THE GRIEVING partner of biker Andrew O’Donoghue, who was murdered in Murroe last month, has had to endure further agony at the hands of the State.
Catherine Danaher, originally from Cappamore, had to pay back one of Andrew’s disability benefit cheques because he died before its issue date.
She called to the Limerick Leader office this Tuesday seeking this newspaper’s coverage of her partner’s murder – after she was told by the social welfare office that she needed to provide proof of Andrew’s death in order to qualify for payments for six weeks after his passing. Ms Danaher said it was the first time she had seen newspaper coverage of Andrew’s killing, as she could not bear to read it at the time. Mr O’Donoghue was shot outside the Road Tramps motorcycle clubhouse, not far from their Murroe home, on June 20.
“The social welfare officer wrote to me and said I had to get proof. It said death certificate, memorial card or a cutting from a newspaper. So that’s why I came down to the Leader.
“I have to prove that he is dead so I can get his payments paid to me – I’m entitled to six weeks. I have to post them back now and wait for it. I’m in shock, going around,” said Ms Danaher, who described the insensitivity of the process as “sickening”.
“He had just passed away a few days, my days are very mixed up. His cheque came in on the Friday so I thought I could cash it. I went down to the post office, handed it in and they gave me back his money.
“A couple of days later, they rang me to come back with it. They said he had died before the date so I had to give it back. I was thinking ‘Oh my God, I have half of it spent’. I didn’t have any money,” said Ms Danaher, who described Mr O’Donoghue as her “rock”.
She says she has enough to be coping with after losing the love of her life without trying to “prove that he is dead”. Household finances are strained as she is caring for their 12-year-old daughter, Ava, on just her social welfare income of €202 a week.
“I’ve had a lot of extra expenses, I bought my little girl rabbits to keep her occupied but didn’t one of the rabbits die. I took him to the vet and I had to get the other rabbit vaccinated. Andrew promised to take her to MarcoPolo so I did and she enjoyed it,” said Ms Danaher.
The couple were together since she was 18.
“I’ve never been with anyone else and I’m 41 now – he was 10 years older. He would remember little things – like he produced an REM album that I’d always wanted but couldn’t afford. Small things like that.
“He was my rock. We were always together, nearly 24 hours a day. People asked how did you stick it? But we loved it, we were great pals,” said Ms Danaher, who can vividly recall the last time she saw him alive.
“I was lying across the bed because I had the flu. He was watching Formula 1, he was mad about it and was watching a practice session – not even the qualifying. He came up and said messing ‘Are we having anything to eat today?’ I said, ‘We’d have pizza and chips’ – that’s something we’d have on a Saturday as a treat.
“He got a call and said, ‘I’m just going up to the clubhouse, I’ll be back’. He never came back. His pizza and chips were there for days, would you believe” said Ms Danaher.
“When I went in to see him, the only part I recognised of him was the left hand side of his moustache. Why would you do that to someone - shoot him at point blank range in the face?”. Media attention has focused on rival biker gangs but Ms Danaher said that Andrew wasn’t rowing with anybody.
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly. When you think of biker culture you think of Hells Angels and America, I suppose, but Andrew was very quiet, lovable and kind.
“He loved his daughter. He was very close to her and was excited that she was going to school in Doon. He saw her in her uniform when we went to pick it out.
“The guitarist from My Chemical Romance has his own band and Ava mentioned it to her dad that she liked them. On the day of his funeral we got a letter in the post with surprise tickets for the three of us. He was very good.
“He used to do his mother’s business on a Friday morning after getting his cheque,” said Ms Danaher, who doesn’t know how she is staying so strong. “The club have been amazing and other clubs too – messages saying you are now members of our club. I don’t even know half of them, he would have. One said, ‘You’re part of our family now, there are 100 of us and we’re all here for you’.
“He was 51, he survived a lot - a quadruple by-pass. Could God throw any more at us? I don’t know. We thought we had got there.”