Community's grief for loving wife and child she never met
SHE came into the world too early and only stayed a short, short while.
Yesterday, Stephen Connolly watched as the tiny white coffin carrying the body of the daughter he had never met was brought from the funeral home to begin the journey to her final resting place.
Baby Catherine's coffin was placed alongside that of her mother, Roisin (39), who perished in the same three-car crash on December 27.
Stephen (32) didn't even have a chance to say hello to little Catherine as she was not due to arrive in this world until April, but had died after her mother passed away from her injuries.
Balanced on crutches and holding his broken arm to his chest, he was supported outside the funeral home in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, by Catherine Langan, Roisin's mother and his daughter's namesake.
The last time they had seen each other was when the couple had left her house in Fanad, Co Donegal, last Monday to return to their home in Dublin.
Among the mourners at the removal were Taoiseach Brian Cowen, senator Donie Cassidy, Dr Rory O'Hanlon and TD Margaret Connolly. They offered their sympathies to Stephen's father and their former Dail colleague, Ger Connolly.
After removal prayers inside Ward's funeral home, there was silence -- but accompanied by many tears -- as Roisin's coffin was removed first and placed in the hearse, followed by that of her daughter.
The procession of 30 cars made its way to Donegal with people in many towns and villages along the way, including Ramelton, Kerrykeel and Portsalon, standing outside their homes and holding candles as a tribute to the family's loss.
The funeral cortege came to a sudden stop outside Roisin's old school, Doagh Beg National School, where a line of more than 30 local people carried candles.
Candles were also placed on the wall outside the school, forming an archway of light.
Just before 6pm, the mourners finally arrived at the bungalow home of Roisin's mother, Catherine, where almost 100 locals waited to greet them.
Their funeral Masses will take place in St Mary's Church in Fanad at 1pm today. It is the same church where the couple got married less than eight months ago.
Roisin and baby Catherine will be buried side by side in the adjoining cemetery.
At the same time, just 40km away in Nobber, Co Meath, the funeral Mass was taking place of another of the victims of the horrific crash. Glen Curtis (28) perished alongside his best friend, Paul Carroll (27), from Kingscourt in Cavan.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral Mass in the centre of Nobber town, with many forced to stand outside.
Fr Seamus Houlihan spoke of Glen's "zest for life" and how his "generous nature" drew people to him.
"Glen lived a happy life," said Fr Houlihan. "He loved socialising, he was a strong Liverpool fan, he loved music.
"And God forgive him, he loved soap operas. He loved to watch them, and follow them, and join in them.
"He'd be reading the paper, sitting on the recliner in front of the fire that somebody else wanted. Either the paper or the recliner. But Glen had them, and he was going to keep them."
He spoke of how the 28-year-old was devoted to his young niece and nephew, Edel and Eoin. He was due to stand as Eoin's godfather at his christening next Sunday, which has now been postponed.
"But when it takes place, he will be the godfather in the true sense of the word, because for some reason God has ordained that he will be a precious gift to both young children. . . he will be an eternal godfather."
He spoke of the close friendship Paul and Glen had shared all their lives. They also worked together, running a contracting business.
"His friendship with Paul was such that. . . God decided that if they spent so much time together here on earth, then they were to spend eternity together in heaven.
"For all we know, one helped the other into heaven."
Paul's funeral will take place in Kingscourt at 11am today.