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heartbreaking Andrew McGinley: ‘If I stayed silent and did nothing, I know that people would forget their names in weeks’

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‘For me, I just hope that lessons can be learned from what happened to our family,’ said Andrew, pictured with Darragh, Carla and Conor

‘For me, I just hope that lessons can be learned from what happened to our family,’ said Andrew, pictured with Darragh, Carla and Conor

‘For me, I just hope that lessons can be learned from what happened to our family,’ said Andrew, pictured with Darragh, Carla and Conor

The alarm on the nightstand goes off at 7am every morning. Andrew McGinley wakes, opens his eyes, and, for the briefest of moments, listens for the sound of tiny feet racing the halls. But the house, his family home, is silent and empty.

And like clockwork, it hits him. “I realise there are no hugs, that the kids are gone,” he told the Irish Independent this week.

“It’s the hardest part of the day, waking up. But I have that routine, the alarm going off at the same time, opening my eyes and reality hitting me and then getting one foot out of the bed and then the other. It’s the projects that help me do that.”

It’s been more than 18 months since the deaths of Conor, Darragh and Carla. In May, their mother Deirdre was found not guilty of their murder by reason of insanity and committed to the Central Mental Hospital.

Since then, Andrew has been campaigning tirelessly for the greater inclusion for families in the mental health treatment of loved ones.

At the same time, he has been working on his charity efforts in memory of his three children.

“I would be eaten up by what happened if it wasn’t for the projects for the children,” he said.

“Lately, a few people have asked, ‘does it make you happy?’ I thought about it, and it fills me with so much love that it lifts me. It’s as good as happiness or joy. I wouldn’t call it that though, it’s love. Am I angry?

"Yes, I am angry. but I don’t think anger will get me anywhere and I know the kids wouldn’t want me to be angry. I don’t want to be angry. For me I just want that this never happens again. I just hope that lessons can be learned from what happened to our family,” he said.

‘As Darragh Did’ is a charity set up in memory of his son Darragh (7), who was involved in a number of local activities, such as Rathcoole Boys, St Mary’s GAA in Saggart and Commercials Hurling.

The charity is seeking to fund local clubs, societies, groups and projects with a donation to be used to encourage participation.

‘As Darragh Did’ is currently running a raffle for the chance to win four tickets to an exclusive concert headlined by Daniel O’Donnell, overnight hotel accommodation, dinner and transport from the hotel to the venue, Newcastle community centre.

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The closing date for the raffle is December 12 and the winner will be announced on December 15.

Andrew explained: “The raffle tickets are being sold at €10 each and they are on sale until December 12. Carla’s birthday would have been on December 15, so the draw will be on that date and we’ll pull out 30 winners.

“Each winner will get four tickets to the Daniel concert as well as overnight accommodation for four in the Louis Fitzgerald hotel.

“Michelin-starred chef Derry Clarke, who people would know from RTÉ’s Lords and Ladles, is providing the food and Dualway Coaches, who are based locally, are providing the transport.”

Andrew set up ‘Conor’s Clips’ on YouTube to fulfil his eldest son Conor’s (9) dream of having his own YouTube channel.

Carla (3) wanted to build snowman, but because it doesn’t snow every year in Ireland, her father is organising a poster colouring competition in her name – ‘Snowman for Carla’. It launches today in the Irish Independent.

“The projects, they give Conor, Darragh and Carla life beyond death,” said Andrew. “If I stayed silent and did nothing, I know people would forget their names in weeks and months. It helps me keep that promise I made to Carla, to build her a snowman. Now there are going to be snowmen coloured in all over the country and people have no idea how much that means to me.”

As Christmas approaches, a time of year so focused on children, Andrew is keeping himself busy.

He goes for a walk every morning, stopping at the graveside on the way, then he usually meets up with a neighbour or friend, before getting to work on the children’s projects.

“I have been busy in a good way,” he said.

“There is always the conversation around ‘how do you carry on?’ I honestly don’t know. I feel I’ve changed as a person. My whole perspective on everything has changed.

“There are days when I just don’t function.

"I could sit down, and I could start an email at 9am by writing, ‘Hi’ and then at 10.30am I’m still at ‘Hi’.

"If you asked me what I was thinking of, or what I had done in between, I couldn’t tell you. I’m putting on a brave face a lot of the time to be honest with you, but I firmly believe the kids don’t want me to be sad.

"I would feel that I was a happy dad and there’s still a sort of pursuit of happiness. If you see me tweeting or putting a picture of the kids up, it’s me seeking some happiness.”

Andrew still lives in the family home in Newcastle, surrounded by memories that so often take him take him back in time. “The loss is always there,” he said.

“Anything I do about the kids will trigger a memory and you just get lost in the memory. If it’s a certain photo, I get lost thinking of the day it was taken, how happy it was. I miss them, of course I miss them. I will always miss them.”

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