A sea of high-fives and happy faces greeted Andrew McGinley as he made his way through the school.
t was a special day, the unveiling of a mural dedicated to his sons Conor and Darragh, painted on the walls of a secluded courtyard at Scoil Chrónáin, where they were once pupils.
The colourful piece included Marvel superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman, the Hulk and symbols for Batman, Thor, and Superman. Andrew was proud to see the artwork, he said of his visit to the school on Wednesday, but amid the happy smiles of his late children’s school friends, a poignant realisation came to bare.
“Seeing all their friends was emotional for me,” he told the Irish Independent.
“I hadn’t seen most of them since the month’s mind. I found myself looking at them…imagining. They are all 11 now and Conor would have been a big 11-year-old boy. It didn’t really strike me until then.
“The thought crossed my mind then that I will see these guys on social media in a few years’ time having done their Leaving Cert. I found that quite emotional…just imagining Conor being older. In my mind they (the children) are still 9, 7 and 3. They will always be 9, 7 and 3.”
It’s been almost 18 months since the deaths of Conor, Darragh and Carla. Last month, their mother Deirdre was found not guilty of their murder by reason of insanity and committed to the Central Mental Hospital.
Since then, Andrew has been campaigning tirelessly for the greater inclusion for families in the mental health treatment of loved ones. At the same time, he has been working on his charity efforts in memory of his three children. He is keeping busy, but as Father’s Day approaches this weekend, he knows there are moments ahead that cannot be avoided.
“Father’s Day was hard last year,” he said.
“I spent it with friends and it was a lovely day to be with them but ultimately I was just in a trance and I didn’t engage with the day at all. It wasn’t a massive day before to be honest. I think you can ask any father, even when its Father’s Day, you are still doing the same things, you are getting them up, getting them dressed, getting breakfast, chances are bringing them to football matches.
“You get a card and a few bits and pieces, but it’s not a day that anything out of the ordinary happens. But it was a day that I thought I would be ready for..it was on the news and in the paper and all…but it got to me…it was tough.”
A few months later, in November, Andrew visited a psychic medium, a move he credits with helping him deal with his grief.
“She told me a few things that nobody could ever know and definitely not a woman in Wexford who I had never met before,” he said.
“It gave me the strength to get through Christmas because after father’s day I was dreading Christmas. I am a very logical person so I would be sceptical about things like this but there was about a dozen things that nobody else would know,” he said.
“She asked me was there anyone I would like to speak to and I said Conor. She asked if Conor was a child and I said yes. She said, ‘Conor’s white football boots, you have them in the wardrobe and he would like you to take them out and put them beside Darragh’s shoes. Darragh had a pair of black and blue runners that he wore everywhere.
“They were in tatters and I would clean them up with baby wipes and a Sharpie pen so he could wear them and because they meant so much to me I had them out on the dresser.
“I had Conor’s white shin pads and his white football boots in the wardrobe and I swear to God no-one has ever opened that wardrobe except me so I have no doubt in my mind that she communicated with the kids.
“She also told me a secret, word for word, that Darragh told me two weeks before he died. I’m not religious or spiritual but from that meeting with her and what she said I know the kids are all together and I got comfort from that. That got me through.”
On Sunday, when fathers around the country are doing what they do every day, Andrew will visit his children’s grave.
“Carla wasn’t a big fan of like spiders so I will go up and clean the cobwebs,” he said.
“I go up every day now (to the grave) to say hello but I don’t linger. Their bodies are there, but they aren’t there. Father’s Day would have been a day when we would have done something as a family but then everyday we did something as a family.
“I miss them every day so Father’s Day is just another day of missing them. To all the other fathers out there I would say this, You will get gifts on Father’s Day that you will look at and think, “Oh god what’s this?” The best gift that you can give your kids is your time. Spend the time with your kids.”