Belfast Telegraph

'My beautiful best friend' - Mairead O'Neill's sister posts touching online tribute

By Victoria Leonard

The sister of a young model who died suddenly has paid tribute to her "beautiful best friend", saying she is back in the arms of their late mother.

Mairead O'Neill (21), who was from the Markets area of Belfast and had worked for top local agency CMPR Models for five years, died on Monday.

Police have said that they are not treating her death as suspicious.

Mairead's death is the second tragedy to strike her family recently after her mother Karen Pelan passed away from bowel cancer 10 months ago.

Mairead's funeral will take place tomorrow.

A GoFundMe page set up by her late mother's friend Julie Rooney to cover the costs of the funeral had raised over £10,000 in just 24 hours.

Yesterday Mairead's grieving sibling Bronagh McIlvenny described her heartbreak at the loss.

In a social media post which was accompanied by a photo of her sister, she wrote: "Where to start?

"My stunning baby sister, my beautiful best friend, you're really gone. I tried so hard to be like mum, but I know I could never be the mum she was to you.

"She was one of a kind, and that's why you needed to be with her and back in her arms.

"Let her hold you tight and never let you go - I know she won't, because you were her baby girl, her life, and now she has you back.

"I love you so much Bows and please help me be strong.

"Love you now and forever and you finally sleep tight."

Bronagh's partner Jamie Scully said that he "didn't just lose a friend" but had "lost a sister".

He said: "It doesn't seem real. Mairead, I loved you to bits, and I know you're at peace now looking down on us.

"Just look out for your sister please. Rest in perfect peace."

Hazelwood Integrated College, where Mairead was a former pupil, extended its "sincere condolences" to her family.

Posting a picture of the Mairead in her school uniform, the school wrote: "We were saddened to learn of her passing on Monday night.

"Mairead will always be remembered fondly by us here in Hazelwood.

"May she rest in peace."

In addition to modelling at several Belfast Fashion Week events, Mairead had worked at a Carl Frampton fight at the SSE Arena and had founded her own make-up business, Mairead Leigha Make Up.

She had also been a former student of Belfast Met.

Meanwhile, Cathy Martin of CMPR Models revealed that the young woman's colleagues are planning to fundraise in tribute to her at a Belfast Fashion Week event tomorrow.

"The models have been talking and considering how to show their support," she said.

"We have had buckets from the Samaritans delivered to the office, and most, if not all, of the models in Friday's show are going to go out into the audience during the finale and collect.

"The support for the GoFundMe page shows the generosity of people at such a sad time.

"There has been a huge interest globally and people want to know what happened.

"Mental health issues can happen to anybody."

Mairead's funeral will take place at 1pm tomorrow at St Malachy's Church on Belfast's Alfred Street.

This will be followed by a service at Roselawn Crematorium at 3pm.

Her funeral notice states that her death is "deeply regretted by her loving family and friends".

To donate to the fundraising campaign to cover Mairead's funeral costs, visit: www.gofundme.com/maireads-funeral

Belfast Telegraph

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