Sunday 20 October 2019

'It's about helping the families' - Founders of Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust

Colin and Eithne Bell with a picture of their son Kevin Credit: Belfast Telegraph
Colin and Eithne Bell with a picture of their son Kevin Credit: Belfast Telegraph

Gabija Gataveckaite

A repatriation charity has succeeded in bringing home to Ireland the remains of 700 people in just six years.

Speaking on RTE Radio One this morning, the founders of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust explained how this weekend marked the 700th case of transporting the remains of a person who died overseas to Ireland.

Eithne and Colin set up the charity after their son Kevin was killed in a hit and run at 26 years of age in New York in 2013.

“Once it arises on your own door, you notice it. You probably wouldn’t have noticed the amount of Irish people dying abroad but once it comes to your own door, you notice,” Colin told presenter Miriam O’Callaghan.

“This year alone, it’s been about 70 and we’re only in April,” added Eithne Bell.

It can cost up to €10,000 to transport a body home to Ireland.

“We take quite a few people home from England it’s generally £1,000 - £2,000. From Europe, it could be €4,000 - €6,000. In Thailand, you’re up to €7,000 - €8,000, if you go to Australia, it’s around €8,000. America is quite expensive, it’s generally between €8,000 and €10,000,” Colin explained.

“We have a network now of experience and if a family contacts us we can say look you don’t have to do another thing we’ll look after everything and we’ll pay for it as well,” he said.

The charity does not receive any government funding and sustains itself on donations from the public. When an Irish person dies abroad, it reaches out to the family and offers to help with financial costs.

The founders explained how in many cases, families will then set out to fundraise as a sign of gratitude for the trust.

“Whenever you’re in that situation, you understand how other people feel and they’re all helping the next families that are going to get the news,” said Eithne.

“The fact we don’t need funding from the government, says so much for the Irish community. Even today there are three or four fundraisers going on in Ireland somewhere for us,” added Colin.

“It’s nearly self-generating the difference for families, not compelled to do it, but most families feel that they are compelled to do some kind of fundraiser to keep their loved ones memory alive,” said Eithne.

The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust was set up in 2013 when Colin and Eithne’s son, Kevin, was killed in New York. The local community of Newry came together and held a number of fundraisers in order to help bring Kevin’s body back to Ireland, raising £150,000.

“I suppose that was the start of it, a couple of weeks after Kevin’s funeral we heard of a young fella from Carryduff in Belfast had been killed in Thailand, so we contacted the parents and said we have this money we’ll pay to bring your son home,” remembered Colin.

“We kept reaching out and then we said, look, we’ll make this Kevin’s legacy,” he added.

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