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Traveller fire that killed 10 'should be a turning point', anniversary Mass told

Published 10/10/2016

Mourners outside the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, south Dublin
Mourners outside the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally, south Dublin
Funeral of the Connors family at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord in Balally in 2015

The devastating fire that killed five adults and five children on a Traveller halting site a year ago should be a watershed and raise uncomfortable questions, an anniversary Mass has heard.

Thomas, 27, and Sylvia Connors, 25, died in the blaze in Carrickmines, south Dublin, with three of their children - Jim, five, Christy, two, and five-month-old Mary.

Ms Connors's brother Willie Lynch, his partner Tara Gilbert, and their two children Jodie, eight, and Kelsey, four, also died as did Willie's brother, Jimmy.

Tara was pregnant at the time, with the unborn child remembered at special anniversary masses as Baby Angel.

In his homily Fr Derek Farrell, outgoing parish priest to the Travelling community, said the deaths should be a turning point for Ireland.

"A generous and committed response is needed from all quarters and at all levels - personal, community, church, and state," he said.

"The building of mutual relationship, respect and understanding, recognition and valuing of identity is possible and with goodwill and determination, within our grasp."

Fr Farrell added: "My final call as outgoing parish priest on this painful occasion of the first anniversary is, that as part of our ongoing response to 'everything that happened', we'd all try make it that watershed it needs to be."

Several survivors, including children, were left without somewhere to stay in the aftermath.

Residents in a nearby south Dublin cul-de-sac objected to them being temporarily sited in an adjacent publicly-owned field in the days after the blaze.

Two memorial masses were said on the anniversary, the first in the Church of the Ascension of the Lord, Balally, south Dublin, and the second in the Church of the Holy Redeemer, Bray, Co Wicklow.

The names of those who died in the early hours of October 10 2015 were read out and candles were lit and placed in front of the altar in their memory.

Monsignor Dermot Lane said that one year on it was important to keep the memory of the tragedy alive in society and among politicians and council bosses in the hope that it will never happen again.

The priest said it will force people to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions.

Fr Lane said: "Has anything changed in society in our relationships with the Travelling community in the last 12 months?"

"Have adequate safeguards been installed on halting sites to ensure that nothing like this occurs again?

"Have appropriate support structures been put in place in traveller accommodation so that this kind of tragedy does not happen again?"

Fr Lane added: "It is so easy for us in the settled community to forget what happened, while the painful reality remains permanently present in the hearts of the grieving families.

"We pray and hope within this liturgy that there will be some healing of the enduring pain and loss suffered by the Connors, Gilbert, and Lynch families."

Plaques in memory of the families were blessed at both churches and another was erected by the halting site on the Glenamuck Road.

The fire was believed to have started accidentally in an oven.

Fr Farrell remembered Thomas and Sylvia as "a match made in heaven, deeply loving and devoted to each other and the best father and mother that any children could ask for".

Two of their children survived, Michael and Tom.

Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert were remembered by Mr Lynch's brother J ohn who said: "God made them, God matched them."

Press Association

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