Mayo community rallies around grieving Higgins family after murder-suicide of mother and son, 7, in London

Mayo community rallies around grieving Higgins family after murder-suicide of mother and son, 7, in London

IT'S meant to be a time of anticipation, excitement and wonder, however Christmas has become the stuff of nightmares for the Higgins family from Arderry in Aughagower outside Westport.

The ‘salt of the earth’ clan who lived, laughed and loved in the shadow of The Reek in an unobtrusive, quiet way suddenly have the eyes of the world cast upon them since news of the passing of their daughter and sister, Sinéad became headline news last Wednesday.

The fact that the 37-year-old was found dead beside her seven year old son Oisín with no third party involved seemed to tell its own story and sent the media masses on a mission to find out more about the young lady from Arderry.

Suddenly, the fact that she had tweeted about the future looking very stormy at 7.35am on December 9 became world news as pictures of her home in Ruislip, West London flashed around the planet.

Back in Aughagower, the locals were stunned.

The Higgins family are known by one and all in the historic hinterland. Tom and his wife Mary raised ten children in their picturesque and peaceful village - Des, Micheál, David, Cathal, Donal, Fintan, Gina, Sinead, Deirdre and Sharon were all an integral part of the community growing up.

Involved in everything from sport to politics and everything in between, the Higgins’ were renowned as a friendly, helpful family.

Tragedy hit them in 2004 when Cathal was killed in a road accident and Tom passed away in 2014 after an illness, but they were comforted in their grief by a large circle of family and friends.

That solidarity has come to the fore again in recent days as offers of help and succour came from far and near.

The fact that the world’s media also were descending on Aughagower didn’t go down nearly as well – the locals are the finest of people, but their loyalty to one another meant nobody was talking, nobody was willing to speak about Sinéad or the sadness shrouding the area.

INS News Agency Ltd 15/12/2016 A "glamorous" mother killed herself and her seven-year-old son after she was harassed by an obsessed man, a close friend claimed today(Thurs). A murder investigation was launched after police found the bodies of Sinead Higgins and her son, Oisin O'Driscoll, when they burst into her home. It was believed social services staff had raised welfare concerns before emergency services forced entry into the 37-year-old's two-storey home in The Fairway in Ruislip, west London. See copy INSfairnld Sinead Higgins (Picture: INS)

They just wanted to mind the Higgins family and help them in their hour of need.

On Saturday night, Fr Jackie Conroy included the Higgins clan in his prayers but didn’t elaborate as eager ears listened to what he might say.

The silence coming out of Aughagower was deafening, but all with any experience of that wonderful part of the world expected nothing less.

The people from the shadow of The Reek are some of the nicest on the planet but pride of place and loyalty to one another is paramount and no outside influences were going to intrude and add to the savage heartbreak of a well-loved local family.

On Sunday morning as the papers yielded page after page of print about Sinéad and Oisín and the sun shone from a stunning sky, the people of Aughagower prepared to celebrate the life of a beloved 21-year-old local, Shaun Audley, who had passed away after a brave battle with cancer.

Shaun’s family and friends needed support too and that’s what they would get; loyalty and pride of place never wanes in Aughagower.

However, the sense of sadness in the area was almost physical. There was a pain in every eye, a sigh on every tongue; the joy that comes from anticipating Christmas and Santa had been overtaken by anguish and the twinkling fairy lights failed to properly illuminate the darkness.

(Picture: Tourism Ireland) The Higgins family are from a small village outside Westport in Co Mayo. (Picture: Tourism Ireland)

Sinéad Higgins was a much-loved native, but there’s so much sadness surrounding her passing and so much disbelief surrounding the death of her son.

Sinéad had lived in London for more than a decade and outwardly had done well for herself.

She had at first worked as a nurse before retraining as a legal advisor and was overjoyed when she and her ex-partner Shane O’Driscoll were blessed with Oisín seven years ago.

It’s understood that Sinéad and Shane drifted apart but the Irish man remained a devoted parent to Oisín as did Sinéad.

Neighbours in Ruislip told media outlets that Ms Higgins was very close to Oisín and only last month she posted a picture online with the hashtag ‘together forever.’

Mr O’Driscoll has been left devastated by the death of his son and on Friday last posted a heartbreaking message online.

“Today it became real when I had the first opportunity to hold Oisín and see his little face.

"My best buddy has been taken from this world and taken from all his little friends.”

Reports that Ms Higgins suffered from depression in recent months cannot be confirmed but Niall Dunne from Mayo Mental Health Association told The Western People that we all need to mind one another at Christmas as the Aughagower people are caring for the Higgins family.

“Christmas is a time when so many families get together and enjoy this very special time of year, but for others, tragically, the opposite is also true.

“Be mindful and respectful of yourself and your siblings over this period to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone.

“Mental health difficulties has no preference for social class, race, religion or gender. It is common to us all. It can be time where people just find it hard not being in their own routine. Please check in on people that we know may be vulnerable, anxious or unwell. If you notice change in someone, talk to them. Give people hope, because hope is a powerful thing.”

In Aughagower, hope is hard to find right now, but the locals are resilient and there’s no doubt that the love, loyalty and care they have for one another will lead to a brighter future for all.

We wish them well.

If you have been affected by the issues in this story you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for free from Britain or Ireland on 116123.