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Friday 28 July 2017

Mass told of another side to tragic student

Mourners comfort each other
at the Church of the
Assumption, Dalkey, Co Dublin
Mourners comfort each other at the Church of the Assumption, Dalkey, Co Dublin yesterday
The coffin of Shane Clancy is carried by relatives, including his father Patrick (far left), from the Church of the Assumption in Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Many mourners wore badges to honour Shane's love of the Irish language.
Mourners at the Church of the Assumption
Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

THERE was another young student caught up in the tragedy in Bray last weekend. We learned a little about him yesterday.

Shane Clancy was a lover of the Irish language, a 22-year-old looked up to and admired by his four younger brothers and two younger sisters, a teetotaller who donated the money from his 21st birthday to charity, an incredibly hard worker in and out of college, a popular colleague and friend, a responsible young man going places.

We learned a little about him yesterday, but it was during his funeral mass. And we are no nearer to understanding him; we probably never will be.

Because this Shane Clancy is also the Shane Clancy who killed Sebastian Creane and seriously injured his brother Dylan and ex-girlfriend Jennifer Hannigan in a premeditated attack before taking his own life.

This young student is also the young student who drove to a shop to buy kitchen knives to carry out the horrific attack a short time after dropping Seb Creane home in the middle of the night.

Fr John McDonagh spent much of his homily yesterday morning describing the many qualities of Shane Clancy, but it was difficult to set aside, even for a moment, the "darkness" that he displayed last Sunday morning.

"Understandably we are heartbreakingly shocked by the psychotic state and destructive frenzy into which his mind suddenly entered, so uncharacteristically, it would seem," Fr McDonagh told the congregation in Dalkey.

"Amid all the talk and comment, the truth is there may be a few gifted people in Ireland who, in their professional capacity, understand such awful transitions in a young man's life, who can interpret and understand what baffles and mystifies the rest of us."

If so, he added, it's their insight that may, in time, give "some measure of understanding in the midst of so much suffering".

Shane's father, Patrick, spent much of the service with his head bowed, staring at the floor of the Church of the Assumption. Grieving relatives struggled, understandably, with various parts of the spoken liturgy. Shocked and bewildered, groups of young people huddled together, many in tears, before and after the service.

"The Shane that many of you knew and loved was overtaken by a cruel darkness early on Sunday last, bringing great tragedy to two other lovely families as well as his own," Fr McDonagh said.

The Creane and Hannigan families were prayed for, and the congregation was also asked to pray for those "battling with depression".


Fr McDonagh focused on the humanity of the young man, saying that "there were years before last weekend when so much of Shane's life was in keeping with his baptism".

The parish priest spoke of Mr Clancy's life in Trinity, where he was due to enter his fourth year studying theology and Irish next month.

His subject choice, the priest said, suggested an appreciation of tradition, at home and abroad, and some of the liturgy was as Gaeilge yesterday.

Mourners were also asked to donate money to charity, rather than give flowers.

"Everyone I spoke to him referred to his commitment to charity ventures and causes," Fr McDonagh said. Mr Clancy had "immediately" volunteered to work in a St Vincent de Paul summer camp, and had helped out in various charity shops. He had also planned to go to Calcutta earlier this summer on charity work, something "from which he reluctantly stepped down".

"His 21st birthday last year saw him invite donations to charity rather than himself among his family and friends," Fr McDonagh said. He added that the teetotaller worked hard in his hometown of Dalkey, and was a popular colleague wherever he worked.

But there was simply no getting away from it.

"A young man held in such high regard among you that last Sunday's awful news was and is incredible to you, so very hard to imagine, impossible to understand and come to terms with," the priest said.

Chief mourners at the funeral were Mr Clancy's parents Patrick and Leonie, stepfather Tony, his four brothers, two sisters, grandmother and extended family and friends. Also among the packed congregation were many of his classmates and colleagues from Trinity, including Fr Paddy Gleeson, chaplain of the college.

Patrick Clancy read a poem, 'Do not stand at my grave and weep', by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

His son's coffin was carried out of the church to an interpretation of REM's 'Stand'.

He was later buried in Shanganagh Cemetery.

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