Warnings to check on elderly after third death
NEIGHBOURS were urged last night to check on the vulnerable and elderly after the cold weather claimed the life of a third pensioner.
Mayo farmer Peter Irwin (85) was found dead just yards from his home in Derryhillagh in Kilmurry, a rural area near Ballina.
His body was discovered at 2pm on Saturday by gardai, who believe his death was as a result of a fall in the current freezing weather conditions.
It is understood that he had been walking up a road near his home to tend to sheep when he slipped and fell.
The death brings to three the number of elderly people whose tragic deaths have been linked with the sub-zero temperatures covering the country.
Last week the body of Tom Connolly (78) was found at the footpath leading to his house in the Lui na Greine housing estate in Claremorris, Mayo.
It is believed he may have perished because of the Arctic conditions.
In the same week, Donal O'Connell (81), from Doona in Milford, Co Cork, died from suspected hypothermia after falling in a field at Corrough, near Charleville.
Gardai believe he may have attempted to turn his car in a field when it got stuck.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has insisted that it is "too early" for the elderly to venture out on frozen footpaths to get food and fuel supplies as they could suffer severe fractures if they fell.
Age Action, a charity representing the elderly, has urged the public to visit older neighbours and relatives and bring them the supplies they need.
It has also teamed up with Muintir na Tire and the Society of St Vincent de Paul to run a helpline service for older people who cannot contact anybody and who may be running short of urgent supplies.
The warnings come as the Severe Weather Co-ordination Committee appealed for people to exercise extreme caution on icy footpaths this weekend.
Locals last night expressed their shock at the death of Mr Irwin, who had previously lived with his 80-year-old sister until her death last year.
It is understood his niece recently telephoned the pensioner to warn him about the treacherous conditions on roads and urged him to be careful.
"He was very well known and went to Mass every Sunday. He always came into town in his tractor," said one local.
"He was a lovely soul and always cheerful."
Yesterday local Fine Gael TD Michael Ring urged neighbours to ensure the elderly were safe after the death of Mr Irwin.
"It is a terrible tragedy. I am calling on everyone to look after the elderly until the weather improves," he said.
Gardai said a post-mortem would be conducted on Mr Irwin's body today.
His remains will then be moved from Leonard's Funeral Home in Ballina to Kilmurry Church at 8.30pm tonight. His funeral will take place at midday tomorrow in Kilmurry Church.