Thousands will pay last respects to tragic bride Michaela
Published 17/01/2011 | 05:00
President Mary McAleese will head the dignitaries among thousands expected to attend requiem Mass for Michaela Harte today.
Mourners will come from far and wide to pay their last respects to the daughter of Tyrone manager Mickey Harte who was murdered on her honeymoon last week by thieves she interrupted in her hotel room in Mauritius.
The funeral, at St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy -- just a few miles outside the Co Tyrone village of Ballygawley -- will be one of the biggest the county has ever witnessed.
Grieving husband John McAreavey will bury his sweetheart in the graveyard beside the church where they married days after Christmas.
Senior officials from the GAA including president Christy Cooney will be joined by Gaelic games activists from every corner of the country.
As Michaela's coffin is taken from her parents' home on the nearby Glencull Road, where hundreds have visited during a two-day wake since her remains arrived back in Ireland, players from Mickey Harte's Tyrone team and his home club Errigal Ciaran will form a guard of honour.
Outside the church her coffin will be flanked by John's team-mates from the Tullylish GAA club in Co Down and pupils from the late Irish teacher's form class in St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon.
Three giant television screens and dozens of speakers were yesterday erected in a marquee on the church grounds, outside the church gates and in a car park across the road.
The marquee for 300 people has been erected to cope with some of the overspill from the 400-capacity church.
Countless more are expected to stand outside in the car park and beyond
Cardinal Sean Brady will be among senior clerics at a funeral Mass led by Mr McAreavey's uncle, Bishop John McAreavey, who married the couple on December 30.
Michaela's rosary beads, a pioneer pin representing her abstinence from alcohol, a Fainne symbolising her love of the Irish language and a Tyrone jersey are all expected to be placed at the altar.
After Mass, her coffin will be carried over a small stream to the adjoining cemetery for burial. In a major logistical operation that has been well rehearsed during the two-day public wake at the family home nearby, traffic diversions will be in place, and buses available to transport people to the church.
Yesterday afternoon, thousands of people queued for hours in near silence to pay their respects to both families.
Additional buses were used to ferry the unprecedented throngs along the narrow country roads between specially created car parks and the Harte family home.
Inside, on what should have been the day Michaela returned home from her honeymoon, the tragic bride was laid out in her wedding dress with her grieving husband John close by.
Mickey and Marian Harte joined their son-in-law and three sons, alongside their daughter's casket, to receive the sympathies of the hundreds who converged to pay their respects.
Among the mourners yesterday was Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
"I cannot believe the strength and the courage it must have taken that devastated family to receive all those people," remarked one man outside.
"She looked so beautiful, so serene. It would just break your heart to see those poor parents sitting beside their daughter's coffin.
"It would draw tears from a stone," said one woman, who had travelled from Grange, Co Sligo, to pay her respects.