Saturday 22 November 2014

Young GAA star drowns after night out on party boat

Paul Williams and Greg Harkin

Published 03/05/2013 | 05:00

Conal Gildea had left the party boat to get money from an ATM
Conal Gildea had left the party boat to get money from an ATM

GARDAI are investigating the death of a gifted GAA star who drowned after a night out at a 'party boat' on the River Liffey.

Conal Gildea (25) went missing on a night out in the capital in the early hours of Saturday after leaving friends to go to a cash machine. His body was recovered by garda divers at Grand Canal Dock on Monday.

Friends told investigating gardai that Conal was in great form prior to leaving the boat.

Last night, members of Ardara GAA club formed a guard of honour in the Co Donegal village as his remains returned home.

Mr Gildea comes from a highly respected family in the community. He has been described by one friend on social media as "the salt of the earth".

The construction worker, who completed a plumbing apprenticeship last month and lived in Ongar, near Blanchardstown, was last seen onboard a former German police river boat, which has been converted into a floating party venue.

According to a senior garda, the boat has been a "source of concern" for some time.

The Irish Independent has learnt that paying patrons are admitted onboard the party boat by invite only.

Sources revealed last night that it had been banned from the Liffey by the Harbour Master during last year's Tall Ships event and had also been banned by Waterways Ireland.

"This is a dreadful tragedy for this poor man and his family," a senior source told the Irish Independent last night.

It is understood that detectives have so far identified 15 people who were onboard.

'Excelling'

Gardai are appealing for information from any person who was in the vicinity of Sir John Rogerson's Quay, River Liffey, Britain Quay, or onboard the converted boat between 3am and 8am on Saturday, April 27, to contact them.

One friend described Conal as a "joy of a lad with everything to live for, excelling at everything he turned his hand to".

"We are left stunned and speechless by the loss of him, words can never really say what he meant to one and all. Just to say that all our lives will be very much the poorer without you."

Conal's parents Tony and Anita, brothers Hugh and Anthony, and sisters, Marie, Bridget, Anne and Sarah were being comforted by family and friends last night as they prepared for a funeral Mass this Sunday.

Anyone with information can contact Pearse Street garda station on 01-666 9000 or the Confidential Line 1800 666 111.

Irish Independent

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