'enormous shock' | 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin opens up about ‘traumatic’ deaths of two of his children

“These things were not meant to happen to us.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaks about the death of his children in new The Meaning Of Life

Neasa Cumiskey and Mick CarolanSunday World Video Team

Micheál Martin opens up about losing two of his five children in a personal interview airing on RTÉ One this weekend.

The Taoiseach and his wife Mary were left devastated in 1999 when their son Ruairí died of a cot death at just five weeks old.

And tragedy struck again in 2010 when daughter Léana unexpectedly passed away shortly before her eighth birthday.

The couple share three other children - Micheál Aodh, Aoibhe, and Cillian - but have never recovered from the “trauma” of losing Ruairí and Léana.

Speaking candidly about the loss with Joe Duffy on the first episode of the latest series of The Meaning of Life, Mr Martin said: “Ruairí’s death was just an enormous shock to your entire experience of life. I described earlier how life was very happy. We had a good family, father and mother were very good.

“These things were not meant to happen to us. The shock of Ruairí’s death – I can still remember the phone call in the early hours of the morning from Mary to say, ‘Ruairí’s been taken to the hospital, and I don’t think he’s going to make it’.

Micheal Martin

“It’s hard. All your certainties are gone in life. But Mary has a great philosophy of how each person would deal with grief and trauma differently and, I think, by and large, that has stood to us. We allow that space for each person in the family to deal with it differently.”

The Taoiseach hailed the community support from his local GAA club, Nemo Rangers, who his eldest son plays for, as a “great saviour” for his family after Léana’s death.

“During those terrible, traumatic times, you go back to your own oasis where people treat you like a 9-year-old or a 20-year-old.

“To them you’re not the Minister or the Taoiseach, you’re just Micheál.

“Sport was, to me, when I reflect back on that period, a great saviour.”

Mr Martin said that his experience of losing an infant was what drove him to vote in support of repealing the Eighth Amendment during the 2018 referendum.

He explained: “When I met those who had gone through fatal fetal abnormalities and had to go to England, and to bring back your child’s remains from England in the manner which they described it to me, I couldn’t stand over that having gone through what I went through. Personally, I just couldn’t.”

He said that a “certain Evangelical sort of fundamentalism” was to blame for Ireland’s outdated abortion laws in the past.

“I think we made mistakes in that area, being so judgmental from a political perspective and enshrining all that into constitutions and law.

“We should trust medicine more. My own experiences with medicine, with our children and everything, is that they’re there to do everything they can to help your family. They’re not there to do harm.”

The first episode of the new series of The Meaning of Life airs this Sunday, 4 September at 10.30pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player.

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