Family vow to set differences aside as Dean's body is released to his girlfriend
"FOR Dean's sake, we will. For one day, we can."
Through heartrending sobbing, the words of Dean Fitzpatrick's partner were faintly audible in the court, striking at the very heart of this tragic dispute.
For one day, Sarah O'Rourke indicated, this estranged family, in the midst of their grief, could set aside their bitter differences in order to pay their respects to Dean's memory.
The dispute over the funeral arrangements for the young man, killed last Saturday in a stabbing incident, was finally resolved following High Court proceedings initiated by his father. The funeral will now take place next week.
The court ordered that Dean Fitzpatrick's body be released to his partner Ms O'Rourke, the mother of their 18-month-old son Leon.
The funeral of the 23-year-old was due to be held yesterday but was delayed due to a dispute between family members over the arrangements.
His father Christopher Fitzpatrick claimed he was being excluded from the arrangements by his estranged wife Audrey and he brought court proceedings after the Dublin City Coroner refused to release the body to him.
In an affidavit, Mr Fitzpatrick said Dean had died in tragic circumstances last Saturday night, having been stabbed by the notice party's partner, Dave Mahon.
He said he was aware that Mr Mahon "has not been charged with any crime and enjoys the presumption of innocence".
Audrey Fitzpatrick had organised a funeral for her son, arranging for him to be buried alongside her own mother at Fingal cemetery in north Dublin.
However, Mr Fitzpatrick wanted his son to be buried in a new grave in the same cemetery and where his daughter, Amy, could also be buried in the event that her body is found.
Audrey said she was now willing to agree to a new grave being opened instead of having Dean buried with his grandmother.
Mr Fitzpatrick said in the affidavit that he had "all but given up hope of finding Amy alive". The 15-year-old disappeared in Spain in 2008.
With their grief over losing their loved one so suddenly compounded by the immense trauma of a bitter and highly unusual legal dispute over the funeral arrangements, this would be the stuff of nightmares for anyone.
Instead of being allowed to grieve his untimely death, Ms O'Rourke and Dean's family were instead plunged into the corridors of the law courts.
However, Justice Kearns decided to end this dispute by opting to go down the merciful route of common sense.
After hearing that this dispute could not be resolved despite lengthy attempts, he looked directly down the courtroom into the public benches, seeking out Sarah, Dean's common-law wife.
"What age is she?" he queried to the benches in general.
"I'm here," she said quietly as she shyly raised her hand, telling him that she was 28.
That seemed to make the judge's mind up on the matter.
"Well, what about releasing the body to her, as the mother of his child?" he put it to the parties. A sigh of relief rippled through the court at this suggestion.
Sarah herself seemed to almost dissolve in gratitude and a sob escaped her as she tried to keep her emotions in check.
The relief etched strongly on her face was also visible on that of Dean's father, Christopher and the extended Fitzpatrick family.
Only Dean's mother sat motionless, her disappointment clearly apparent.
As she appeared before him in the witness box, her head bowed with grief, Justice Kearns formally conveyed his sympathies to Sarah and to Dean's parents over the "terrible tragedy" that had befallen them.
Gently, he asked Sarah if she felt she would be able to carry out the necessary arrangements, stressing that it is "obviously very important" that everything is done respectfully.
Sobbing, she said for Dean's sake they would.
Afterwards, Christopher said he was extremely pleased the dispute was settled and the funeral could now go ahead.
Dean's aunt, Chrissy Kenny, also expressed relief, adding that the matter should never have gone to court.
Asked if she thought the judge's order was what Dean would have wanted, she replied: "Of course."