TRAGIC schoolgirl Lara Burns was laid to rest today in a white coffin chosen by her brother and dressed in her favourite horse riding outfit.
There were scenes of heartbreaking grief at St Mary’s Church in Maynooth, Co Kildare, as family, friends, neighbours and students gathered in the bitter cold to pay their last respects to the popular first-year pupil.
Lara (12) was found by her mother Helene and 14-year-old brother Brendan in a stable beside her home near Kilcock, Co Kildare, on Saturday night.
Adorned by a bouquet of colourful roses, Lara’s coffin was blessed by her mother at the altar at the start of her funeral mass after being carried by her step-father Noel, her father Robert, and brother Brendan.
A prayer book was also placed on the coffin by grief-stricken Brendan.
Students of Maynooth Post Primary school, where Lara was a pupil for a few short months, and the Presentation Girl’s School where Lara was a past-pupil, dried their tears with tissues as parish priest Fr Liam Rigney spoke.
“Lara’s death has devastated so many,” he said.
“We are all united in our grief. We think of all who are so touched as we gather here we are all such a state of shock,” he said.
“We just do not know why, and we will never know why Lara took her own life. We will never know what was in her poor head,” he added.
“What we do know is that her decision has devastated so many people, especially her family. So many lives have been torn apart and devastated.
“And yet the message which Helene has said time and time again to me, especially to young people, as for Lara, is the importance of talking. The importance of being there for each other,” Fr Rigney added.
A collection box for Pieta House, who the mourners were told helped Lara, was placed at the back of the church for those who wished to donate to the charity to protect people from self-harm and taking their own life.
“Helene is very much aware of the need for support for people like Lara,” said Fr Rigney.
A horseshoe was brought to the altar by a member of the Clonfert Equestrian Centre as a symbol of Lara’s love of horse riding and her own pony Bob, and her chicken Bubbles.
Fr Liam Rigney told mourners that Lara was baptised in the same church in 2008 at the age of eight in preparation for her communion.
Online tributes posted by Lara’s friends in the wake of her death indicate that she may have been targeted by bullies.
But gardai say they have not received any official complaints in relation to this claim.
Among the online messages blaming bullying for Lara's death was one saying: “She was such a nice person and sadly committed suicide due to bullying. It really has to stop.”
Kilcock parish priest Fr PJ Byrne echoed the community's heartache, asking: “What is going on? What is bothering our children that we don't know?”
Friends also posted touching footage on YouTube of Lara playing with a dog and stroking and talking gently to one of the horses she loved so much.
In a message on a special tribute page, her aunt Jeanette Rich described her as a “beautiful talented young girl who had the world at her feet”.
After requiem mass this morning Lara’s remains were buried tin Laraghbryan Cemetery.