Jonathan Walters speaks about the death of his mother when he was a child

Ireland striker: ‘You ask me how I deal with it. I locked it away. That’s how I deal with it’

Republic of Ireland striker Jonathan Walters has spoken of the lifelong trauma that his mother's death has caused him since her death from cancer when he was just 11.

Walters (34) broke down and cried during a BBC interview in which he recounted the circumstances in which Helen Brady, who was from Dublin, died in the mid-1990s.

She was a nurse who emigrated to Liverpool and married his father James Walters. The family home was in Moreton, Merseyside.

Walters spoke of how he had become aware that his mother was ill when his Irish grandmother would come over to look after him and his three siblings.


The family were due to go on a rare holiday to Spain when her health deteriorated further.

A week before she died, Walters’ father told him and his two brothers, Aidan and James, that “your mum is not going to be around for much longer”.

Walters recalled: “I took myself off and probably would have cried for six or seven hours. Even now I probably get emotional about it. It’s very tough.”

He was sent to school by his father the day after his mother died as his father did not know how to deal with the bereavement.

“I come back into the class and my mates are there, ‘are you alright?’” Walters recalled.

“You pretend you are. I was in year six in school. You’re one of the big boys in school. You’re a popular boy. You put on a show. From that point you put up a wall and nobody knows you.”

Walters gave the interview to BBC Radio5Live on International Women’s Day and in advance of Mother’s Day on Sunday.

The interviewer Tony Livesey lost his mother when he was 13. Livesey said he could not understand how Walters could go to school the day after his mother died.

“You asked me how I deal with it,” an emotional Walters told Livesey. “I don’t deal with it.”

Walters said it was not until recent years that he could speak about his mother’s death. “No one asked me. They don’t go there. That’s why I don’t get asked. I lock it away. That’s how I deal with it. I did that from the day she passed away.”

Walters declared for the Republic of Ireland in 2003 in honour of his mother. He has played 51 times for Ireland scoring 14 goals including critical ones in the successful 2016 European Championship qualification campaign.

He currently plays for Burnley, but has been out injured for months.

Walters said there are still things that he wants to find out from his Irish family and he hopes to do so after he retires.

He described football as a selfish sport and that he lives in a bubble of training and playing.

“Everything is geared around me. I want to know a lot of things about my mother,” he said.

“When I go over to Ireland, I’ll meet up with my cousins and everybody is still close. You try and see as many of them as you can during the international break.

“I didn’t realise until a couple of years ago that my one of my aunties was the closest to her.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times