Terry Prone: Sheer scale of the Cork and Limerick horrors leaves us bewildered

Terry Prone

THE nation moved away from finance yesterday to ask more important questions than "Are we getting a bailout?" The people of this country stopped in their tracks, halted by the sheer scale of the murders in Limerick and Cork, wondering aloud at the actions of the two men, the two fathers involved.

"How could he do it?" people asked. "How could anyone do it?"

And answer came there none.

That lack of an answer leaves a harsh gap in our understanding. There is comfort in knowing. There's even a sort of comfort in knowing the worst, whether it's about money or a health diagnosis or the break up of a relationship.


Once we hit the wall of the worst, we're pretty good at working out points for the grappling hooks and beginning to climb it. But yesterday, no explanation for the horror visited on children was forthcoming.

Commentators kept calling them "innocent" children. Well, of course they were innocent. No toddler the size of Reece could ever dream up any naughtiness that would call down upon him the blood-streaked knife that killed him.

When we looked, last night, at the pictures of the little dark-eyed boy tentatively holding his baby sister, we could not but imagine the terror and pain that child experienced in the last long, cruel minutes of his life at the hands of a man he knew and perhaps loved.

"How could he do it?" we asked about that man. "How could anyone do it?"

And answer came there none.

Without an answer about one man, we have questions about every man.

Without a straw to grasp -- an explanation involving illness or head trauma or drug mania or something that would make the inexplicable understandable, we end up lost, wondering who else might harbour such murderous potential, wondering, even, if we have the capacity to do such horror ourselves.

Our minds shut down at the possibility, but that's not good enough. We need to know in order to cope and we need to understand in order to prevent.

I have published two books about murders committed in Ireland in the last century. Not one of the murders in those books was on the scale of these two killings, and none of them happened on the same day.

Not one of them involved a girl coming up to her 21st birthday, who seems to have been lined up for killing by accident, since it was fortuitous that she was in the same room as the killer on that particular day.


None of them involved so many children, slaughtered with such horrific violence. None of them involved a father whose hands went around the necks of his own two children to squeeze the life out of them and who -- having laid the two lifeless bodies out in their home -- bought petrol, soaked himself in it, put the container filled with fumes on the passenger seat and drove at speed into a tree.

Experts from the Forensic Science Laboratories will pore over the blood spatters and do microscopic analysis of samples saved from the sites by the gardai.

Their findings will eventually make clear the order and method of each killing.

Friends and relatives may share information about mental illness or drug taking or alcohol consumption that may have contributed to the disinhibition that allowed two men to do the unthinkable.

But neither scientific nor anecdotal evidence will ever, really, answer the questions we all started to ask yesterday.

"How could they do it? How could anybody do it?"

Answer came there none. And a full answer may never emerge.

All we know is that rage removes reason, as do drugs and alcohol.

We know, too, that jealousy is part of the exercise of power, not love, and that when it gets inflamed, the urge to control, punish and destroy can take over, leaving death and destruction scattered indiscriminately in its wake.