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Terror victims 'were soulmates'

Two victims of the Tunisia terror attack were soulmates who went everywhere together, the couple's funeral mass has heard.

Larry and Martina Hayes, in their 50s, were hours from returning home from their annual holiday when they were gunned down in the beach massacre.

Their devastated daughter and only child Sinead, 30, led mourners into the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Athlone to bid them a final farewell.

Father Liam Devine described the victims as private and well-respected, with a shared passion for gardening, marked with an arrangement of flowers placed by their coffins.

Larry's tie from state transport company CIE, where he worked as a school bus inspector for the last 20 years, was also brought to the altar.

"Larry and Martina Hayes were soulmates," he said. "They went everywhere together. They shared a common interest in gardening. They were very proud of their strawberries and flowers."

Mrs Hayes, who worked in a pharmacy in the town, treated her home as her castle, the priest said.

"You would be hard-pressed to find a speck of dust in the house," he told mourners. "Efforts to find fingerprints in the house proved futile, such was the pristine state of everything.

"The fingerprints were found in their car that was in the airport awaiting their return."

Against this depiction of everyday life, Fr Devine said the deaths of the devoted couple had brought the incomprehensible horror of international terror to their doorsteps.

"There is nothing - no human experience of grief and loss - that could possibly prepare a family or a community for the devastating news that filtered through to Athlone last Saturday night and Sunday morning," he said.

"The violent deaths of Larry and Martina Hayes, while nearing the end of their holiday in Tunisia, has left the entire community in Athlone shocked, stunned and devastated.

"It is unprecedented. Unreal. It is almost impossible to come to terms with it."

In a broadside at the "misguided Isis terrorist fanatics" behind the attack, he said they had previously only invaded our living rooms in a sanitised, sterilised way.

"We never thought it would trouble us here in Ireland, so far away," he added.

"Today it invades our town in two coffins.

"The appalling massacre of Larry and Martina Hayes and 36 others at the hands of a crazed, brain-washed fanatic on a beach in Sousse has stunned into disbelief the entire nation. The violence is now at our own door."

The priest said God's tears mingle with Irish, Tunisian, British, German and Belgian tears in the wake of the atrocity.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe represented the Government at the service.

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