Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone charity worker killed in Guatemala to be laid to rest

Sally O’Neill Sanchez (Trocaire/PA)
Sally O’Neill Sanchez (Trocaire/PA)
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A Co Tyrone charity worker who was killed in car crash in Guatemala will be laid to rest in South America today.

Sally O’Neill Sanchez, originally from Dungannon, will buried in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa following a funeral Mass in the Basílica de Suyapa at 2pm local time.

Her body will be taken to Cementerio San Miguel Arcángel for burial following the service. 

The popular aid worker, who played a prominent role in Trócaire for 37 years, dedicated her life to working with the poor until she died alongside three of her colleagues. 

Following her retirement 2015 Mrs Sanchez continued to carry out volunteer work with prisoners and migrants in Honduras, where she lived.

The organisation expressed “profound shock and devastation” following the loss of the passionate human rights campaigner.

Trócaire CEO, Caoimhe de Barra paid an emotional tribute to the “truly remarkable” woman who has been the “heartbeat” of the charity since 1978 when it was just five years old. 

“Sally built the foundations of the organisation,” she said. 

“She embodied our values and through her courage and commitment to human rights touched the lives of so many people.

“Although we still cannot believe she is gone, we know that she left an incredible footprint on the world.”

The charity boss also, who was with Sally in Guatemala shortly before she died, said she remained a driving force for human rights in Central America.

“Her drive, passion and commitment was as strong as ever,” she added.

“Her legacy will live on through the thousands of people whose lives she helped to improve,” said Ms de Barra.

Irish president Michael D Higgins also paid tribute to the mother-of-three who “distinguished herself for four decades through her commitment and unstinting belief in the dignity and inherent equality of all human beings” and who worked on “the front line during some of the most significant” global humanitarian crises.

That included providing famine relief in Ethiopia in the 1980s and in Somalia in the early 1990s.

“To have known Sally O’Neill Sanchez was a privilege,” Mr D Higgins added.

“Sally understood the importance of combining tangible assistance and practical compassion with the pursuit of long-term solutions to the root causes of poverty, marginalisation and oppression.

“Through her work she empowered countless people and she was relentless in calling on those with power to bring their influence to bear on the policies and politics that affected those most vulnerable.”

In recognition of her career, Mrs Sanchez was awarded the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award in 2011 and was made a member of the High Level Panel for the Presidential Distinguished Award for the Irish Abroad the following year.

A special memorial mass will also be held by her former colleagues in Maynooth next month.

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