‘I knew him for 20 years ... I knew him but I didn’t know him’

Jury waited in a line and one by one they embraced Clodagh Hawe’s mother and sister

After delivering their verdicts on the deaths of three young boys and their parents, the actions of the jury, who had listened to harrowing evidence setting out how the Hawe family were killed, highlighted that this was no ordinary inquest.

With their difficult work done, they shuffled through the court, pushing past lawyers and gardaí. But instead of making for the door and the grey Co Cavan evening outside, they stopped to hug the bereaved family.

This was the reaction of a tight knit community in rural Ireland brought to its knees with shock and disbelief.

Even after two days of evidence, nobody could truly understand the horrible events that took the lives of mother and school teacher Clodagh Hawe (39) and her boys Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (6).


Several women of the jury waited in a line, and one by one they embraced Clodagh's mother Mary Coll and her sister Jacqueline Connolly.

In the aftermath of this tragedy last year much was made of Clodagh Hawe being written out of the story of what had happened. The social media campaign #hernamewasclodagh sprang up to cast light on “the invisible woman” as she was dubbed.

There was no forgetting her on Tuesday. Mary and Jacqueline made sure of that.

When Prof Harry Kennedy, clinical director of the Central Mental Hospital, gave evidence based on documents he had reviewed and said Alan Hawe was mentally troubled and had descended into psychotic symptoms at the time he killed his family, Clodagh was given a voice by her mother.

Speaking up from the body of the court, she asked Prof Kennedy, probably the pre-eminent voice in Irish psychiatry, about why his review was limited.

Ms Coll wanted to know why he didn’t consider speaking to people who knew Alan Hawe, rather than confining his analysis to a review of documents.

When her question wasn’t initially understood, or perhaps not heard properly in a court room with poor acoustics, she pressed the issue again.

In the end the coroner Dr Mary Flanagan said the manner in which Prof Kennedy had carried out his psychiatric postmortem was set by her as she had asked him to perform that function.

Dignified and respectful, but having firmly represented her daughter and three grandsons, Ms Coll wondered if any analysis could ever really make sense of what Alan Hawe did.

"I knew him for 20 years," she told Prof Kennedy across the court. "I knew him but I didn't know him."

Outside the coroner’s court, after the harrowing details had been formally recorded, Mary and Jacqueline were there once more to represent Clodagh and her boys.

Their statement, delivered to a media scrum, set aside any neat version of accounts that might include Alan Hawe as part of the same “tragedy” that had befallen all the family in equal measure, and at the same time.

Instead he was presented as the man who executed his family so callously, targeting his wife and eldest son first in case they might fight him off and save the two youngest boys.

The narrative of a man’s secret descent into mental illness that ultimately caused his actions was also swept away.

They said they knew a secret about Alan Hawe. They knew he was about to fall from grace at the time he decided to kill his family in a planned attack. And they said his marriage to Clodagh was also breaking up at that time.

Their lawyer delivered a strongly worded statement designed to take back the telling of the story of how Clodagh and the boys died.

Lest there be any confusion in their community in Co Cavan, or across the country, their words made it clear that Alan Hawe was no victim.

Their belief was that he had carefully thought through the murders of his family. And when the violence began it was savage.

The inquest concluded Alan Hawe murdered four people and then took his own life. His victims were his sons Liam, Niall and Ryan and their mother. Her name was Clodagh.