Brigid Laffan recalls ‘unimaginable’ trauma from husband’s death

Political scientist Prof Brigid Laffan has spoken of the “unimaginable” trauma her family suffered when her husband died earlier this year while swimming in south Dublin.

Prof Laffan, a well-known commentator on European affairs, said she watched her husband, businessman Michael Laffan, get into trouble while swimming at Seapoint, near Dun Laoghaire harbor on January 5.

She recalled how she felt something was wrong and said her husband and another swimmer had gone a little further than others when she saw his head suddenly rise out of the water. Mr. Laffan looked at where she and their son Diarmuid stood on a footbridge, before turning to swim to shore.

She immediately shouted to his fellow swimmers that “Michael is in trouble,” while a man nearby, who happened to be a trained lifeguard, kicked off his shoes and went to help.

Prof Laffan said two doctors and a nurse were also nearby and Diarmuid also immediately rushed to help his father. However, despite the prompt response, which included CPR, Mr. Laffan did not recover and was taken by ambulance to St Vincent’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

While post-mortem results are not yet available, Ms. Laffan said her husband did not drown, but died of a form of “catastrophic cardiac episode.”

She said it was comforting that he “wasn’t alone. His son carried him out.”

Michael Laffan was involved with cooker and stove manufacturer Waterford Stanley, which he and a colleague acquired in 2000 in a management buyout.  Photo: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Michael Laffan was involved with cooker and stove manufacturer Waterford Stanley, which he and a colleague acquired in 2000 in a management buyout. Photo: David Sleator/The Irish Times

“If he could have been saved, it would have been him,” she told RTÉ Radio One on Brendan O’Connor’s show.

She said she and her husband had made plans for retirement and looked forward to their remaining years together.

“It’s a real trauma to watch someone die in front of your eyes,” she added.

Mr. Laffan was a well-known businessman remembered for his involvement with hob and stove manufacturer Waterford Stanley, which he and a colleague acquired in 2000 in a management buyout.

Prof Laffan, former Professor of Politics at UCD, is now Professor Emeritus at the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

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