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Parents' joy as haven of peace opens its doors

IRELAND'S first children's hospice was built by adults who had children firmly in mind.

Bright flowers, tactile objects and quirky shapes mean that this place doesn't look like a hospital.

It doesn't have the clinical smell of a hospital either.

But behind the fun and colourful visage, vital medical equipment is stored away and all of the surfaces can be disinfected easily.

And it doesn't just focus on children's needs -- parents and teenagers are catered for too, according to Sarah Meagher, fundraising manager for LauraLynn House, part of the Sunshine Care Home in Foxrock, Dublin.

"When we asked teenagers what they wanted from a hospice, they said they just wanted to close the door and not be disturbed," Ms Meagher said.

"So we have this music room -- it is double sound proofed and when finished will have really loud drum kits, guitars and instruments."

Parents have separate en-suite rooms with a kitchenette area and living room to meet and talk and relax.

The house uses the most of natural light and all of the bedrooms open to the outdoor space. A little curved track takes parents and children on walks around the landscaped gardens.

"It's about making the most of their short and precious lives," Ms Meagher added.

The most poignant room at the centre is The Butterfly Suite.

Tiny pink butterflies decorate the duvet cover and just like any child's room it is decorated in neutral colours, with simple furniture and some cuddly toys.

But this is the place many parents will say their last goodbyes to their children.

The child will be laid out and can be waked in this room, if this is what the parents wish.

A separate entrance allows the hearse to arrive discreetly through the grounds.

"When a child passes away, we put a butterfly emblem out around the house, so that people know to be respectful," Ms Meagher explained.

Brendan and Jane McKenna are the drivers behind this massive project -- the first of its kind in the republic.

The parents dedicated the house to their two children -- Laura who died aged 4 following surgery to repair a heart defect and her big sister Lynn, who died less than two years later age 15 from leukaemia.

At the opening, Jane said: "This is to remember our girls. No doubt Laura and Lynn are flying around here. We love them and miss them every minute of the day."