Saturday 1 October 2016

Grief and eerie stillness on a day of autumnal beauty

The loss of so many lives haunts us all but tragedy does not discriminate, writes Liam Collins

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

DEVASTATION: An aerial photograph shows the utter devastation at the scene from the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, that claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie
DEVASTATION: An aerial photograph shows the utter devastation at the scene from the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, that claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie

The trees, forming a canopy over the country road, are still in their autumn beauty and only the flashing of a blue light in the distance gives an indication of the horror that has engulfed this little idyll on the southern edge of the city.

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Glenamuck Road, which links Carrickmines with to the main Dublin to Enniskerry road, is a place of big, old farmhouses and wayside cottages, green fields and sports grounds.

It remains a country place, the blackberries in the thick hedgerows just beginning to wither and die.

And tucked in to the right-hand side as you go down the road is the small halting site where so many perished.

Small knots of neighbours have come out of the country lanes and driveways this fine morning to talk in muted tones about the appalling event of the previous night.

Tragedy does not discriminate and never has.

There is nothing anyone can do but mutter quietly "terrible, terrible" at the loss of so many people, so many generations, so many hopes and dreams.

We are no strangers to tragedy in our business and each new event evokes memories of other horrors that remain with us from the past.

One should not compare such events, because they are all different in their composition and consequences.

But that's what we do, because each new tragedy triggers a memory of the past.

Who can forget the days and weeks after the Stardust fire, the succession of funerals, the young lives snuffed out, the coffins carried to their resting places by loved ones with faces etched with grief? For 48 families the pain may have lessened over the years, but, for some, questions still remain about this St Valentine's night disaster and will remain as long as they live.

Or the fire in Marian Hill in Portarlington, Co Laois, where seven members of the Maher family perished?

I remember standing outside the blackened skeleton of the house in June 1996 as the procession of hearses wound their way past on the way to the church.

But no, it's not about numbers either - every person, child, adult, old person who dies this way leaves a mark that is never really erased.

As we stand behind the garda barricades waiting for some news of what happened and why, an eerie silence has descended. Usually walking the dog down this road, you can hear the cries of players from the nearby pitches, the lowing of a cow in the distance, even the raucous cawing of the crows in the tall trees.

But yesterday morning there was nothing - just sadness for some family whose name we did not yet even know, for the children who never had a chance, and for all those who have been marked by this awfully sad tragedy.

Sunday Independent

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