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Berkeley balcony tragedy: Thousands of mourners attend funerals in Dublin of two victims who have been fondly remembered

Eoghan Culligan and Eimear Walsh both 21, died along with four others when tragedy struck a friend's birthday party in Berkeley, California

By Ed Carty and Brian Hutton

Two of the students killed in a balcony collapse in the United States have been fondly remembered at funerals in Dublin.

Thousands of mourners turned out at separate services for Eoghan Culligan and Eimear Walsh, both 21, who died along with four others when tragedy struck a friend's birthday party in Berkeley, California a week ago.

Father Paul Ward, who knew Ms Walsh most of her life, told hundreds at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, Dublin that she had "come to perfection" in a short while.

The priest paid tribute to her planned career in medicine and said it was unsurprising she had made a life choice to be a healer because of her family and upbringing.

"If we are sad today, there is also much to be thankful for. We are grateful for the life Eimear had, grateful for all the joy she brought into our lives," he said.

At the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham, mourners at the mass for Mr Culligan included the family of another student killed in the balcony collapse, Niccolai Schuster.

They had been schoolmates at St Mary's College, Rathmines, and as the cortege made its way to the church dozens of others dressed in the pristine beige chinos and navy blazers of the school uniform stood in a guard of honour.

The service was opened with the song Forever Young playing as scores more mourners gathered in the grounds to pay their respects to the student known to friends as Cully.

Fr Martin Noone, parish priest at Rathfarnham, recalled a sentimental and kind-natured young man.

"Long life is not always about a long number of years but what we put into it along the way and for sure we know that Cully put everything into it along the way," he said.

Prayers were said at both masses for the relatives and friends of others who died - Lorcan Miller, Olivia Burke and Ashley Donohoe, all aged 21.

The injured and their families and friends were also remembered with special mentions for those who remain in the US and were watching the funeral services online.

Among those to pay respects at Mr Culligan's funeral were US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley and the aides de camps to President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

At Ms Walsh's funeral, Fr Ward passed on a message from the grieving family.

"To Eimear's friends I want you to know that despite their own pain Jim and Trish are very conscious that you are hurting too and are left shell shocked by what has happened," he said.

"When you are young, your own mortality is the furthest thing from your mind. And so it should be. As you look to the future you are now very aware of how precious and fragile life is.

"Appreciate the gift of life to its fullest and take on the mantle that Eimear has left behind, by making the world and the future a better place in her memory."

Jim Walsh, Eimear's father, paid a touching tribute to his daughter.

"We are very proud of who she was and what she achieved," he said. "She was among other things kind-hearted, generous, fun-loving, independent-minded, very bright, confident but never pretentious.

"Like any young person she was interested in having a good time, hanging out with friends, essentially just living in the moment."

The close connections between the students caught up the accident in the apartment complex was revealed further by Ms Walsh's father.

Eimear's close friend Aoife Beary remains in hospital in California following the five storey fall, Lorcan Miller, one of the others to die was "best pals" with Eimear and were in the same medicine class in University College Dublin, while she was friends with Olivia Burke, whose remains are being repatriated, from their school days in Loreto College Foxrock.

The family recalled Ms Walsh as deceptively easy going but determined and a good singer like her mother, Patricia.

Mr Walsh said: "Now that we have lost Eimear so tragically there's a huge void in our lives, however, knowing Eimear she would want us to be strong for each other, pick ourselves up and keep going. We hope and pray that one day we will be reunited."

Eoghan Culligan's brothers, Stephen and Andy, fought tears yet brought moments of laugher to the congregation as they remembered their younger sibling.

"He was always the one who saw both the common ground and the stupidity of our arguments. He was our translator, our sense-maker, our peacemaker, He was our wiser brother," Stephen said.

The Culligan brothers remembered Eoghan as an entertaining young man and revelled in his contradictions - a trendsetter who needed advice and someone who dieted with a pizza.

Andy said he brought the other brothers together despite petty arguments and as the family grew older he kept it youthful by always treating their parents as "mum and dad".

"Just beautifully strange and always up for the laugh. Just weird and wonderful. That's the type of bloke he was," he said.

He added: "What's been very apparent to me over the last few days, even though I knew it being through some up and down times myself, Eoghan would always be the person I could rely on.

"He was my little brother but he was my big brother at the same time."

Gifts were displayed in both churches as symbols of the students' lives.

For Eimear, friends left a medical book, tan, hair straighteners, lipstick and dancing shoes.

At Eoghan's funeral, the list included Irish rugby and Dublin GAA jerseys, his under-13s school sports medal from Holy Ghost against Willow, a Lord Of The Rings staff and ring, a collage of photos, his Obey hat and his Granda Joe's old watch which he had restored.

Eimear was laid to rest in Shanganagh Cemetery, near Shankill in south Dublin, and Eoghan at Mount Jerome in Harold's Cross.

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