Shane Phelan: School's statements latest twist in Clodagh Hawe's family's search for answers

The family of Clodagh Hawe had to fight hard for the serious case review that has been launched into the Garda investigation of the murders of the schoolteacher and her three sons.

The trauma endured by relatives has been exacerbated by the many unanswered questions surrounding husband and father Alan Hawe, who carried out the brutal killings before taking his own life at the family home near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, in 2016.

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While an inquest last year dealt with the who, the when and the how of the murders, in their view it didn’t answer the why. They believe gardaí, Alan Hawe’s union and the school where he worked could all help complete the picture.

But for one reason or another, certain information has not been disclosed.

So it was a major achievement by Clodagh’s mother Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly when their campaigning prompted Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to announce a review last week.

They felt they had no choice but to go public after An Garda Síochána officially denied them access to the case files.

A powerful interview on RTÉ’s ‘Claire Byrne Live’ proved to be the catalyst for movement. But the forward momentum has been slowed by events of recent days.

Firstly, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has reiterated its stance that it cannot discuss any contacts it may have had with Alan Hawe.

Secondly, the family’s understanding that Hawe was facing a disciplinary matter or grievance was contradicted by the board of management of Castlerahan National School, where he worked.

In a statement, the school also rejected suggestions Hawe had been accessing pornographic websites during the school day or engaging in sexual activity at the school.

Ms Connolly did not wish to comment on the school’s statement when contacted by the Irish Independent this week.

“There is a serious case review about to begin. This needs to go ahead and do its work,” she said.

Clodagh’s mother and sister have never accepted the theory put forward at the inquest by the clinical director of the Central Mental Hospital, Professor Harry Kennedy, regarding Alan Hawe.

Prof Kennedy never treated Hawe, but based on medical documents he formed the view the killer had a longstanding depressive illness that progressed to a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms.

Clodagh’s relatives feel it is too convenient to explain away what happened by stating Hawe was suffering from a mental illness.

They have pointed to the “premeditated” and “calculated” way he carried out the murders, ensuring his wife and eldest son Liam, who would have been likely to put up the most resistance, were killed first. They have also pointed out that Hawe’s GP, who knew him for five years, said he never displayed any signs of depression.

Then there were Hawe’s counselling sessions.

Clodagh’s family say notes from these revealed he was frequently viewing pornography, suffering regular urges to masturbate and was experimenting with cross-dressing.

According to Ms Coll, the counselling sessions went from dealing with his porn addiction to dealing with issues he was having at school.

At the inquest, counsellor David McConnell did not go into the specific details of Hawe’s issues, but said the killer told him: “People think of me as a pillar of the community. If only they knew.”

He said Hawe had a fear of being shamed and of being seen as less than perfect.

According to Ms Connolly, Hawe said in his own words he had been “caught red-handed”.

She said counselling notes revealed he said he had been caught masturbating somewhere he shouldn’t have been.

She has speculated this could have been at the school.

Ms Connolly has also said computer forensics established that 97pc of the pornography Hawe viewed was on a laptop at work.

But this was seemingly contradicted by the board of management of Castlerahan National School earlier this week. A statement issued via solicitors said it was informed by gardaí in December 2016 of Hawe’s “online activity”.

But it also said gardaí had confirmed Hawe did not access pornographic websites during the school day and that no evidence had emerged of any inappropriate activity during school time.

It said that while there had been a reference to Hawe being caught “red-handed”, the board could state categorically this had nothing to do with the school and did not happen on the school premises.

The statement also said that at no stage was there any disciplinary process or any other investigation instigated or threatened by the school.

If this is the case, a key unanswered question remains regarding the reasons for Hawe’s contact with the INTO.

The murders took place the day before he was due to return to work after the summer holidays and Clodagh’s family has been seeking to establish if this contact was for advice or about a grievance in work.

But the union said this week that while it sympathises with the family, it cannot breach its confidentiality policy.

It also insisted this policy does not conflict with its legal and statutory obligations.

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