Thursday 18 January 2018

Berkeley tragedy: Heartbroken dad of Eimear Walsh pays tribute to 'a beautiful person, a wonderful daughter and sister'

The remains of Eimear Walshe are carried to the church. Photo: Mark Condren
The remains of Eimear Walshe are carried to the church. Photo: Mark Condren Newsdesk and Nicola Anderson

FUNERAL services took place today for two of the victims of the Berkeley tragedy - Eimear Walsh and Eoghan Culligan.

The heartbroken dad of Eimear Walsh paid an emotional tribute to his daughter today, as two more funerals took place of victims of the balcony collapse in California last week that killed six students.

Mourners arrive for the funeral mass of Eimear Walsh at the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock.
Photo: Mark Condren
Mourners arrive for the funeral mass of Eimear Walsh at the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock. Photo: Mark Condren
Mourners arrive for the funeral mass of Eimear Walsh at the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock. Photo: Mark Condren
Mourners arrive for the funeral mass of Eimear Walsh at the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock. Photo: Mark Condren
Mourners at the funeral of Berkeley tragedy victim Eoghan Culligan at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham. 23/6/2015
Mourners at the funeral of Berkeley tragedy victim Eoghan Culligan at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham. 23/6/2015
Mourners at the funeral of Berkeley tragedy victim Eoghan Culligan at the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham. 23/6/2015

Eoghan Culligan and Eimear Walsh will be laid to rest following ceremonies in Rathfarnham and Foxrock.

"Eimear was such a beautiful person, a wonderful daughter and sister," Jim Walsh told mourners at her funeral in Foxrock this morning.

The 21 year old medicine student lived her life in the moment, her dad said.

"We're very proud of who she was and what she achieved," he added.

Eimear Walsh
Eimear Walsh
Eoghan Culligan
Niccolai Schuster (right)
Olivia Burke
Lorcán Miller
Ashley Donohoe

His daughter was among many things "fun-loving, kind-hearted and independent".

"Eimear was deceptively easy going but she was very determined when she set her mind to something," he recalled.

The family were surprised when she chose a career in medicine over a career in theatrics he said but were not surprised when she knuckled down to get her grades in "typical Eimear fashion" he added.

The events of last week were "very traumatic" he said and added that arriving back home to Dublin was a relief.

Hundreds of people attended the Loreto College graduate's funeral this morning. Eimear was one of the six students who tragically died following a balcony collapse at an apartment complex in Berkeley, California last week

At the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Fr Paul Ward remembered Eimear and the suffering endured by her family and friends over the past week.

The UCD medicine student's active role in the local community was also recalled.

Read more: Berkeley tragedy: Injured student to return home today 'in solidarity' as funerals begin

"I have known Eimear for most of her 21 years," Fr Ward added. 

"She and a group of her friends were part of the ‘Family Mass Group’ throughout her primary school days. When they graduated to second level, Eimear and some of her friends stayed on in the Church Music Group. She was a beautiful singer and she advanced to take lessons with Honor Heffernan, who is here with us today.

"It’s interesting, but not surprising, that Eimear chose Medicine for her third level studies. I say that because she comes from a family who are most considerate and caring. They constantly look outwards to their neighbours and to the community. Their home is one of genuine hospitality.

"Eimear made a life-choice to be a healer," he added.

"The purpose of our coming together today is to seek healing."

He also had words for Eimear's devastated friends after what has been a harrowing week.

"The experience of death is always disturbing, but the death of a young person is very difficult. It raises questions we can’t answer," Fr Ward said. 

"It challenges the very meaning and purpose of life. It faces us with our own mortality and it challenges our faith.

"To Eimear’s friends I want you to know that despite their own pain Jim and Trish are very conscious that you are hurting too and are left shell shocked by what has happened. When you are young, your own mortality is the furthest thing from your mind. And so it should be. As you look to the future you are now very aware of how precious and fragile life is.

"Appreciate the gift of life to its fullest and take on the mantle that Eimear has left behind, by making the world and the future a better place in her memory."

Over a thousand people also flocked to the parish of Eoghan Culligan as he was also remembered at a funeral mass this morning.

Read more: Last of Berkeley tragedy victims is home

Eoghan's parents Marie and Gerry said their final goodbye to their youngest son in the Church of the Annunciation in Rathfarnham. The DIT student, who was extremely close to his older brothers Andrew and Stephen, will be buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery this afternoon.

Under hot sun echoing Californian weather, a poignant guard of honour was formed outside the Church by pupils from St Mary's in Rathmines, Eoghan's school and members from Ballyboden St Enda's, where Eoghan had been a valued team player.

His grieving parents and brothers, followed by a stream of mourners silently and amid heavy grief, accompanied the coffin on the short walk from the house.

The devastatingly haunting song Forever Young was played as the coffin arrived at the church, where mourners gathered to remember the "popular and friendly" young student 'Cullie' cut down in the prime of his life.

The President was represented by his ADC to President Lieutenant Colonel Kiernan, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by his ADC Commandant Foley, while American Ambassador Kevin O’Malley and Minister Alex White – Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources were also in attendance.

Chief Celebrant Fr. Richard Olin of Mary’s College, Rathmines where Eoghan had been a former pupil.

Symbols of Eoghan’s life were brought to the altar by his friends from school, college and fellow football team mates, with a commentary read by his uncle Henry.

They included his grandfather's old watch - which Eoghan had fixed up and worn proudly, an Obey hat which had been a gift from his girlfriend Sarah and a staff and from a production of his beloved Lord of the Rings.

His uncle Henry said: "This is not the end...death is a journey we must all make."

Also amongst the gifts brought up was an Ireland rugby jersey to symbolise his great live of rugby fostered at St Mary's and a signed GAA jersey to reflect his love of gaelic and his time at Ballyboden St Enda's.

Two collages representing his many strong friendships were also taken up the altar in a mark of remembrance.

The Schuster family were there to offer support to the Culligan family. Prayers were said for the recovery of the injured students who still remain in hospitals in California.

Fr Olin said the ordeal of the family echoed the journey of the Magi - "such a long journey".

Reflections were read by his parents Marie and Gerry and his girlfriend Sarah.

A reading from the book of wisdom told mourners that "length of days is not what makes age honourable, nor number of years the true measure of life; understanding, that is a man’s grey hairs, untarnished life, this is ripe old age".

The J1 student who had been working in Berkeley for the summer had been studying logistics and supply chain management at DIT.

There was emotional applause in the church after Eoghan's girlfriend Sarah paid a deeply moving tribute to him.

"I'll miss the way you never left my side and when it was time to say goodbye you'd hug me so tight, tell me how much you loved me and then say goodnight.

"I'll miss hearing you tell me how amazing we were and how we were put on this earth to be with each other.

"I'll miss how much you loved and the future we could have had and the memories we could have made.

"My soulmate was taken from me but I know you will live on in my heart every day and that you will guide me every step of the way."

The other funerals will be completed over the coming days:

Niccolai Schuster, the "darling boy" of John and Graziella, will be laid to rest tomorrow after an 11am funeral Mass in the Church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar.

The UCD student, who was very close to his brother Alexei, will then be brought to the crematorium at Mount Jerome in Harold's Cross.

Olivia Burke, who attended Loreto College in Foxrock with Eimear Walsh and Aoife Beary, who remains injured in hospital, will be buried after an 11am funeral Mass tomorrow morning.

The IADT student was remembered at a service in San Francisco honouring her and her cousin Ashley Donohoe, who died alongside her after the balcony collapse in the early hours of last Tuesday morning.

The 21-year-old will then be brought to the cemetery in Deansgrange, led by her parents Paul and Paula and brother Gavin, where she will be laid to rest.

Olivia arrived home from San Francisco yesterday morning and reposed at a funeral home in the city centre for a number of hours. It is understood that the parents of her Irish-American cousin Ashley will attend her funeral ceremony on Wednesday.

Lorcán Miller, who was in the same class as his friend Eimear Walsh in UCD, will be buried on Thursday morning after an 11am funeral service in the Rathmichael Parish Church in Shankill.

He was the eldest of Ken and Sinéad Miller's four children, and was "adored" by his siblings Jamie, Lucy and Poppy.

His family have also requested family flowers only for the funeral with donations instead being made to the Irish Cancer Society.

It is understood that a government minister will attend each funeral.

The five J1 students who remain in hospital, all aged 21 and from Dublin, are Jack Halpin, Conor Flynn, Niall Murray, Clodagh Cogley, Aoife Beary and Hannah Waters.

Sean Fahey was released from hospital on Sunday and is expected back in Ireland today

Health bulletins can only be released with the consent of the families, and they prefer to keep them private. American law prohibits any medical facility from giving information about patients.

Medical procedures are being carefully followed, particularly in relation to when a recovered person is fit to fly. The doctors have to be satisfied in that respect so no early return home is on the cards for the injured.

It is understood that Conor Flynn is expected to require extensive physiotherapy but is expected to make a full recovery.

Doctors are also believed to be happy with the recovery being made by NUIG student Niall Murray.

Jack Halpin is making progress, though it has been slower than hoped. He is being treated for back injuries and two broken legs and is understood to be in a fair condition in John Muir Hospital.

Clodagh Cogley suffered extensive injuries to her legs and spine. Aoife Beary has undergone extensive surgery and is not expected to be able to return to Ireland for some time.

Hannah Waters remains in Highland Hospital with Aoife.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Consul General in San Francisco, Philip Grant, has been praised for his compassionate response to the balcony collapse tragedy that claimed the lives of six students.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said Mr Grant deserves credit for his hard work.

"The Consul General, Philip Grant, and the entire team in San Francisco have done a great job in very difficult circumstances.

"Last week we saw the Irish diplomatic service at its very best, standing with our citizens at a time of heartbreak and tragedy."

Foreign Affairs staff worked around the clock to help the families and loved ones of the victims of the disaster.

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