Memorial for doctor who died by
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,
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
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
"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
"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
The one-off Running for Rescue (R4R) event will take
place on March 16, 2013 - what would have been her
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