Columnists

Her name was Clodagh - she was a victim, her killer was not

The coffin of Clodagh Hawe arrives at Saint Mary's Church in Castlerahan, Co Cavan, where the funeral of Liam, 13, Niall, 11 and Ryan, 6 and her husband Alan took place.

THE backlash following some of the fairly appalling early reporting of the murder of a mother and her three children in Cavan by a knife wielding maniac has by now - I hope - stimulated some real debate about domestic violence and the kind of men who beat and murder their partners.

An outpouring of sympathy for a man who acted savagely but was eulogised as a 'pillar of the community' was quite frankly sickening.

Clodagh Hawe and her three sons Liam, Niall and Ryan were initially treated like collateral damage in the life and death of Alan Hawe.

Women's Aid had to release a statement reminding people that half of all women murdered in Ireland are killed by a partner or ex partner.

On this occasion the killer murdered not just his wife but wiped out an entire family, apparently leaving a note saying they couldn't cope without him. That wasn't a choice he offered them.

Such was the backlash on social media with the #HerNameWasClodagh trending that journalists were forced to defend the reason why the murdered mother of three wasn't initially pictured in the coverage.

It turns out that journalists spent two days knocking on doors and making phone calls trying to find a picture of her.

In an age where it's almost impossible not to leave a digital footprint that alone raises questions.

We've been given details of every good deed killer Alan Hawe ever engaged in, his work with the GAA and the church, his `pillar of the community' status.

You would think there should have been ample pictures of Clodagh out and about with her 'respected' husband.

But no, she was a footnote in his life, maybe she was just camera shy, or maybe it's an insight into the controlling behaviour of a husband who liked to keep her in the shadows.

As disturbing as the praise poured on a man who murdered his family with a knife and an axe was, the rush to justify his actions was even more sickening.

Despite gardai saying he'd no history of mental illness amateur psychiatrists on social media decided he was a victim and deserved sympathy.

We were even treated to lengthy discussions about whether society was doing enough to help men talk about their feelings.

Since when did the slaughter of an entire family become a debate about the feelings of their murderer?

Had he killed his family but not himself would he still be a victim of mental illness?

I've friends who lived through years of domestic abuse, one a successful business woman kept it from her friends and family for years.

It was only when she was left in hospital with serious injuries that she stopped covering up for her partner.

He was handsome, professionally successful and publicly attentive. She had spent years being told how lucky she was to have such an adoring partner while secretly hiding what was happening behind closed doors, partly out of fear, partly of of shame, stigma and embarrassment.

He had to almost kill her before the truth finally came out.

Unless you've known someone at the receiving end of a controlling and violent man it's impossible to understand the fear of being labelled a victim or being judged as weak or stupid, or worse still not believed.

Given the almost iconic status bestowed on a multiple murderer in Cavan last week is it any wonder women suffer in silence.

Would the people who had Alan Hawe on a pedestal have believed Clodagh if she had spoken out?

In the Ireland of our mothers women who tried to escape violent marriages were told to go home to their abusive husbands, 'you made your bed', 'you must be a bad wife', 'stop antagonising him'.

Marital rape was only criminalised in Ireland in 1990.

So let us remember her name was Clodagh, her children were called Liam, Niall and Ryan.

They were victims, their killer was not.

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