Belfast Telegraph

Carrickmines fire: Pope Francis expresses 'deep sadness' over tragedy

Pope Francis has expressed his "deep sadness" at the horrific fire in Carrickmines that claimed the lives of nine people.

A message from the Pope is to be read at funeral masses for the Gilbert, Lynch and Connors families.

"Pope Francis, having learned of the horrific fire in Carrickmines, expresses his deep sadness over this terrible tragedy," the message reads.

"The Holy Father prays especially for those who have died, and he wishes to assure all their family members, their friends, and the whole Traveller community, of his spiritual closeness and sympathy at this very difficult time."

Poignant scenes of heartbreaking grief greeted mourners as five coffins were brought before the altar for the first funerals for the victims of the devastating blaze last week in Carrickmines.

Nearer my God to Thee was played by a string quartet as the remains of Tara Gilbert (27) her partner Willie Lynch (25) and his brother Jimmy Lynch (39)  were brought before the altar first at the Church of the holy Redeemer in Bray, Co Wicklow, followed by the two deeply moving white coffins of Tara and Willie's children Kelsey (4) and Jodie (9).

Tara's unborn child was also remembered during the requiem mass.

A smiling picture of each tragic victim was laid on the altar alongside every coffin.

Irish president Michael D Higgins was represented by his ADC, Col Michael Kiernan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny by his ADC Commandant David Foley.

Tanaiste Joan Burton was present, along with minister James Reilly, Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein and Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan.

The mass was concelebrated by ten, including Bishop Eamon Walsh, representing Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who is currently in Rome.

Chief celebrant Fr Derek Farrell, parish priest of the parish of Travelling People said that as a couple, Tara and Willy were very loving and close.

"John, Willy’s brother put it so simply and beautifully when he said: ‘God made them, God matched them.’ " he said.

"They stuck like glue to one another, and bonded very well.  They managed everything so well, the house, the family…  they were a really happy, loving family," said Fr Farrell.

He said Willy cherished what he called his 'three girls' Tara, Kelsey, & Jodie and brought the girls everywhere with him.

"Kelsey stuck like a magnet to Willy, always wanted to be close to her Daddy.  Jodie meant the world to Willy as well.  His family would say of Willy, ‘He never stops talking!  He loved fixing bikes, he loved his hunting, he loved nature, he loved life’."

There was laughter as he said Tara was "the boss" - in the best possible way.

 "When it came to care of her family and taking care of others, she took charge.  Beautiful inside and out, always smiling, easy-going, never grumpy, a fantastic Mum, her children always came first.," recalled Fr Farrell. Jimmy, brother of Willy and Sylvia, was very popular and loved by family and friends.  He had a heart of gold, and being very good with his hands, he liked to fix things, and especially to fix things for other people.  He loved Elvis.  Jimmy was very good to his, only quite recently deceased, beloved mother, Mary, and he was her pride and joy," he said.

 Fr Farrell commented that only the families themselves can know the reality of what their loss actually means.

 And he said that is why the widespread instinctive outpouring of support for the families has been, and will continue to be so important.

 "There has been so much good done, and goodwill shown.  The flowers, messages, books of condolences, prayer vigils, Masses, the wonderful Fassaroe neighbourhood street candles and altar, the shrines, the prayers, the songs," he said.

 And, he said, all of this has been in a context of "often new close relationship and interactions between settled and Traveller, united in various forms of solidarity and prayer over the past week."

 He said this unity was "perhaps no more poignantly and particularly embodied than in the loving relationship of Tara as a young settled woman and Willy as a young Traveller man, and the family they together established so beautifully."

Fr Farrell said that like many other people, he awoke to the early morning news last Saturday week hoping he was just waking from a bad dream, but quickly realising that he was waking to "an enormous unfolding tragedy that was all too real."

Saturday, 10th October 2015 will forever be remembered as a horrific and tragic day in the history of our country, he said.

"The three families, Lynch, Gilbert, and Connors, the entire Traveller Community and Ireland as a nation suffered a loss which is beyond words," said Fr Farrell.

However, he said he hoped some lasting good could come out of this tragedy so that their deaths were not in vain.

Irish Independent

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