Stab victim Brian Phelan described as family's rock at emotional funeral service
Mourners at the funeral of stab victim Brian Phelan heard yesterday that the father-of-two was a "wonderful and compassionate" person who will be greatly missed by his loved ones.
Mr Phelan's heartbroken family attended Requiem Mass, held in the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Bessbrook, Co Armagh, yesterday morning.
Mr Phelan - who was the victim of a fatal stabbing - was found dead on a rural spot along the Carrivekeeney Road on the outskirts of Newry last Thursday.
For the service a number of people chose to wear flat caps in honour of the 33-year-old, who was originally from Bessbrook and was known for wearing the head attire.
The Very Reverend Father Sean Larkin, who conducted the Mass, said the "appalling" death of Mr Phelan had "saddened and shocked us all", and had "sent shockwaves throughout the community".
And its impact locally had been shown by the number of people who had visited the family in the wake of the Co Armagh man's tragic death, the priest told mourners.
At the start of the service, Mr Phelan's young children, six-year-old daughter Georgia and three-year-old son Brian, laid a flat cap - along with a trowel in a nod to Mr Phelan's profession as a bricklayer - close to a photograph of their late father.
The little ones were helped by Mr Phelan's nieces and nephews as the mother of the deceased's children, Amanda O'Riordan, looked on in tears.
During the homily Fr Larkin spoke movingly on behalf of Mr Phelan's loved ones - including his tearful sisters, Ashling and Michelle who described their "beloved brother" as a "big friendly giant who always had the biggest smile on his face. He was our rock. He was so happy in life. He had a big heart and he adored his nieces and nephews," they said.
They added that their sibling was a "big-hearted family man" who lived for his children. "He was full of character and always had time to help everyone who knew," explained the sisters.
"He always protected us. Our hearts are broken. We love you always, our beloved brother Brian."
In his spare time Mr Phelan was also a passionate motor enthusiast, particularly cars and quad bikes. And in tribute to his love for "anything he could drive", the funeral hearse was flanked by motorbikes as it made its way through Bessbrook to the church for the 11am service.
Mr Phelan's mother Angela - who was comforted throughout the service by her daughter Michelle - and his father Paddy, had said their only son was a caring and compassionate person.
"He had the most wonderful smile which always lit up the room," explained Fr Larkin.
His parents added that their son - who had been a protective brother and a devoted father - was "our life, our soul, our rock".
Poignantly, the cleric said Mr Phelan's doting children Georgia and Brian had been left with a loving legacy, as he read out their emotional tribute on the little ones' behalf.
"You have given us the most precious gift of all: time," he read. "You showed us what laughter really means. We love you daddy."
Following the service, Mr Phelan was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Daniel Carroll, from Edward Street in Portadown, remains in custody after being charged with Mr Phelan's murder following an emotionally-charged magistrate's hearing in Newry last Saturday.