Boys' murders shook village 'like an earthquake'
'All we can do is cry with the family,' says shocked parish priest
BALLINKILLEN would be a quiet pocket of rural Ireland on the best of days. It's tucked away down a twisty road, a couple of miles from Bagenalstown, on the way to nowhere in particular.
Huddled along a short stretch are the eternal trinity of Irish country life – the church, the community centre and the GAA club.
Such is the modest size of the village that there isn't even a pub, just a small shop called Tim's which sells milk, newspapers and sweets for the wee ones.
But yesterday wasn't the best of days for Ballinkillen. It was the very worst of times.
The news that the two missing boys, 10-year old Eoghan and his little brother, five-year old Ruairi, had been found dead in the boot of their father Sanjeev Chada's car on Monday afternoon had shaken the family home "like an earthquake", according to Bagenalstown parish priest Fr Declan Foley.
And so the silence that settled over this close-knit community in the aftermath of the seismic shock was more profound than simply the stillness of a bustle-free landscape.
Rippling out from the earthquake were waves of deep grief mingled with numbness and disbelief. In the wake of such an incomprehensible tragedy, doors remained shut and the roads were empty of people walking about.
The only activity was to be found up the narrow lane where Sanjeev and Kathleen and their boys lived in their gleaming white dream home which was now patrolled by gardai and filled with protective friends and grieving family.
Kathleen's clan are rooted deep in the soil of Ballinkillen. Her father, William Murphy, is a local farmer. Her mother, Patsy, is a sacristan in St Lazarian's Church and a devoted granny to the two boys.
William and Patsy live in a white-fronted house right across the road from the graveyard where Eoghan and Ruairi will be laid to rest.
In the middle of the village is the national school that Eoghan and Ruairi attended. It's a cheerful building, pale yellow walls and window boxes of flowers greet the 100 pupils who walk through its doors.
Inside, the classrooms are a riot of books and murals and paintings by the children. In one happy collage of photos there's a poignant shot of little Ruairi, a shy smile on his face, as he stands at a table ringed by busy classmates.
Next to the collage is a table bearing candles, statues and two books of condolences, a stark contrast to the happy decor. How all the oh-so-young classmates of the murdered brothers will struggle to understand what happened to their friends is a painful question to pluck at the hardest of heartstrings.
In the early afternoon, the school's principal, Michelle Doorley, walked to the gate to read a short statement to the media, sorrow etched on her face.
"Eoghan was going into fourth class and Ruairi was going into senior infants in our school and they will be greatly missed by all those who knew them," she said, her voice wavering with emotion.
A little earlier, Fr Foley stopped on his way into the school to talk to local parents and described the moment he and the family learned the devastating news that the boys were dead.
"There was an incredible sense of grief, helplessness. There was devastation all round. What can you say except cry with the family?" he said.
"That was all that anybody could do. The grief and the emotions were heartbreaking."
Nobody knows how to react. Nobody has any answers to the agonised one-word question, Why?
One day, two excited boys were heading off to go bowling with their dad. The next day, they were discovered lifeless in a car boot on the western seaboard, far from home.
Why did this tragedy happen to this small, hitherto peaceful corner of Co Carlow?
As the residents of Ballinkillen reel in the aftershocks, the silence deepens, broken only by the mournful lowing of the cattle.
There are no words, there are no answers. There are only questions.
By Lise Hand Ballinkillen