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Memorial for doctor who died by suicide 05.03.13

by Linda McGrory

THE family of a GP who took her own life will mark her birthday by raising funds for the rescue teams who searched for her body after she vanished without trace in Inishowen.
Dr Deirdre Donnelly O'Flaherty disappeared on January 11, 2009 from the isolated beach at Kinnego Bay, Co Donegal, while staying with her husband and children at their nearby holiday home. Despite an extensive air and sea search, the mother-of-three's body was never found.
Last year, a High Court judge in Belfast used new legislation for the first time in Northern Ireland to declare the missing 47-year old dead.
The Presumption of Death Act 2009 was introduced to speed up the process by which a missing person can be declared dead. The application was brought by her GP husband, Dr Ken O'Flaherty from Moville.
The isolated beach at Kinnego Bay where the 47-year old GP disappeared on January 11, 2009.
Belfast-born Ms Donnelly O’Flaherty, who worked as an out-of-hours doctor in Co Tyrone, had a history of depression. On the day she vanished she left several notes for her family.
Later this month, four years on, her siblings will host a charity run to raise funds for the teams who searched tirelessy for her body. The family said the exhaustive efforts to search coves, beaches and cliffs in hazardous weather were “staggering”. The monies will be distributed between Greencastle Coast Guard, Inishowen Sub Aqua Club, Portrush Lifeboat and a charity nominated by local gardaí.
The deceased woman's younger brother Aidan said her disappearance left her family including children Johnny (16), Thomas (15) and Natalie (7), with many unanswered questions. He also heaped praise on the generosity of Donegal locals and others who travelled to help search for his much-loved sister.
"Deirdre was a high-spirited character in many ways. She had her highs and lows like the rest of us but in truth not one of us saw this coming," said Mr Donnelly.
"She was great craic and an extrovert in many ways. She loved the arts and music and was fiercely proud of the home and family she and Ken had created, making what she chose to do all the more difficult to understand.
"But we’re not the first family to be searching for answers and unfortunately we won’t be the last," added the Co Down solicitor.
Dr Deirdre Donnelly O'Flaherty, pictured second from right, with her siblings at a family wedding in 2005. From left are Fergus, Shane, Elizabeth, Aidan, Deirdre and Pearse Donnelly.
He said Mr Justice Deeny's High Court judgement in January 2012 definitively declaring that his sister had drowned, brought the family solace.
"It was comforting to have someone totally independent come to that conclusion. Not because any of our family had any doubts, we didn’t. But it certainly helped bring closure on the whole episode."
The one-off Running for Rescue (R4R) event will take place on March 16, 2013 - what would have been her 51st birthday.
The longest of the three routes - measuring 11km, 6km and 2km - will symbolically leave from the beach where she disappeared.
"If we had tried to do something before now it might have been too difficult. So now is the time to have a grand day out with friends and family and indeed anyone else who wants to come along or even just donate," added Mr Donnelly. Details of the run are at www.Facebook.com/RunForRescue
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