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Crowds mourn balcony plunge victims

Published 24/06/2015

The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin
The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Dublin

Crowds of disbelieving young people joined relatives for a second day of funerals in Dublin as the tragedy of the Berkeley balcony collapse hit home yet again.

A priest at the funeral of Olivia Burke at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock spoke of the spontaneous solidarity shown over the course of the last week.

Nowhere was it more evident than a few miles across the city in the Church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar where friends of Niccolai Schuster turned up to bid their fond farewells wearing the red and white jerseys of his beloved Bayern Munich.

In tribute many of them had his name emblazoned across the back of the shirts.

First they formed a guard of honour with pupils of St Mary's College before a group brought gifts to the altar - symbols of the 21-year-old's enthusiastic and infectious personality, and him being a "mummy's boy".

Parish priest Father Joe Mullan spoke of a tidal wave of grief and loss coming across the Atlantic.

"His leaving us so young has devastated John and Graziela and Alexei, mother, father and brother and best friend," he said.

Niccolai's life was symbolised through sport - a photograph of Beechwood football team, which he coached last year.

"Nothing made Niccolai happier than coaching Alexei and his friends," said Father Richard Olin, chaplain at St Mary's College, Rathmines.

A Bushy Park Rangers jersey, the team he set up and his father managed, and jockey Ruby Walsh's racing trousers and a programme, representing his passion for the horses and many happy occasions on the racecourse with family and friends.

"We often wondered where Niccolai sourced his tips, they always seemed to work better for him than for the rest of us. It is safe to say Cheltenham week will not be the same for any of us," the priest said.

A Terry's Orange and Mi Wadi were also left, as his mother "was guilty of spoiling Niccolai with his favourite treats", alongside study notes from University College Dublin (UCD), a globe for his love of travel and holidays spent with family and friends.

Others included a water bottle for his time as a water boy, a PlayStation controller and Fifa game and a senior cup rugby jersey as he was said to never have been prouder than when he saw Alexei wear the blue jersey on the Donnybrook pitch.

In Foxrock, the scenes were as poignant.

Yesterday, the church played host to emotional scenes as farewells and tributes were paid to Olivia's friend from their school days at the local Loreto College, Eimear Walsh.

Today the Walsh family returned to pray and say goodbye, while the family of Ashley Donohoe, Olivia's Irish-American cousin who also died in the balcony collapse travelled to pay their respects.

The pair were said to have been inseparable from their time together aged 18 months and despite the physical 6,000-mile gap.

Father Frank Herron told mourners of the solidarity that has been on show since the tragedy over a week ago.

"The thought of six young people dying so far away in such circumstances and the thought of their parents and siblings having to make the long journey to bring them back home has pained us all," he said.

"This week our community of Foxrock has reached out to each other probably as never before. In this building we looked for God and for each other."

Fr Herron added: "Our solidarity this week has been extraordinary and is a wonderful reflection of God's solidarity with us all."

Four gifts were selected by the family to remember Ms Burke including a Ted Baker bag for her love of fashion, a Loreto College journal to mark her happy years at school, a photo of her with her dog, a King Charles Spaniel Skipper and a throw with her life in photos printed on it which was a 21st birthday present.

Music star Hozier was among those who performed at the service.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan joined US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley and representatives of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins at the funeral in Foxrock.

In Rathgar the huge church struggled to contain the large congregation.

Hundreds packed into a side garden and around a small speaker that was set up to allow those who could not squeeze inside to hear the funeral Mass.

Among those in attendance were Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Micheal O Muircheartaigh, the legendary Gaelic games commentator and broadcaster much loved by sports fans, and representatives from the Taoiseach's and President's offices.

The Irish Tricolour and the flag of the Vatican City, the Papal flag, both flew at half mast outside the church, named in honour of Ireland's three patron saints.

The Schuster family yesterday attended the funeral of their son's friend, Eoghan Culligan, in Rathfarnham.

A huge flag with messages and signatures was displayed at the front of the Three Patrons Church marked "In Loving Memory Of Culli And Nick".

The final funeral from the Berkeley tragedy takes place in Dublin tomorrow for Lorcan Miller, a UCD medical student.

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