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New Zealand disaster brings grief to Irish border village

By Adrian Rutherford

One is a sprawling city on New Zealand’s south island, the other a close-knit, rural community nestled just across the Irish border.

Separated by thousands of miles, on opposite sides of the world, there is little to connect Christchurch to the Co Monaghan parish of Truagh. But yesterday, these two places were brought together by tragedy.

Despite emigrating to Christchurch some years previously, Owen McKenna, a 41-year-old psychiatric nurse, was still well known in Truagh. He died in the earthquake as he was returning from a shopping trip. Reports said his car was crushed under a falling building.

His wife Sarah, a New Zealand national, and their children Grace (7) and Tadhg — who turns four tomorrow — were away visiting her family on another island as the disaster struck.

Last night his relatives in Ireland were planning to travel to New Zealand to bring his body home for burial.

Special prayers were said for Owen, and the other victims of the earthquake, in the local Catholic church yesterday.

Fr Nolan said the family’s faith was helping them deal with the tragedy. “They are devastated of course, but they are people of great faith,” he said.

Friends and neighbours in Truagh have fond memories of Owen growing up in the area, a quiet community situated between Aughnacloy and Emyvale.

Yesterday, a steady stream of mourners visited the family home, in the townland of Brackagh, while cars lined the road outside.

Like many rural parishes, one of the focal points is the GAA club. The McKenna family are closely associated with Truagh Gaels GAC.

Club official Adrian Sherry said members were shocked by the tragedy.

“Owen would always have attended a match any time he was back home,” he said. “It is very sad for all of us.”

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