Andrew McGinley: ‘What gets me out of bed is my love for them’

Father of children who were killed vows to keep going so he can keep their memories alive

Andrew McGinley with his three children Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3). ‘My mantra is, “I know that they wouldn’t want me to be sad. They’d want me to be happy.”’

Andrew McGinley with his three children Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3). ‘My mantra is, “I know that they wouldn’t want me to be sad. They’d want me to be happy.”’

 

“For me what happened to the kids was an act of insanity. I can’t see it any other way. I can’t understand it any other way,” says Andrew McGinley, the father of Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3), whose mother Deirdre Morley was found not guilty of their murder by reason of insanity in the Central Criminal Court on Thursday.

In the well-kept home in Newcastle, Co Dublin, they shared as a family before their world shattered on January 24th, 2020, the children’s presence is still everywhere. They are in the completed Lego sets displayed in Perspex boxes on the windowsill, the paintings on the wall, bean bags in the front room that he recently had repaired and refilled – because he could not bear to part with them. They are in the Marvel jigsaw on the kitchen table that the boys never got to finish. It went awry after Carla tried to help with it, he remembers with a sad smile.

He has begun to distribute some of their toys to people who might benefit from them, but there are certain things he has held on to. He has kept a small pile of toys to give in time to their mother Deirdre, or “Dee” as he still calls her.

“There’s a lot of emotions, there’s a lot of difficult and complicated emotions. But for me, I want to live a positive life.”

He has to pause for a moment.

“And I want to do that, you know, in order to keep their memories alive . . . Because you could get could get swallowed up by everything else and at times I do,” he says, his voice breaking again.

“My mantra is, ‘I know that they wouldn’t want me to be sad. They’d want me to be happy.’ So yeah, sometimes I have to remind myself that . . . I want to move forward positively.”

This week has been hard, but “the trial for me was a process that had to happen. For me, nothing is more difficult than finding your three children dead,” he says.

In a statement issued after the verdict, he said he was no closer to understanding why his children had died. What he does know is that their mother loved them. The court heard repeatedly that they were “very, very deeply loved” and “cherished”.

“I can see now, Dee, she didn’t want me to know the full extent of her illness. And certainly for her family as well, she wanted to put her best foot forward,” he says.

“You’re sitting in the courtroom, you’re listening to some of the counselling sessions she had with the professional services, and you’re seeing a totally different person, and you’re hearing about a totally different person. So I think the two parties needed to come together, the professional services and the support circle. I would be convinced had that happened, that Conor, Darragh and Carla would be alive today.”

He now wants an inclusive investigation into her diagnosis, treatment and medication prior to the family tragedy to help the family “understand the insanity” that took his children’s lives.

The court heard that his wife was diagnosed as suffering from a moderate depressive illness prior to the children’s deaths. The psychiatrists who gave evidence before the court came to slightly differing conclusions regarding her diagnosis. One, Brenda Wright, diagnosed her with bipolar affective disorder type II. Mary Davoren said it was difficult to diagnose her but “at a minimum she suffered from a recurring depressive disorder”.

Within a few weeks of her admission to the Central Mental Hospital in January 2020, Deirdre Morley felt back to the “real me” on an anti-psychotic that she described as a “wonder drug”.

“It would make sense to involve families more in the care of anybody with a mental health illness, because you are relying on responses that can possibly be skewed by the illness. For us as a family, we’re sitting in the courtroom, we were listening to the evidence from the two expert witnesses and we’ve just ended up with more questions than at the start of the trial,” he says.

“When we look at the medical records, we can see flags raised and we’ve just been left with questions. I have been in touch with Dee, and I’ve met Dee, but I’m not going to comment further.”

He says “the trial was never going to give me the answers I needed, it was an act of insanity I’ve accepted that . . . I don’t think you can come to any other conclusion.”

But what he wants is for “the professional services who were treating Dee, over the last couple of years prior to the children dying, to meet with me and the Morley family, so that we can understand. We’re left with an awful lot of questions that this trial was never going to answer, but we need those answers . . . We all thought she was getting the best care, and we hope that she was, but we have questions.”

He wants lessons learned about the need for a “more inclusive and collaborative approach with families. I would strongly recommend to anybody who has a loved one within the care of the mental health services, they need to get in there and become an advocate for their care, they need to be aware of their treatment, their medication, all the facts, everything.”

But for now, he is focused on “living a positive life” for the children.

This has meant fulfilling promises he made to the children. In Conor’s case that was a promise to help him set up a YouTube channel. Conor was “quiet enough” but creative and funny. He remembers a day he spent with Conor not long before he died, noticing “he was turning into a wee man . . . he was a smart kid and a sensible kid and he had such a great sense of humour.”

He promised seven-year-old Darragh he would start coaching Rathcoole boys football team, something he has done. He is surprised whenever he is asked if it is painful to be around his sons’ friends. “It’s funny that people would think that way. I enjoy it.”

Darragh was funny, a mover and shaker. Last summer he met a friend of Darragh’s in Rathcoole. “As kids do, they don’t hold back. His friend asked me, ‘do you miss Darragh?’ I says, ‘I do. Indeed I do’. And I says, ‘how about yourself? Do you miss him?’ And he goes, ‘yeah, we have nobody to organise the games anymore at school’.” It was a bittersweet moment to find out something about his son he had never known. Now, partly inspired by this conversation, he plans to set up a charity called As Darragh Did, raising funds for community initiatives, doing things like organising swimming lessons and sponsoring [sports] kit.

As for Carla, “she could have bought and sold the world”, he says; his eyes filling with tears again. He promised her that he would make a snowman with her one day. In her name, he’s going to organise a snowman colouring competition. “Because they died so young, maybe in a way it’s giving them life.”

For all the unfathomable depths of his grief, it gives him solace to know that his children knew they were loved and that no matter how busy he was with work, he always made time for them. “If you have kids, they’re your family. All five of you. I used to try and get home to take my last call at home,” he says.

“If I saw them on the trampoline, I’d go out and join them . . . I don’t think there was a playground in the whole of Dublin that we hadn’t visited at one stage or another. We were always doing stuff.”

In his darkest moments – and there are many, like Father’s Day, which was for him the lowest point – what gives him hope is “thinking about the kids and doing all these projects. Some days, the alarm goes off, and I try to keep a routine going, and what gets me out of bed is my love for them, quite simply.”

The other things that has provided some comfort over the past year has been the kindness of other people. He also understands that some people have found it too difficult to be around him.

“There’s people that I haven’t seen since the funeral. People who would have been here for the wake, I haven’t seen them since. And you know, I’m okay with that. And I just think maybe they feel awkward, or maybe they don’t know what to say. Nobody does. A lot of people would have said to me, ‘I don’t know what to say here’. And I always responded the same way. ‘So let’s start with hello. And we’ll take it from there.’ ”

Somebody sent him a “grief graph”, outlining the various stages that they thought he would experience. But for him, there are no neat stages, there is just trying to find a way to keep going. “We’re all so different. And we will all deal with it in our own way. And I do know that some people may think I should be curled up in a ball instead of being on Twitter. But I’m on Twitter because Conor wanted to be online, and wanted to be there. So I’m trying to do that for him.”

He will keep going so that he can keep the children’s memories alive. “To do that, it is the charity, As Darragh Did, it’s Conor’s Clips (the YouTube account), it is the snowman for Carla, it is the books. That’s what I have to do. And that’s what I want to do. My mantra is, ‘I know that they wouldn’t want me to be sad. They’d want me to be happy.’ Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.”