Darkest day as beautiful light Leana mourned
A DRIVING rain and gusting wind had battered Cork all day. But the elements had subsided and it was still, dark and bleak as the Martin family carried the small white coffin of seven-year-old Leana, youngest child and little sister, into Our Lady of Lourdes church in Ballinlough yesterday evening.
Leana, daughter of Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and his wife Mary, died in a London hospital on Friday after the hitherto healthy little girl had contracted a cardiac condition which had suddenly developed over the past fortnight.
And so last night her parents and three surviving siblings, Micheal Aodh (16), Aoibhe (14) and Cillian (10), placed on the altar close to her coffin several framed collages of photographs taken during her short life.
It was the longest of days for her heartbroken family. Around 2.30pm yesterday, streams of people defied the grim weather to gather at O'Connor's Funeral Home in Temple Hill to offer their condolences to the grieving family.
For almost four hours, Micheal and his family received a long line of friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours, including a troop of Leana's former classmates, some of whom arrived with hand-drawn pictures of their friend.
Some of them were upset, others were just too young to understand the enormity of the loss.
A cabinet meeting which had been scheduled for yesterday afternoon was postponed until this evening to allow Mr Martin's political colleagues to travel to Cork. Former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea was among the first to arrive, followed by junior ministers Peter Power, Billy Kelleher and Dick Roche; Finance Minister Brian Lenihan; Transport Minister Noel Dempsey; former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern; MEP Brian Crowley and government chief whip John Curran. Also there were local Cork TDs: Fianna Fail's Ned O'Keeffe; Noel O'Flynn; Michael Ahern; Michael McGrath and Michael Moynihan; Fine Gael's Simon Coveney and Deirdre Clune; and Mr Martin's former cabinet colleague John O'Donoghue.
Just before 5.30pm, Taois-each Brian Cowen arrived accompanied by his wife Mary. The couple spent some time with the family before travelling on to the church.
And more cabinet colleagues joined the Taoiseach at the short removal service, including Green ministers John Gormley and Eamon Ryan; Justice Minister Dermot Ahern; Finance Minister Brian Lenihan; Health Minister Mary Harney;Attorney General Paul Gallagher and junior ministers Barry Andrews and Sean Haughey.
Also in attendance were Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Michael O'Connell, GAA president Christy Cooney and former Cork GAA managers Billy Morgan, Larry Tompkins and John Allen, former Cork senior football star Colin Corkery, and former Irish international and Munster rugby hooker Frankie Sheahan.
There was total silence in the packed church as the Martin family carried Leana down the aisle, sorrow etched on their faces.
For they have been through this unbearable ceremony before; 10 years ago they lost a baby son Ruairi when he died at the age of five weeks.
Before beginning the brief service, Canon Jim O'Donovan offered his sympathies to the Martins, describing Leana as "a gorgeous child, a lovely child, a loving child", before he spoke of the "happiness and joy she brought to your lives".
And the lovingly compiled collage of photographs showed a lovely little girl with a gorgeous smile, so evidently as the Martins said in their statement last Friday, the "beautiful light in our lives".
Outside the church, one family friend described Leana as "the apple of her father's eye".
The funeral will take place today at 11.30am, and will be attended by President Mary McAleese who last week described Leana's death as "an unbearable loss" for the family.