Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Michaela Harte McAreavey funeral: Sea of mourners reflect mood of country

Michaela McAreavey's husband John kisses her coffin as her remains are carried to St Malachy's Church in Ballygawley for her funeral mass.
Michaela McAreavey's husband John kisses her coffin as her remains are carried to St Malachy's Church in Ballygawley for her funeral mass.
Poignant message and flowers from Michaela McAreavey's family
Margaret Ritchie and Basil McCrea arrive for Michaela McAreavey's funeral
Order of Service funeral of Michaela McAreavey
Order of Service at funeral of Michaela McAreavey at St Malachy's Church
Irish President Mary McAlease and her husband Martin
Michaela McAreavey's cortege makes its way to the church
Michaela McAreavey's husband John wears his wedding ring as the cortege makes its way to the church
John McAreavey places the coffin of his wife Michaela McAreavey, 27, daughter of Tyrone Gaelic football boss Mickey Harte in the back of the hearse.
Irish president Mary McAleese attends the funeral of Michaele McAreavey.
The funeral cortege of Michaela McAreavey arrives at St Malachy's church outside Ballygawley.
Michaela McAreavey's remains arrive for burial at St Malachy's church, Ballygawley. She was killed whilst on honeymoon in Mauritius.
Michaela McAreavey's coffin is carried from her parents' home in Ballygawley
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness attends the funeral of Michaela McAreavey.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams attends the funeral of Michaela McAreavey.
Michaela and John McAreavey outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
Michaela McAreavey's coffin is carried from her parents' home in Ballygawley, Co Tyrone
John and Michaela McAreavey on their honeymoon
Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte at his daughter Michaela's wedding to John McAreavey
John and Michaela McAreavey, pictured here on a visit to the Giant's Causeway. The couple were on honeymoon in Mauritius when Michaela was murdered.
The remains of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey return home last night from Mauritius.
The remains of murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavey return home last night from Mauritius.
Former Tyrone Captain Peter Canavan (3rd left) joins members of the Errigal Ciaran GAA Club line the route as a hearse transporting the body of murdered Mauritius honeymooner Michaela McAreavey approaches in Ballygawley, Co Tyrone.
The body of Michaela McAreavey left George Best Belfast City airport in a hearse on Friday afternoon.
Michaela McAreavey's husband John, (foreground), waits for the hearse to leave Belfast city airport under police escort on the last leg of ehe journey home
Michaela's remains leave Victoria Hospital in Muiritius yesterday en route to the airport. 13th January 2011.
John McAreavey, husband of Michaela Harte leaving the mortuary at Victoria Hospital in Mauritius yesterday wearing her wedding ring and engagement ring around his neck
John McAreavey, husband of Michaela Harte leaving the mortuary at Victoria Hospital in Mauritius yesterday wearing her wedding ring and engagement ring around his neck
A hearse with the body of Michaela McAreavey, leaves George Best Belfast city airport. Friday January 14, 2011.
Michaela McAreavey on her wedding day
John McAreavey and wife Michaela Harte are seen on their wedding day
Michaela Harte Far Right front in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended and later done her teaching placement..
Raj Theekoy
Suspect Avinash Treebhoowoon (29) is brought to Mapou Court, Port Louis Mauritius, Wednesday, Jan.12, 2011. The room attendant has been charged with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
Suspect Sandip Moneea (41) covers his face as he is escorted to Mapou Court, Port Louis Mauritius, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. The floor supervisor has been charged with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
Raj Theekoy (33), faces a conspiracy charge in connection with the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
A distraught Mickey Harte with son Michael.
Michaela Harte (left) in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended as a pupil and later completed her teaching placement.
Michaela Harte in with Throphy in St.Malachy's Primary School where Michaela attended and later done her teaching placement
Micheala Harte in fancy dress in St.Malachy's Primary School where she attended as a pupil and later completed her teaching placement..
A distraught Mickey Harte with sons Matthew (left) and Michael at their family home near Ballygawley
Michaela Harte after she had received a B.Ed at Queens University Belfast. (Picture taken in June 2006)
Balloons with the couple's names giving directions to St Malachy's Church outside Ballygwley where they recently got married
A distraught Mickey Harte at his family home near Ballygawley
Wedding flowers from the couple's recent marriage at St Malachy's Church outside Ballygawley
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 11/1/2011Mandatory Credit - Picture by Justin KernoghanA distraught Mickey Harte with sons Matthew (left) and Michael at their family home near Ballygawley today.Michaela, the daughter of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte was strangled, Mauritius police have said.Michaela McAreavey, 27, was found dead at the Legends hotel in Mauritius where she was staying while on honeymoon.The 27-year-old Irish woman had married John McAreavey, a member of Down's gaelic football team, on 30 December. He is not a suspect.Police in Mauritius intend to question six people about the killing later on Tuesday.
A wedding sign and balloons telling wedding guests directions to the church near the family home in Ballygawley
Mickey Harte (centre), is comforted at the family home outside Ballygawley in Co Tyrone
(From the left) Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey are seen on the wedding day of Michaela Harte and John McAreavey
Donegal Celtic and Cliftonville observe a minutes silence in respect of Michaela Harte at the game in west Belfast
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his daughter Michaella
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his daughter Michaela after the All Ireland Football Final 28/9/2003
Michaela Harte, daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte. Pic by Ian Magill. 23/3/10.Real Woman feature by Stephanie Bell.
Michaela Harte
Irish News handout of (left to right) Mickey Harte, John McAreavey, Michaela Harte, Bishop John McAreavey and Brendan McAreavey on the wedding day of Michaela Harte and John McAreavey at St. Malacheys Church Ballymacilrory on December 30, 2010. Michaela, the daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte was murdered in her hotel room, police in Mauritius confirmed today.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte with his son David and daughter Michaela after his side's win at Croke Park
Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte graduates at Queens University pictured with his daughter Machela who also graduatedand became a Bachelor in Education
Michaela Harte appearing on the television programme the Late Late Show.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte celebrates with his daughter Michaela and his son Matthew
John McAreavey and wife Michaela Harte are seen on their wedding day at St. Malacheys Church Ballymacilrory on December 30, 2010.
Mickey Harte, pictured in 2006 with his daughter Michaela

As a thousand footsteps halted behind him, John McAreavey tilted his head and kissed the coffin of his beautiful bride.

He paused for a moment, not wishing to let go, then rubbed the wood panel as if saying goodbye.

Finally he relinquished his grip and fell into the arms of his wife Michaela's heartbroken father Mickey Harte as they watched the remains of their special girl placed into the hearse and taken onward toward St Malachy's chapel.

Two weeks ago he was waiting for her inside the church as she made the same short journey from the Harte family home on the Glencull Road.

Today they went together. And behind them, not the chatter of excited wedding guests but the solemn hush made only by a sea of mourners.

At one point pupils from Glencull Primary School, where Mrs McAreavey went as a child, emerged from class to form their own miniature guard of honour.

The Gaelic Athletic Association may be the governing body of an amateur sport, but its part in organising the funeral was professional in every way - never more evident as the cortege made its way slowly along the A5 carriageway, one of Northern Ireland's main arterial routes closed to accommodate the event.

On one side of the colossal crowd walked Mickey Harte's Tyrone team, on the other players from his home town club Errigal Ciaran. Their respective red and blue tracksuit tops like two coloured ribbons bordering the black tide crawling down the hill.

"The GAA always take care of their own," one of the 500 GAA volunteers observed.

Outside the church too it looked like this was an event weeks if not months in the planning.

A marquee to hold 400 extra mourners, two huge TVs for the thousands more standing outside, and even a row of portable toilets - proof that everything had been thought of. Most were donated free of charge from within the GAA family.

It should have been warmer than the bright January sun suggested. But the frost glinting on the cattle-rutted fields surrounding St Malachy's betrayed a bitter chill in the air.

Mrs McAreavey was a teacher aged just 27. This ensured a congregation distinct by its youth. Pupils from St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon where she taught stood in silence among the young couple's friends and relatives, the only sound the constant babble of a nearby stream.

You can leave of messages of condolence to the Harte and McAreavey families here

John McAreavey's uncle, Bishop John McAreavey, who married them on December 30, acknowledged that the younger generation would struggle to comprehend how the murder of one so seemingly pure could be part of God's plan. "One of the hardest things in life is finding that there are things that we cannot understand, no matter how hard we try," he conceded.

For some it proved just too much and medics had to attend to a number who fainted in the church grounds.

The service was painful and heart-rending, it could never have been otherwise at an altar that only days before still carried Mrs McAreavey's wilted wedding flowers.

But there were moments that gave cause to reflect on happier memories. One was when the tee-totaller's favourite indulgence - tea and biscuits - was presented as a symbol of her life.

But time and again the same theme recurred - her and John's devotion to each other.

"They lived for one another, they enjoyed and supported one another in everything," said Bishop McAreavey.

"Their lives revolved around one another, each talked endlessly about the other. Their hopes for the future were bound up with each other."

Those hopes were extinguished forever in Mauritius a week ago.

As the distraught groom emerged from the church as his beloved was carried on to the adjoining cemetery, one of the first to embrace him was President Mary McAleese.

Proof that his wife's death has not just broken his heart, but that of a whole country.

Nightlife Galleries

More

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz