Miriam Donohoe: After years of pain, no one is more deserving of a second chance at happiness than John
Published 14/01/2014 | 02:30
John McAreavey has found love again, three years after the brutal murder of his beautiful bride, Michaela Harte, on their honeymoon in Mauritius.
I doubt if there is anyone in the country who will begrudge this young man a second chance at happiness after the nightmare he has lived through.
What should have been a once-in-a-lifetime holiday on a romantic tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean turned into an unthinkable tragedy on January 10, 2011, days after the couple married.
The only daughter of Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, the former teacher and beauty queen was murdered in her hotel room after going to get biscuits to have with a cup of tea. When she did not return, John went to the room and found his bride dead in the bathtub.
Instead of starting a new life with his bride in the home they had brought in Lawrencetown, Co Down, there were months of heartache for John and the Harte family as they tried to come to terms with their devastating loss and search for justice.
John was in Mauritius during the trial of two hotel staff charged with Michaela's murder. He had to sit through hours of agonising evidence and testimony, thousands of miles from home. He had to withstand innuendo that he may be involved. Both men were acquitted of the murder and the search for justice continues.
However, John has not allowed his grief to embitter him and take over his life. He has shown that his faith -- and the amazing support of family and friends -- have helped him through his heartache and trauma.
John handled his wife's violent and unspeakable death with dignity at all times. Not once did he display hatred or bitterness at what happened.
In fact, both the Harte and McAreavey families set up The Michaela Foundation charity in an attempt to bring something positive out of their anguish.
The foundation funds a bursary for students, and a summer camp for girls aged 11-13, focusing on five principles that were pivotal in Michaela's life -- faith, fashion, fun, well-being and the Irish language.
They want the values with which Michaela lived her life to live on, and there are plans to raise funds to build a centre in Glencull, Co Tyrone, where she was born and raised.
Michaela was a former Rose of Tralee contestant, and was by her father's side during many of Tyrone's All-Ireland campaigns. She appeared in one memorable 'Late Late Show' interview with him and came across as bubbly and full of fun.
According to reports, John met his girlfriend, Tara Brennan, an accountant, in Dublin a year ago through work. Friendship blossomed into love. They holidayed in New York in August and he took her to a lifelong friend's wedding in Belfast last month.
News of their relationship emerged when John shared pictures on Twitter and Facebook, including a picture of them at a charity fun run in Maynooth on Stephen's Day.
Naturally the couple are conscious of what other people think about their relationship, but by all accounts they have been reassured by their friends and families. It is reported that John visited Michaela's parents Marian and Mickey Harte to tell them he had met someone, and they gave their blessing.
John is a young man and he should be allowed to move ahead with his life.
The world is full of stories of tragedy and murder. We have had six violent deaths in Ireland alone since the start of the year. A murder does not take just one victim -- it also takes part of the lives of relatives, friends and loved ones who are left devastated.
Some people can get on with their lives despite dreadful tragedy, and eventually find acceptance. Other people, unfortunately, never have the will or desire or the heart to put behind a massive knock in life.
John McAreavey is a great example to us all. He posted a letter on the Michaela Foundation Twitter page on New Year's Day outlining success in 2013, with six different summer camps hosted for young people, and saying the foundation planned to spread its "Life Without Limits" ethos in 2014. He wrote: "There is so much inherent goodness amongst our youth in Ireland and a very visible "God Gene" that we are bursting to let out and create a suitable platform for."
John still has to wake up every day knowing Michaela is dead, and that no one has been brought to justice. But he now has someone new to help him share that load.
It is heartwarming, on this cold, miserable, dark winter's day, to know that John has found a new light in his life again.