A FATHER who drowned his three-year-old daughter before drowning himself will be laid out side by side with his "little princess" in a west Cork church.
The coffins of Martin McCarthy (50) and his daughter Clarissa (3) will be placed beside each other in St Mary's Church in Schull. They will be buried after 2pm requiem Mass.
The father and daughter were also side by side last night in the family's isolated farmhouse home at Foilnamuc, Ballydehob, in advance of today's funeral.
It also emerged that Mr McCarthy, a farmer and Fine Gael activist, had a lifelong fear of water despite the fact that his farm overlooked the sea at Audley Cove.
He also survived a lightning strike a number of years ago.
The double-tragedy was discovered when Clarissa's mother, Rebecca Bailey-Cejnar (26), found a note left by Mr McCarthy in the family home on Tuesday evening and was so horrified by its contents she immediately alerted gardai.
A massive search operation involving gardai, the RNLI and the Irish Coastguard located both bodies within three hours.
Clarissa's body was discovered on the shore of Audley Cove, while her father's body was discovered some 200 metres offshore near a rocky island.
Both were pronounced dead at the scene and tests indicated both died from drowning. The note left by Mr McCarthy was lengthy and exceptionally emotional. It set out his tragic plans for his daughter and himself that night.
The two bodies were returned to the Foilnamuc farmhouse from Cork University Hospital at 2am yesterday following the completion of post-mortem examinations.
A procession of neighbours, friends and relatives called to the house to express their sympathy to Rebecca, her sister-in-law, Hester, and brother-in-law, Billy. Rebecca's mother, Linda Jean Bailey, yesterday flew into Ireland with her sister to support her heartbroken daughter.
Ballydehob curate Fr Joseph Spillane issued a special appealed for forgiveness at morning Mass. "Give forgiveness where forgiveness is due," he said.
Fr Spillane spoke briefly of the tragedy and of the vulnerability of little Clarissa. He asked people to remember the families in their prayers.
Fr Spillane said he didn't know the family well but had played cards with Mr McCarthy in the local hall on a number of occasions and considered him to be a diligent, hardworking man, deeply interested in farming.
He said it was hard to offer comfort to the local community when it was struck by tragedy but all he could do was be sympathetic to the family as a Christian.
"People here are neighbourly and are generally interested in one another and it's only Christian charity to be nice to people in difficulties," Fr Spillane told the Irish Independent.
"People who were close to him in life remain close to him in difficulty and I have confidence in them. It's friendship that's important when people are consoling others, particularly in tragedies like this," he added.
Rebecca's devastated sister, Jessica, said their family was deeply shaken by the deaths which they heard about through a "horrible" phone call on Tuesday night. "I don't really know what happened. I don't know the circumstances. I am very close with my sister and have visited west Cork a few times.
"I don't know much about Martin. I know he was older than her. We are all pretty shaken up over this," Jessica said.
Rebecca's father, Harry Cejnar, said the family cannot understand how the deaths occurred.
"It just doesn't make any sense at all," Mr Cejnar said. "I don't understand it at all – I still can't believe it.
"Rebecca and Martin were good parents. I hadn't heard of any problems between them at all. I just don't understand how this could have happened.
"Something must have gone wrong. Clarissa was a great kid. How could anybody hurt a little girl like that."