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Taoiseach's grief Micheál Martin reveals trauma he suffered after tragic deaths of two of his kids

'The first three weeks were a blur after Leana’s passing...Life was not meant to hit you so hard'


Taoiseach Micheal Martin has reflected on the loss of his two children

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has reflected on the loss of his two children

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has reflected on the loss of his two children

Micheál Martin has revealed how his family helped him and his wife Mary in the aftermath of the deaths of two of their children.

Reflecting on the loss of his two children, Ruairí, in 1999, to cot death after five weeks, and Leana at the age of seven, the Taoiseach told how his family were "there for us during that very, very difficult time."

“Ruairí died of a cot death after five weeks, which was utterly devastating,” Mr Martin said.

“A trauma of that kind never hit me until then, so your certainties kind of ebb away a bit. What I always say is that (his other children) Micheál Aodh and Aoibhe took us through that, because when you have children and you endure trauma like that, you have to get up the following day.

“In the aftermath of that you’re obviously knocked out: you’re very, very down. You feel for quite a while that your spirits will not lift. It was April 1 he passed away. The birds are singing, but you don’t want to hear that at six in the morning, and yet that’s what you hear. I thought I’d never say that I hate the sound of the birds singing. But that passes in the medium term.”

Mr Martin told The Irish Times: “routine and getting back with life is the only way. You can’t just stay down. You have to get back up again, and you have to go through the routines of life. There’s always new experiences come in life that will lift you. It’s not easy, and you don’t forget, and you live with it, but you have to try and pick yourself up.

“With Micheál Aodh and Aoibhe, I remember getting up on those immediate mornings after Ruairí, and they had children’s games to play and you’re playing with them and you’re almost going through it mechanically, but you’re still doing it, you’re getting the breakfast. They probably don’t realise, but it was they pulled us through that.”

The Taoiseach and his wife Mary went on to have two more children, Cillian and Leana but when Leana died unexpectedly at the age of seven, her death caused him to question everything.

“It was an awful time. We didn’t expect it. It was unexpected even though she had challenges, cardiac issues. People were very good to us. The country was going through a terrible time as well – the economic crash at the same time.

“The first three weeks were a blur after Leana’s passing. Life was not meant to hit you so hard. After Leana, yes, I did weigh it up whether I’d carry on or not. I’ll reflect on that 'til the day I die: why do you do things? I’ve a view that it’s a certain inner thing that you keep going.

“There’s two choices in life: you either continue to stay down or you get back up again. It was very difficult at the time.

“I didn’t know what the future would hold for me then. The idea of quitting just wasn’t there, and I think in the end it was the right thing to do, because it gave the children and everybody meaning in life. You carry on.

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"And again I always recall those early months afterwards. Sport was important – the kids playing sports, you’re going back out to watch them. These simple things; you’re back out meeting other people.

“What is very important in those situations is your wider family, who were fantastic. They pulled us through. Brothers, my twin brother especially, and Mary’s sister, Ann, they were there for us during that very, very difficult time.

"And then your club matters, just getting back to those simple things, parents, Mary’s friends calling to her. Getting out exercising, getting out walking. Doing simple things.

“Immediately in the years afterwards, we were very conscious, and certainly the kids were, they’d go, ‘Do your politics, but don’t bring Leana and Ruairí into it.’

“Even now I’m self-conscious about that,” he says uncomfortably. “There’s always been a bit of us that’s held the privacy thing. On the other hand, other families go through bereavement, and you can help those. At times you may be in a position to help, to talk to families. But everyone goes through it differently. There’s no one way of dealing with grief or trauma."

"You will always say that you have the kids that you lost,” he added.

But describing himself as a father of five “can be awkward for people”, he admits. “You don’t want to make it awkward for other people, because they may not know, but you don’t want to say someone wasn’t part of our lives and our family.”

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