride in achieving at school and they took care of each other and stood up for each other.
There were also special words for Jonathan.
Fr Naughton revealed his arrival into the O'Driscoll family was the happiest day of Helen and Thomas' lives.
He said his grandfather Da was dying in intensive care at the time but when the proud parents showed Jonathan to him through a window in the unit the joy seemed to help him rally.
"Jonathan made the whole family happy. He was there when you needed him and could pop up at any stage. He loved all his godchildren and never forgot their birthdays," Fr Naughton said.
Mourners heard how Jonathan would buy outfits for his godchildren in Dunnes, how he took the twins hunting and to Doneraile Park to play.
"It was their favourite place," the priest said.
The mass also heard how Jonathan got both boys special custom-printed books for Christmas and Patrick had brought his to school and was proud of it.
Among the many wreaths and floral tributes were simple messages from the family including "Our son Jonathan" and "Our boys Tom Tom and Paddy".
Another was marked "Tom Tom and Paddy" with two hurleys on green fields symbolising one of their favourite sports.
Many other tributes carried symbols of horses and horseshoes and one, made in the shape of a red car, carried the number nine, the twin boys' age.
The hundreds of mourners at the mass heard the youngsters were lovable rogues, fun-loving and energetic boys who loved their parents.
Fr Naughton said many people had expressed the wish to take the pain from the O'Driscoll parents in the days since the tragedy.
"Helen and Thomas, ever so many people want to embrace you and your family so that you may know that you are not alone and we don't want you ever to feel alone because we are and will continue to be there for you," the priest said.
The twins were found dead in the family home in Charleville last Thursday.
Within an hour of the discovery their older sibling Jonathan, in his early 20s, was found dead about 15km away in a wooded area by a river just outside the town of Buttevant.
It is believed he died by suicide.
Experts from the national education psychological service of the Department of Education have been called in to support school staff in dealing with the tragedy.
Elsewhere, the Health Service Executive was working with community health workers from the Travellers of North Cork association to support immediate and extended family.
If the murder-suicide suspicions are confirmed, it will be the second incident of its kind in Ireland in just over six weeks.