Light in the dark: families of suicide victims gather to honour loved ones
UP to 1,000 people who had lost loved ones to suicide joined a moving ceremony yesterday to highlight the devastating impact it has on families.
People travelled from towns and villages throughout the country to attend the 10th annual Christmas Celebration of Light organised by the national suicide and bereavement charity, Console, at St Patrick's College, Maynooth.
With music from Rebecca Storm, Liam Lawton and Niamh Kavanagh – and many others – and words from RTE newsreader Eileen Dunne and veteran broadcaster Christy Keneally, the ceremony acknowledged the pain that suicide causes, but also looked at how the bereaved can get their lives back together.
The moving, two-hour event begun in the dimly lit environs of the College Chapel before being bathed in the light of candles given to each attendee.
Despite its location in a bastion of Catholic Ireland, the event was informed by a general sense of spiritualism rather than conventional religion. It was one of six Celebration of Light events held throughout the country, with smaller events being held in Galway, Limerick, Wexford, Tipperary and Mayo.
"Suicide is not like any other death," Console chief executive Paul Kelly told the Irish Independent.
"It has the element of choice that makes it so difficult for their families to accept. People are left asking themselves if they could have done more. It tears lives apart."
Mr Kelly was inspired to launch Console following the suicide of his sister.
"Preventing suicide is crucialbut so too is providing support for those who are left behind and have so many questions that can never be answered. The Celebration of Light tries to let people know that they are not alone, especially at Christmas which can be the toughest time of year to cope. There are so many others who know how they are feeling and are experiencing a similar sort of pain," he said.
More than 500 people reportedly took their own lives in Ireland last year, but Console says the actual figure is much higher.
"Cases come before the Coroners' Court all the time that are not recorded as suicide, but are in reality," Mr Kelly said.
A further Celebration of Light will be held in Cork on Sunday.