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Double tragedy as two O hEithir siblings pass away in same week

It is surely the most extraordinary and tragic coincidence for two relatively young adult siblings to pass away within the same week in separate deaths.

But this was what was witnessed this weekend, as a large crowd attended the joint funeral mass held in Dublin yesterday for sister and brother Mairin Ni Eithir, 50, and Aindriu O hEithir, 46, who both died of cancer.

They were children of the late broadcaster, poet and author Breandan O hEithir and there was an added poignancy as mourners recalled his own untimely death in 1990 at the age of 60.

Aindriu was a data communications engineer and a married father of three sons, and Mairin was a well-known figure in the arts world and had been living in Rennes, France. Both had inherited and carried on the rich cultural tradition of their family and household, where according to mourners, multiple languages could be heard simultaneously in their busy family home in Taney Road, Dundrum.

Their mother, Catherine, was originally from Colombia and among the mourners in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook were many from the worlds of media, academia and the Irish language community, including many other Gaelgeoir families. The mass and ceremony was bilingual.

Mairin, who worked as a commissioning editor in the film industry and also organised a number of successful arts festivals in France, was first diagnosed with cancer five years ago. She died unexpectedly but peacefully in her sleep in hospital as she was due to undergo further chemotherapy treatment. Her body was cremated in France and brought home to Ireland by relatives for yesterday's final obsequies.

Last Wednesday her brother Aindriu died at our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last August.

He is survived by his wife Catherine and sons, Padraic, Colm and Iain, and some children from their schools formed a colour party outside the church.

Despite the profound sadness, their full lives were celebrated and fond memories exchanged, not least of their early family life and their late father Breandan, a lively and spirited writer, who was the author of acclaimed works such as Over the Bar, about the GAA, and The Begrudger's Guide to Irish Politics. His novel Lig Sinn i gCathu, published in 1976, was the only Irish-language book ever to top Ireland's hardback best-seller list.

Translated into English as Lead Us Into Temptation the book was set in a university town in 1948, the year Ireland declared itself a republic and withdrew from the Commonwealth. Mr O hEithir was born on Inishmore in the Aran Islands and his maternal uncle was the Irish writer Liam O'Flaherty.

There was an added poignancy in that the Donnybrook church was also the setting for the marriage of Catherine to Breandan in 1961.

She now survives him and their two deceased children, but also has the continued support and love of her remaining children, Ruairi, Brian and Maria.

Sunday Independent