Pope Francis sends prayers to Carrickmines fire victims
Pope Francis has expressed his "deep sadness" at the loss of 10 lives in the Carrickmines fire tragedy.
The first of the victims were laid to rest in Bray, Co Wicklow, yesterday, where a message from the Pontiff was read to the hundreds of mourners who gathered to bid an emotional farewell to an entire family.
The Pope's message in Bray's Most Holy Redeemer Church was delivered in front of two small glistening white coffins that lay together beside those of their parents and uncle.
"Pope Francis, having learned of the horrific fire in Carrickmines, expresses his deep sadness over this tragedy," said Bishop Eamonn Walsh.
"The Holy Father prays especially for those who have died and he wishes to assure all their family members, their friends and the whole Traveller community, of his spiritual closeness and sympathy at this very difficult time."
Tara Gilbert (27), who was pregnant, her partner Willy Lynch (25) and their two young daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) were all interred in the town's Springfield Cemetery alongside Mr Lynch's brother Jimmy (39) following a heartwrenching, music-filled ceremony.
Chief celebrant Fr Derek Farrell of the Parish of the Travelling People described Tara and Willy as a loving couple, whose children "always came first".
He said their love transcended the cultural divide and brought the settled and Traveller communities together in "poignant unity".
"A unity perhaps no more poignantly and particularly embodied than in the loving relationship of Tara as a young settled woman and Willy as a young Traveller man and the family they together established so beautifully," he said.
Delivering a message from Willy's brother John, Fr Farrell said the couple "stuck like glue to one another".
"They managed every- thing so well; the house, the family. They were a really happy, loving family.
"Willy cherished what he called his 'three girls' - Tara, Kelsey and Jodie. He brought the girls everywhere with him. Kelsey stuck like a magnet to Willy and always wanted to be close to her Daddy. Jodie meant the world to Willy as well.
"Tara was the boss," he said, "in the best possible way.
"When it came to the care of her family and taking care of others, she took charge. Beautiful inside and out, always smiling, easy-going, never grumpy. A fantastic mum, her children, always came first."
The family, from Fassaroe, had been visiting Willy and Jimmy's sister Sylvia Connors (25) and her young family in Carrickmines when the fire broke out during the early hours of October 10.
Sylvia, her husband Thomas Connors (27) and their three children Jim (5), Christy (2) and Mary (5 months) also died in the blaze.
Among the mourners at the funeral yesterday were the Tánaiste Joan Burton, Children's Minister James Reilly and the leader of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams.
The Taoiseach was represented by Cmdt David Foley. President Michael D Higgins, who is in the United States, was represented by Lieut Col Michael Kiernan.