'Caitriona's light has shone right through the land'
Even as they gathered together to mourn the loss of their beloved colleague Caitriona Lucas, their work did not cease. Volunteer coast guards were out off the coast of Kilkee, Co Clare, again yesterday to search for the body of missing school inspector David McMahon.
Caitriona had been the first volunteer to sign up for the operation. Poignantly, this still unfinished operation saw her become the first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to lose her life in the course of duty.
Mourners crowded into Liscannor Church yesterday evening for the removal.
Afterwards, Parish Priest Fr Denis Crosby said the large number of silent mourners had spoken volumes about Caitriona's legacy.
"They were here from Valentia and Donegal from Dublin and beyond. Her light has shone right through the land" he said.
"It would have been beyond her wildest imaginations because she was "not that kind of person. It wasn't her way," he said.
A light has gone out with Caitriona's death, he said.
Amongst those present at the removal were volunteers from coast guard units all around the country, sympathising with Caitriona's husband Bernard - also a coast guard volunteer at Doolin - as well as the couple's two children, Ben (20) and Emma (18).
One of the first to pay their respects was a group from the unit at Achill, Co Mayo.
There were also volunteers from the unit at Kilkee, Co Clare - which often works with the Doolin coast guard, where Caitriona Lucas had been based. Gerard O'Flynn, National Volunteers Manager from the Irish Coast Guard, said that this was primarily a family funeral but he recognised there was a huge national interest in the fact that Mrs Lucas had lost her life as a volunteer coast guard.
Caitriona had been well known within the service and had been a person who was driven by serving her community, he said.
He explained that the coast guard service is a 'bottom up' organisation, with the crucial volunteers deeply embedded in their communities.
RNLI volunteer Joe Quelally, from Ennis, Co Clare, said this tragedy would not stop volunteers from going out to face the perils of the sea. Instead, it would "drive them on further to do bigger and better things and to keep the fleet up".
He explained that what had motivated Caitriona to go out was a desire to bring happiness to a family from the depths of sadness.
The 41-year-old experienced coxswain lost her life on Monday after her rescue boat overturned off the coast of Kilkee, Co Clare.
Mattie Shannon, Officer in Charge (OIC) with Doolin Coast Guard, said he was overwhelmed by the great outpouring of sympathy from around the country.
All coast guard services work in tandem and had come together to mourn a member of the family, he said.
"She was such a fantastic person," he said, adding that they could take solace from the fact that she had loved doing what she did.