Tunisia attack: Only daughter of tragic Irish couple Larry and Martina Hayes spends birthday saying tearful goodbye
The daughter of the tragic Athlone couple shot dead in Tunisia spent her birthday saying a tearful goodbye to her beloved parents.
Sinead Hayes was comforted by her extended family and close friends as well as hundreds of friends neighbours and colleagues of Larry and Martina Hayes at their funeral Mass in the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Athlone.
Beforehand, Sinead had personally waited at the entrance of the church to greet early arrivals for her parents’ funeral Mass and to thank them for their support.
Parish priest, Canon Liam Devine told the community them that they did not have to wait for Holy Week to experience Good Friday.
“This is a Calvary moment for the Hayes and Kelly families and for you, Sinead, in particular. It is particularly sad because today is your birthday.
“Could anyone think of a sadder or more heart-rending way to celebrate your birthday than to attend the funeral of both of your parents”, Canon Devine said.
Nothing - no human experience of grief or loss - could have prepared a family or a community for the devastating news that filtered through to Athlone last weekend. The violent deaths of Larry and Martina had left the entire community “shocked, stunned and devastated”.
While the violence of misguided ISIS terrorist fanatics had previously invaded our living rooms in a sanitised way, it now invaded the community of Athlone in the shape of two coffins which lay before the altar.
“The appalling massacre of Larry and Martina and 36 others at the hands of a crazed, brain-washed fanatic on a beach in Sousse has stunned the entire nation into disbelief.
“It exposes us to the reality that we live in a very violent, broken world and it is getting smaller. The violence is now at our own doorstep”, he said.
Canon Devine described Larry and Martina as soulmates.
They shared a common interest in gardening and Martina’s home was her castle. She had worked in the town, while Larry was a plasterer by trade and had spent the last 20 years working with Bus Eireann where he was a schools transport inspector.
He added: “Together in life. Together in death. We commend their gentle souls to the eternal peace of God’s presence. That peace will never again be shattered by an assassin’s bullet. They will be together forever. May they both rest in peace”.
The enormous attendance at the Mass spilled out onto the grounds of the church as hundreds turned out to pay their last respects to the popular couple.
Over 50 uniformed colleagues of Larry’s from Bus Eireann arrived to form a guard of honour, alongside Sinead’s colleagues from the Order of Malta.
Gifts brought to the altar included Larry’s Bus Eireann tie and flowers from Martina’s garden.
Prayers were said for all who had suffered in the Tunisian tragedy.
At the conclusion of Mass, Larry’s brother, Michael Hayes thanks all who had helped the family through the difficult days of the last week. He was particularly grateful to Declan Carty, husband of Lorna Carty of Co Meath who was also shot dead in the terrorist attack in Sousse.
Mr Carty had come to have a few words with the family in person at Dublin airport as the remains came home and his gesture was deeply appreciated.
Michael Hayes noted that a smiling photo of Larry and Martina had been published on the front page of a national newspaper and that truly represented what they were - a happy couple who had been married for 32 years.
The events in Sousse had left the entire extended family with a great sense of loss, he said.
“They loved their new house, their life together and their darling daughter, Sinead. Ni fheicfimid a leitheid aris ann”, he added to an ovation from the congregation.
The President and Taoiseach were represented by their aides de camp, while the Chairman of Bus Eireann, Aidan Murphy and Chief Executive Martin Nolan also attended. The CEO of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council was present to pay his respects.
Coinciding with the funeral, a minute’s silence was observed at all Bus Éireann locations nationwide and flags at the Broadstone head office in Dublin flew at half-mast.
The cortege flanked by the guard of honour made its way through Athlone for the burial at Coosan cemetery.
Tributes have been paid to the UK and Irish citizens who were gunned down at the Sousse beach resort while on holiday in Tunisia.
Not all the British victims have been named, but here are those who are either confirmed to have died or are believed to have died in the massacre.
The British victims are:
- John Welch and Eileen Swannack, from Wiltshire. Police have now received confirmation that Eileen Swannack, aged 73, from Biddeston, has been formally identified as a victim. Her family has been informed, Wiltshire Police said.
John Welch, aged 74 from Corsham. Mr Welch has formally identified as one of the victims, and police have informed his family, police said earlier.
Mr Welch was in Tunisia with Eileen, his partner of eight years. The couple were staying at the RIU Imperial Marhaba, one of the hotels targeted by the attacker and a place the couple "adored".
Mr Welch, a former plumber, loved Tunisia and he and the couple stayed at the same hotel twice a year for the past eight years.
- Christopher and Sharon Bell, from Leeds.
In a statement issued through West Yorkshire Police, the couple's family said: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of both mum Sharon and dad Christopher who were taken from us during the terrorist attacks in Tunisia."
- John Stollery, 58, a social worker from Nottinghamshire, was on holiday with his wife Cheryl and son when he was killed.
He had worked at Nottinghamshire County Council for 33 years, and spent the last 16 years working with children in care.
His wife said: "John was special, he made a difference and gave his best to others. We, his family, are proud of him and deeply saddened that he was taken from us in such a horrific and tragic way. We still had a long life to live with plans and dreams for our future together."
- Retired scientist David Thompson, from Tadley, Hampshire, is also believed to have been killed.
The 80-year-old is understood to have worked for the Atomic Weapons Establishment, and has been described as a keen walker.
- Chris Dyer was killed and his wife Gina Van Dort was seriously injured in the attack. She clung on to her dead husband's hand as paramedics tried to get her to safety, according to reports.
Mr Dyer, believed to be 32 and an engineer from Watford in north London, suffered from reactive arthritis.
He was a member of the Watford Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The club said: "It is with great sorrow that we announce the tragic death of our teammate Chris Dyer as a result of the Tunisia shootings. Our hearts go out to his family. May he rest in peace."
- Patrick Evans, believed to be 78, his son Adrian, and his 19-year-old grandson Joel Richards, died. Joel's brother Owen, 16, survived the attack.
Adrian Evans worked for Sandwell Council in the West Midlands as a manager in the gas services department. Council leader Darren Cooper said he was a "very popular and long-serving employee".
Joel, believed to be a student at the University of Worcester, was described as "a young, talented referee with the world at his feet" by the Birmingham County FA.
Birmingham-based Gaelic football club James Connolly's GFC also paid tribute to an ''exceptionally talented footballer''.
Walsall FC said they are "devastated" at the deaths and changed the main image on their social media accounts to a photograph showing the trio outside Wembley Stadium at the Saddlers' Johnstone's Paint Trophy final appearance three months ago.
- Trudy Jones, of Blackwood in Gwent, south Wales, was described by her family as "our beautiful mother". Ms Jones was a 51-year-old divorced single mother-of-four and had been on holiday with her friends.
In a statement her family said: "Our mother of all people didn't deserve this, such a caring person who put everyone else before herself. Always willing to help others, she loved everyone around her including all of the people she cared for at work."
- Bruce Wilkinson, 72, from Goole, East Yorkshire, was among the dead. His family paid tribute to the grandfather, reported to have been a retired power station worker.
They said: "Bruce was a loving family man, and in his working life worked to support the care of others. He was a kind and compassionate man, with a dry sense of humour. He was fun-loving, and will be deeply missed by friends and family alike."
- Lisa Burbidge, a grandmother from Whickham, Gateshead.
Ms Burbidge's family paid tribute to the "most beautiful, amazing, caring and gentle person in our lives".
They said: "We have been left with a massive hole in our hearts. She leaves behind many family members including four fantastic grandchildren who were her world and will miss her tremendously.
- Fashion blogger Carly Lovett, 24, from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, reportedly survived the massacre on the beach only to die when a grenade was thrown into her hotel.
She had been on holiday with her fiance Liam, who she got engaged to at Christmas.
In a statement, the fiance and immediate family of Ms Lovett said they were praying that the "evil" seen in Tunisia would end to spare others the heartbreak they have experienced.
- Former Birmingham City football player Denis Thwaites and his wife Elaine were both killed.
Their daughter, Lindsey, and son-in-law Daniel Clifford said: "We would also like to express our gratitude for the support and messages received from everyone. Words can't express what all the family are feeling at this difficult time."
Birmingham City FC said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the death of former player Denis Thwaites and his wife Elaine in the Tunisian terrorist attack. Our thoughts are with Denis' family. The club also offers its condolences to all who are mourning loved ones due to this atrocity."
- Philip Heathcote, 52, was killed and his wife Allison seriously injured in the attack.
The couple, who lived in Felixstowe, Suffolk, were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in Tunisia.
Mrs Heathcote, 48, was shot repeatedly. She was pictured shortly after the attack lying still on a sun lounger as a group tended to her wounds. Doctors put her into a medically-induced coma and she has been flown by RAF jet back to Britain for treatment.
- Engineer Stephen Mellor, from Bodmin in Cornwall, was killed as he shielded his wife Cheryl on the beach. The nurse told the Mirror: "I was screaming at people to check him and someone looked and they said he had no pulse. They said he was gone."
A neighbour close to their home in Cornwall, who asked not to be named, said: "I only found out about what happened to them when a reporter knocked at my door and told me. I can't believe it has happened, and happened to them. It brings it all back home."
- Couple Sue Davey and Scott Chalkley were on holiday together in Sousse. Ms Davey's son Conor Fulford, from Tamworth, Staffordshire, said she had died.
Mr Chalkley's son Ross Naylor had described his father as a "loving, typical bloke".
Mr Naylor, from Derby, said: "Me and Brad lost our Dad, unfortunately he was caught up in the sickening attacks in Tunisia and is no longer with us."
The couple worked for Severn Trent Water, who said: "Sue and Scott had a passion to help others however they could, they cared enormously for all those they worked with and were totally committed to our customers and our company."
- Claire Windass from Hull was killed while her husband Jim is understood to have survived the attack.
Karl Turner, MP for East Hull tweeted: "So sorry Claire Windass from Hull was killed in Tunisia terrorist attack. My thoughts with family & friends. RIP."
- Jim and Ann McQuire, from Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, were both killed.
The couple's minister from Cumbernauld Abronhill Church of Scotland paid tribute to them, saying they had a close family and would be sorely missed.
Mr McQuire was a captain in the Boys' Brigade, a Christian youth organisation, which said on its website that it is "shocked and deeply saddened" by the news.
They added: "They had given a life of service to young people and to the church and community and the prayers and thoughts of The Boys' Brigade go out to their family and friends and to the 5th Cumbernauld Company at this most difficult time."
- Stuart Cullen, 52, from the Lowestoft area of Suffolk, is believed to have died instantly. His wife was injured but survived and has returned to the UK.
- Billy and Lisa Graham, from Perthshire in Scotland, are also reported to have died.
Billy's brother Lindsay Graham told the Daily Record: "Just to tell you my brother Billy and his wife Lisa are dead."
Mr Graham reportedly booked the holiday as a present for his wife, who turned 50 earlier this year.
- Janet and John Stocker were confirmed dead by their family.
Mr Stocker, 74, was a retired printer, born and bred in Peckham, south-east London, and was a father of five children and 10 grandchildren, while Mrs Stocker, 63, was born and raised with her two brothers in Fulham, south-west London.
In a statement the family said the pair "were the happiest, most loving couple" who "died together doing what they enjoyed most; sunbathing side by side".
The Irish victims are:
- Lorna Carty, an Irish mother of two from Robinstown, Co Meath. Bishop of Meath Michael Smith said Mrs Carty was the victim of a "senseless killing".
He said: "Lorna worked here in Navan in one of the medical centres and is known to, and loved by, very many people.
"The brutal circumstances of Lorna's death are sadly becoming more frequent."
He added: "We extend our sympathy and our prayers to Lorna's husband Declan, to her children Simon and Hazel and extended family and friends."
- Husband and wife Laurence and Martina Hayes, both in their 50s, from the town of Athlone in Co Westmeath.
Mr Hayes was a schools transport inspector who worked for transport company Bus Eireann for the last 20 years. A company spokeswoman said Mr Hayes was "highly regarded on both a personal and professional level, by all his colleagues at Bus Eireann".
Co Westmeath GAA tweeted a message of condolence to the family: "Sincere sympathy to the Hayes family (from) Athlone who suffered their tragic losses in the terror shooting in Tunisia."
Independent News Service