Tuesday 16 July 2019

Tears as Olivia and Nick laid to rest in loving ceremonies

The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock
The coffin of Olivia Burke arrives at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock
The family of Olivia Burke.
Father and brother John and Alexei Schuster carry the coffin of Niccolai to the Church of the Three Patrons. Photo: Damien Eagers

Laura Larkin and Nicola Anderson

THE funerals for two more victims of the horrific Berkeley balcony collapse took place this morning.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock for the second day in a row for the funeral of Olivia Burke (21), the second young person from the parish that died in the tragedy.

Meanwhile, in Rathgar, friends of Niccolai Schuster – also aged 21 – wore the football shirt of his favourite team Bayern Munich as his coffin was brought into the Church of the Three Patrons.

In a touching tribute at the funeral of Olivia, musician Hozier, who is from nearby Bray, performed The Work Song as the poignant recessional hymn at the end of the ceremony.


Olivia’s parents, Paul and Paula, stood hand in hand in Foxrock as people offered words of comfort before the mass began.

Foreign Affairs minister Charlie Flanagan was in attendance along with the US ambassador Kevin O’Malley.

Fr Frank Herron also welcomed the family of the other local victim of the horrific balcony collapse, Eimear Walsh (21), who was laid to rest after Mass in the same church on Tuesday. Both girls had attended Loretto Foxrock.

In the grounds a newly-planted tree is decorated with ribbons tied to the branches in memory of the students.

“Last Tuesday evening at about 9 o’clock, the bells of our church tolled out the sad news of the tragic death of Olivia and Eimear, two of our young parishioners as well as their four friends,” Fr Herron said. 

“The thought of six young people dying so far away in such circumstances and the thought of their parents and siblings having to make the long journey to bring them back home has pained us all.”

He said that in the last week the local community in Foxrock has “reached out to each other probably as never before”.

He said that they wished that God “could ease the pain of all who were suffering loss. We wished that he could show us a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. But life is not like that, even for a believer.

“But Jesus has been physically present all week,” he added and told mourners: “Your presence here today means far more than you can imagine.”

Ms Burke was a student in the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

Gifts brought to the altar included a Loretto College Journal, a photograph of Olivia with her King Charles dog, Skipper, and a Ted Baker bag because of her love of fashion.

There was a double funeral ceremony with her beloved cousin Ashley Donohoe (22) in California last Saturday.

Irish-American Ashley – a homecoming queen at her high school – also died in the horrific balcony collapse in the Library Gardens complex where the group of young people were celebrating a 21st birthday party.

“They went back and forth, Ashley to Ireland, Olivia to here. They were in a way like twins. In life they were together and in death they are together too,” Monsignor Dan Whelton told mourners at the joint funeral.

In Rathgar, the father and younger brother of Niccolai Schuster carried his coffin to the church, their hearts broken and heavy with grief.

A silent and solemn guard of honour formed by the students of St Mary’s College Rathmines stood by as the funeral cortege arrived at the church.


It was the second day that St Mary’s students performed  the solemn task, after they also attended the funeral of another victim from the school, Eoghan Culligan (21), in Rathfarnham on Tuesday.

His family were amongst mourners today. Two collages of Niccolai and his closest friends were brought to the altar.

These included a photo of the student in Bangkok, of the Beechwood football team he coached last year, and a Bushy Park Rangers Jersey – a team he set up. A bottle of orange squash and a Terry’s chocolate orange were brought up representing his favourite treats.

Mourners recalled his excellent tips at Cheltenham, his love of travel and a PlayStation FIFA game. His brother, Alexei, brought up his Leinster Jersey.

The UCD arts student was a grandnephew of the writer and playwright John B. Keane.

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral, many J1 students from all over the United States and Canada as well as those who had been working in other European countries when the collapse occurred.

A father of one of Niccolai’s friends told the Herald the students came home of their own volition and were “in bits”.

The chief mourners were his parents John and Graziella and brother Alexei, who is in fifth year at St Mary’s College.

Chief celebrant Fr Richard Olin addressed Berkeley survivors who may have been watching over the internet.

He told them that one of their greatest sufferings was not being home right now. But, he said, they too were part of the companionship and “enfolded in the warm embrace of love”.

The funeral of Lorcan Miller (21) from Shankill is taking place tomorrow at 11am in Rathmichael Parish Church.

Online Editors

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