Eurovision winner recalls homeless brother who drowned

Charlie McGettigan said his brother Declan ‘wasted life’ on drug addiction

Eurovision winner Charlie McGettigan said his homeless brother, who died in 2007, was “too happy with his drugs” to change his lifestyle.

Declan McGettigan (52) drowned in a pond in Swindon seven years ago and his body was not found for nine months. He had lived on the streets of the English town for years.

Charlie McGettigan said his brother was a charming, handsome rogue who used to go to music festivals such as Glastonbury every year. “He was a beautiful guy. He was 6ft 2ins. All the women were dying about him and he used all that. He survived on his charm.”

However, his drug-related lifestyle caught up with him and he died young, in August 2007. His body was found in June 2008.


“It was a way of life for these people,” Mr McGettigan said. “Declan’s main thing every morning was to get enough money for his drugs . It was a wasted life but I knew so many people like that. That’s the way the world is.”

Mr McGettigan said he had tried to get his brother off drugs, but the decision was Declan’s. He became homeless in 2005 when police evicted him from his flat which had been turned into a crack den.

Speaking on the RTÉ Sunday with Miriam show, Mr McGettigan said his brother was addicted to Benylin cough medicine with the opiate codeine in it. He drank bottles of it every day.

In 2008 Declan McGettigan disappeared and was later found ill on the streets and taken to hospital. He discharged himself and walked into a pond in the middle of the night. He was not seen for nine months until his body was discovered in just 18ins of water.

“When he disappeared . . . we had kind of expected it,” said Mr McGettigan. “He would disappear for weeks on end and then he would just turn up. This had been the story of Declan’s life. His death was not as big a shock as if it had come completely out of the blue.”

Mr McGettigan thinks his brother’s troubles began when their father emigrated to Britain when Declan was 15.

Their father had run into trouble financially in his Ballyshannon shop and was making very little money despite working long hours. Charlie McGettigan said his father could not deal with his son’s addiction and did not understand it.

Declan may have been affected by the upheaval at a young age, Charlie suggested, but he also said: “As a kid, he always knew the easy way out of doing things. He was always a bit of a maverick.”

Charlie McGettigan said he had brought his brother to his home in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, but Declan had used his time in Leitrim to shoplift.

“He ran riot. He would take anything out of your house. He’d be telling my own children about the best way to steal a bottle of whiskey in a supermarket. He ended up begging of course.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times