Friday 24 November 2017

'The Berkeley Six will be a beacon for all who follow' says priest at service to mark month since of balcony tragedy

David Kearns

The six students killed in the balcony collapse in Berkeley will be “a beacon for all” J1 students coming to the United States, said a priest at the service to mark one month since the tragedy.

Father Brendan McBride, of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco, said, following the June 16th incident, everyone in California would look differently at J1 students, whom he described as “bright young people who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow in Ireland.”

“You know the Berkeley Six will be a beacon for all who follow them for the succeeding summers,” he told those gathered at the St Philip’s Church.

“They will loom large in all our lives.”

Read More: Berkeley ratifies new safety checks to prevent future balcony tragedies

According to the Irish Times, six candles were lit in front of the altar at the church, with each representing one of the six students who died.

Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, and her Irish-American cousin Ashley Donohoe would all be remembered by the Irish community in the San Francisco, Fr McBride said.

Clodagh Cogley in a photograph taken in hospital in the US
Clodagh Cogley in a photograph taken in hospital in the US

Several family members from three of the Dublin students injured in the fourth-floor balcony collapse attended the mass.

Asking the congregation to pray for those injured, Fr McBride welcomed relatives of Hannah Waters, Niall Murray and Conor Flynn, who remain in hospital in the US, telling them: “You have our prayers and our support as you journey with your children to full recovery.”

“We know these injuries that they received are also life changing,” he said.

Read More: Aoife Beary (21) to join fellow Berkeley survivors as Irish student gets 'stronger every day'

During the service, Fr McBride spoke of the “energy” that the hundreds of Irish J1 students brought to the San Francisco Bay Area every summer.

“All of you will see the county jerseys, the young people walking around, Irish rugby shirts — they come and they bring a great energy and a great enthusiasm to our community. They come to experience summer in San Francisco,” he said.

The mass was attended by Irish Consul in San Francisco Philip Grant Vice Consul Kevin Byrne, the Irish Times reported.

Jack Halpin pictured in his hospital bed in California
Jack Halpin pictured in his hospital bed in California

Six of the seven injured Dublin students remain in the Bay Area.

Read More: Brave Clodagh - I may never walk again but I'll live life in honour of my friends who died

One of the injured Sean Fahey has already returned to Dublin, and it is hoped that two others will be well enough to return to Ireland within the coming week.

A month’s mind commemorative vigil will be held Sunday evening in the same public park in Berkeley where hundreds of J1 students attended a vigil the night after the tragedy.

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