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Mourners told 'cling to life' at last Donegal crash victim's funeral

For the eighth time this week, a community leaden with grief bade a tearful farewell to another victim of last Sunday's car crash.

James McEleney (23), a “real joker, a performer and a showman”, was laid to rest in his native Clonmany, Co Donegal.

Family members of the seven other victims of the two-car collision at Glasmullan near Clonmany attended the Requiem Mass, which drew up to 2,000 mourners into the small holiday village on the Inishowen Peninsula.

A sombre silence descended on the throngs that lined the street outside St Mary's Church for the arrival of the funeral cortege. Leading the mourners and preparing to bury her second son were James's mother Philomena, his brothers Shane, Robert and Philip, his sister Kathleen and girlfriend Lisa.

Inside the chapel the crash victim's uncle, Philly Ivers, described James as a proud, loving son and a boyfriend with a heart of gold.

“James was a true homebird. He tried to fly the nest to America but he was back within two weeks to his mother,” he revealed, prompting laughter from the mourners.

“To his friends he was a character; so full of life, a real joker. He was a performer, a showman, who loved to put a smile on people's faces. We all know if he was here today he would be doing the exact same thing,” he said.

The young man entertained through stories and singing and had his own version of the ‘Full Monty', he said, adding poignantly: “That was our James.”

Mr Ivers paid tribute to the emergency services that had attended the scene and the support the family had received from the community since the accident.

Parish priest Fr Fintan Diggin described all the young men who had perished in the crash as hardworking and full of life and joy.

James had worked fitting guttering and his tool belt was among the items that were brought up to the altar.

“We are so grieved and sad by such terrible loss and tragedy throughout all our parishes and community,” he said.

The priest said that what everyone wanted was for young people to live long, full, satisfied lives.

“We all know that parents should never have to bury their children, so let us all cling on to life, be careful as we journey through this life, look out for one another; be each other's companion,” he said.

James is the second son that Philomena McEleney has had to bury. Prayers were said for James's brother Daniel, who died tragically six years ago at the age of 28.

As at the funeral of Ciaran Sweeney the previous day, Galway-based country singer Mike Denver, a favourite among the lads, showed up to sing James's favourite song, Seven Spanish Angels. While the poignant words rang out, family members broke down and embraced each other.

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