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Final farewell to balcony victims

Published 23/06/2015

The coffin of Eimear Walsh arrives at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock.
The coffin of Eimear Walsh arrives at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock.
The coffin of Eoghan Culligan is carried at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham

Thousands of grief-stricken family and friends of two of the students killed in the US balcony collapse have endured emotional scenes as the first victims were laid to rest at home.

Parts of Rathfarnham and Foxrock in south Dublin came to a standstill as mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters joined clergy and friends from school and college to hear poignant reminders of young lives lost.

Eoghan Culligan, 21 and a student at Dublin Institute of Technology, was fondly remembered as Cully - a sentimental, funny and heart warming young man with passions for rugby, Gaelic games, trendsetting and entertaining contradictions.

His uncle Henry recalled his love for Lord of the Rings and quoted a line from the epic tale as gifts were displayed at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham to symbolise his life.

"The journey does not end here, death is just another path which we must all take," he said.

Among the symbols were Irish rugby and Dublin GAA jerseys, his under-13s schools rugby medal from Holy Ghost versus 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.

Mourners heard how the last gift was a testament to the young student's sentimentality and good nature.

At the same time, less than 10km away at Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, a priest who knew medical student Eimear Walsh for most of her life recalled how she had "come to perfection" in a short while.

"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," Fr Paul Ward said.

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.

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.

The close connections between the J1 students who were caught up the accident in Berkeley, California, a week ago were laid bare.

Ms Walsh's close friend Aoife Beary remains in hospital in California following the five-storey fall, while Mr Miller, one of the others to die, studied medicine with her in UCD and was one of her "best pals".

Ms Walsh was also friends with Olivia Burke, whose remains are being repatriated, from their school days in Loreto College Foxrock.

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 chinos and navy blazers of the school uniform stood in a guard of honour alongside members of Ballyboden St Enda's GAA club.

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

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.

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

Mr Schuster will be laid to rest tomorrow, as will Ms Burke.

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