Tragic death of father and child in West Cork raises depression issue - Irish men unable to admit they need help


Martin McCarthy in happier times photographed with his wife Rebecca Cejnar and their child Clarissa (Photo: Daily Mail)
Martin McCarthy in happier times photographed with his wife Rebecca Cejnar
and their child Clarissa (Photo: Daily Mail)

It began like a plot from a Maeve Binchy novel, a pretty Californian girl comes to Ireland and meets a handsome but lonely farmer in beautiful and remote Ballydehob in west Cork. They marry, have a child, and all live happily ever after.

Except in the case of Martin McCarthy and his California bride Rebecca Cejnar it all went horribly wrong when Martin drowned their little daughter Clarissa, just three years old, and then took his own life, allegedly because he and Rebecca were breaking up and she wanted to move back to California with their daughter.

The discovery of the death of the father and daughter raised once again the massive beast of undiagnosed depression in Ireland.

Michael McCarthy was clearly in considerable mental depression and it seems that, as happens often in rural Ireland, that pain was not diagnosed or was ignored.

We recently had a member of the Irish parliament take his own life in similar tragic circumstances. In distressed economic times it seems suicide and depression are stalking the land in Ireland and little enough is being done.

The West Cork farmer was a lifelong bachelor, and considerably older when he met the American woman looking for work and adventure in Ireland.

Friends described the moment he met her as ‘love at first sight’ as he described it to them when she arrived at his farm to take a work course. The romance blossomed.

But when we flash forward a few years the marriage encountered heavy storms. Perhaps it was the age difference, perhaps it was something else, we will never know.

We do know that Martin had heart problems and had apparently been obviously very depressed since Christmas according to close friends.

We do know the tragic events. It was a scene reminiscent of a much darker Irish work than a Maeve Binchy novel, such as J .B, Keane’s ‘The Field.’

Martin, increasingly distraught that his wife was going to leave and bring the child back to California after their marriage broke up, drowned little Clarissa in the cove behind his house and then drowned himself.

(Sadly, the fact is Clarissa had no passport, was an Irish citizen, and Martin could easily have successfully petitioned to keep her in Ireland.)

He left a rambling suicide note that sparked off a huge search when Rebecca came home and found them both gone.

Imagining the final moments of the little girl’s life is an awful exercise. Her trust implicit in her father, doubtless holding his hand tightly, he led her to her death in the most dreadful of circumstances, then killed himself.


Yet, still the rough beast of undiagnosed and untreated depression continues to bedevil especially in rural Ireland where the usual refrain can be ‘ah just have a few drinks and you’ll be fine.”

Irish men are not expected to emote, to need to reach out to seek help. Alas, if they were we would probably not be discussing this dreadful tragedy and many others today.

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