Belfast Telegraph

Varney family 'inconsolable' as little Odhran buried on New Year's Eve

Almost a thousand mourners gathered for the New Year's Eve funeral of a five-year-old Glengormley boy who died on Christmas Day.

Born with Down's Syndrome, Odhran Varney had struggled with a number of life limiting health conditions, but his sudden death shocked his parents Nicole Gillen and Phil Varney.

He became ill on Christmas morning and despite efforts to save him died in the Royal Victoria Hospital that night.

The exact cause of death has yet to be established.

On Saturday morning, a huge crowd of mourners gathered in St Bernard's Church in Newtownabbey for Odhran's funeral.

During the service Odhran's father and grandfather read tributes and later a soft toy of Baloo, the bear from The Jungle Book - one of the little boy's favourite films - was set at the front of the church.

At the burial in Carnmoney Cemetery, his most loved song was played - Hakuna Matata from Disney's The Lion King.

Parish priest Fr John Forsythe said it was one of the biggest funeral services he could remember at St Bernard's, with remarkable support shown to the family.

"A very sad time for the family and all concerned, but it was incredible that a youngster that age could bring out that much love in people," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It's not an easy thing to do, a funeral for a small child, especially one who died on Christmas Day when everyone is feasting, being happy and celebrating children.

"For a child to die on that day and buried on the hilt of the New Year, it's a sad occasion and there's no gloss you can put on it.

"But it did bring out the generosity and the love people had for that family with their concern with the wee fella."

He continued: "The family are inconsolable really at the moment.

"It will take time for them to rebuild their lives. You'd be a very foolish person to think any words would put things right for them at that time.

"All they want is their child back and happy, but it just wasn't to be. He was a wee fighter."

During the homily, Fr Forsythe told mourners that despite difficulties learning to walk and speak at a young age "Odhran was never seen as a chore".

"It would be foolish to romanticise the struggle families have with children that are special, but so often such efforts do bear fruit in patience, kindness, understanding and appreciating their own lives and of all their family," he said.

A statement from Hill Croft School in Newtownabbey said Odhran was a "sweet boy" who would be dearly missed.

"Odhran was a pleasure to have in school. His smile would light up the darkest of rooms and would lift the spirits of anyone," the statement read.

"Words cannot express how much we will miss him."

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