The blame game

25 April 2007

Those of who in Ireland will have heard about the Dunne family tragedy. Others among you probably haven’t.

It has emerged that when the dead couple, Adrian and Ciara Dunne, visited an undertaker in New Ross last Friday, they ordered four coffins, headstones and a burial plot, for themselves and their daughters, Shania (3) and Leanne (5). Preliminary post mortem results suggest Mr Dunne was hanged, that his wife was strangled or choked, and that the two children were smothered.

The visit to the undertakers was brought to the attention of the Garda last Friday and the HSE on Saturday. The Garda sent a priest to assess the family’s wellbeing on Friday and he was assured by the Dunnes that they were not suicidal. No Garda member went to the Dunne home. The Garda also passed details of the case to the HSE.

And of course bloggers are blogging about it. Some are laying blame. Finger-pointing or asking why. It is almost impossible to answer the why question. For a mother and father to decide that the best thing for their children was death? It is impossible to comprehend.

This post at The Public, the Private, and Everything In Between it struck me that it could almost have mentioned the Dunnes as well.

How private should private be, and who can ever possibly take it upon themselves to turn the private public? We are living in a precarious time, a time when both spheres are bleeding into each other and the line of demarcation is wavering. There is great potential here. Either we will become a society who ostracizes even more violently those who are different from us, suspect of every quiet student who doesn’t dress like the rest, suspicious of any husband or wife who doesn’t drag his or her child to every Saturday soccer game, or maybe, just maybe, we’ll become a society responsible to something greater than ourselves

After all some commenters seem to believe that the gardaí­ should have intervened in the Dunne case and removed the family. But all they really had to go on was second hand information. It may not even have been a formal report from the undertaker. Maybe she knew the garda and mentioned it to the gardaÃí unofficially. I don’t know. But if the social services had already been there that week. If the rest of the Dunne family believed there was no danger would it really have been acceptable to traumatise children and remove them from their parents based on no evidence? With the benefit of hindsight it certainly seems that they should have. But if you didn’t know the horrible results, isn’t it possible that maybe the parents were overly morbid and worried about the family dying in a road accident?

I do however believe that the HSE need to be open over the weekend. If they had made contact on the Saturday then possibly the family could have been saved. Then again, maybe not? Whatever the outcome of the various inquiries into this event I think that we should remember JL Pagano‘s comments:

On last night’s edition I seem to recall the most telling evidence of all three hearses carrying four coffins. This tells me we should let the family grieve, and if any pressure is to be applied anywhere, it’s to those responsible for setting up a public enquiry in a reasonable yet respectful time period so our debate can be a properly informed one.

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5 Responses

  1. Harlequin says:

    I completely agree with your analysis Fencicles. Playing the blame game started so quickly after the tragedy. And I just couldn't see where exactly the fault lay – it seemed to me that an alarm was raised and several attempts were made to deal with it, from a few different angles.

    There are so many horrible sad things about this tragedy but the one that I keep coming back to is the image of that family sitting in an undertakers officer, ordering their own coffins and specifying white coffins with a pink stripe for their little girls. And then the dawning horror of the poor undertaker hearing them say that they wanted the girls buried in football shirts… and Dora the Explorer jeans. That poor woman – she tried to avert the tragedy but it happened anyway.

  2. Sally says:

    …if you didn’t know the horrible results, isn’t it possible that maybe the parents were overly morbid and worried about the family dying in a road accident?

    There are families who think about those things…after my grandmother died my mom started thinking ahead about plots for the whole family. It must have sounded creepy to the people who heard her!

  3. Having moved abroad I'm a little behind the news at home and only came across this story through this blog and other blogs. Its interesting to see the difference between the standard news sources, RTE etc. and peoples opinions via blogs. I think I'll stick to reading blogs from now on. A much more rounded view of everything.

  4. Fence says:

    H, the undertaker did her best, but I'm sure she, and others, are still wondering what they could have done differently.

    Yeah Sally, it isn't really so strange to plan ahead is it? Wills aren't seen as overly morbid, so is there really a difference in deciding where you want to be buried. Although in this case the plans were so advanced that it did arouse suspicion.

    Swiss Job, I think that often the media do like to paint things in black and white. And there are plenty of blogs that do the same. The editorial in the Irish Times was quite balanced I thought.

  5. Harlequin says:

    Exactly – I could just imagine her blaming herself over the whole thing when really, what more could she have done? At least cops and social services and the like are trained to deal with this sort of thing to a certain extent. But it's pretty unusual for an undertaker to have an opportunity to save a life.

    My parents won't make a will – think dad thinks it's really morbid or something. I don't give a frakk about it on a money POV – intestacy rules sort things out reasonably enough – but I reckon it's better to lay out things like my bro getting the family silver (yes, we have heirloom silver) and who gets my momma's different pieces of jewellery and stuff – just to avoid the rowing that I've seen happen over things with sentimental value.