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Double deaths highlight rise in suicide rate

TWO funerals for suicide victims were held on the same day in the same Dublin church last week a stark indication of the spiralling number of Irish men taking their own lives.

Services for Tom Kane, the brother-in-law of Fianna Fail deputy GV Wright, and John O'Regan, brother of leading hotelier and publican Hugh O'Regan, were both held on Thursday at the Church of St Paul on the Cross, Mount Argus in Harold's Cross, Dublin.

Their deaths again threw a dismal spotlight on the quietly soaring suicide rates in this country, as hundreds of people a year find themselves alienated by a rapidly changing culture.

Mr Kane was married to Helen and had a daughter Laura, from his first marriage. He hanged himself at home in Walkinstown, Dublin last Sunday.

Mr O'Regan, known as Jack, was unmarried and lived with one of his three brothers. One of his brothers, Hugh, owns the luxury Morrison Hotel on Ormond Quay, as well as the Temple Bar and other bars and restaurants around Dublin under Thomas Read Holdings.

Jack is also survived by brothers, Paul and Declan, and four nephews.

Both of the men who died were in their mid-40s.

Parish priest Fr Frank Keevins said the two funerals had been hard to take and he described the circumstances of the deaths as "very sad and tragic".

"People are left with an awful lot of questions which are never going to be answered why, what, there are just so many answers to the questions," said the priest.

"It was very, very tough here last week. People tend to turn up in very big numbers in circumstances as tragic as these. We had a lot of family members and the church was very full.

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"But there's always a particular kind of atmosphere when it's a suicide, almost as if the whole congregation struggles with something," he said.

The suicide rate in Ireland has soared from under 200 in the mid-Seventies to about 450 by the turn of the millennium, and shows no sign of abating.

The majority of successful attempts 349 out of 439 in 1999 were carried out by men, with the 20 to 24 age group most at risk. Dublin accounts for the majority of cases, followed by Cork, Limerick and Galway.

John Connolly of the Irish Association of Suicidology said the Celtic Tiger had taken its toll on elements of Irishsociety.

He said: "When, for instance, the economy escalates at a fantastic rate over a short period of time, as it has here in Ireland, it can change people's relationship with society and cause the more vulnerable to take their own lives."

He also cited increasing educational and career expectations as sources of pressure, as well as rapid changes in religious practice.

Alcoholism and mental illness, such as depression and schizophrenia, also played their part, Mr Connolly said.

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