Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Donegal horror crash funeral hears plea for forgiveness

The coffin of Hugh Friel, 66, from Dunaff, Clonmany, who was one of eight men who died in Ireland's worst road crash, is carried during his funeral service at St Michaels Church, Urris, Clonmany in Co Donegal
The funeral of Hugh Friel. 14.7.10
Mark McLaughlin, one of the eight men killed in the Buncrana car crash

Forgiveness should be shown after a pensioner died in a road accident on his way home from bingo, his funeral heard today.

Hugh Friel, 66, was a good neighbour who would do anything for his friends, Co Donegal parish priest Fr Fintan Diggin said.



The farmer's car collided with another vehicle packed with eight youths near Clonmany on Sunday night.



The driver is seriously ill in hospital and his seven friends dead.

Hundreds thronged St Michael's Church in Urris to pay their last respects to a man described as a “lovely, quiet, pleasant gentleman” and “a great neighbour” who would be sorely missed.

His body was escorted up the aisle of the church by his grieving brothers Eddie, Paddy and Denis, sisters Sally and Bridget and his nephew Tony, with whom he lived.

Clonmany parish priest Fr Fintan Diggin, who administered last rites to the dead at the accident scene, told mourners Hughie's greatest satisfaction in life was derived from working his tiny farm and playing bingo.

He came from a community where good neighbourliness and helping others continued as a tradition and such was his personal character and nature, he said.

Relatives of the dead man brought his cloth cap and his bingo book and pen to the altar as symbols of his life's passion.

“An easy pleased man was Hughie. His life revolved around working the land and helping his neighbours. He was a great friend, whose only distraction was bingo,” the priest said.

But he met his death as he returned home from bingo last Sunday night, having won a €65 prize — “a small fortune to Hughie”, the priest told mourners.

Fr Diggin, who has worked in the Clonmany parish for three years, said he was struck by the amount of memorial cards and pictures in the houses around Dunaff Head of people who had been lost at sea, but that picture was changing.

“It seems to me that in recent years in Donegal, and Inishowen in particular, the focus seems to have changed from loss at sea to loss of life on our roads,” he said.

Families bereaved by multiple road tragedies in the past had hoped that theirs would be the last, but sadly that has not been the case, he said.

But he stressed the Hughie Friel he knew was a man of great generosity and of a forgiving nature.

“I know that Hughie Friel would never have wanted the circumstances surrounding this death to heap any more pain or sadness or grief or feelings of guilt on anyone else in despair and so affected by that tragic crash on Sunday night,” he said.

Half of those killed were from the parish of Clonmany and relatives of the bereaved Doherty, Sweeney and McEleney families attended yesterday's funeral.

Prayers were offered for the other seven victims and their families and for Shaun Kelly, the sole survivor.



A letter was read out from Bishop Seamus Hegarty.



"These past days have been difficult, not only for the families but for the entire Inishowen area.



"I was impressed by their deep dignity in the face of such tragedy," he said.



The small country church was packed with mourners from across the area.



Outside, at the burial in the churchyard, prayers were said and red roses dropped on to the coffin.



The sound of muted crying could be heard, and a little boy tearfully rested his head against his mother's cheek.



One family member helped his distressed wife out of the church by the arm as it emptied of people.



One mourner said: "It is a sad day for the parish."

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